How Long Could You Survive Without Your Cell Phone?

Jo Ilfeld | Executive Leadership Coach |How Long Could You Survive Without Your Cell Phone?

Many people now put their cell phone away for at least one day on the weekend. Before Covid, I read a NY Times article on Silicon Valley folks who travel to remote islands without cell phone service to be forced to disconnect. I recently emerged from a four-day cell phone sabbatical. I wish I could say I wanted to be fully present on a recent long weekend vacation to celebrate my Mom’s 80th birthday. But it was less mindful than that. On my first day I picked up my fleece and my cell phone that was in the pocket dropped to the floor. I’m not sure about you but this happens to me just about every other day and my four-year-old cell phone has kept on ticking. Not this time. Half the screen went white which allowed me to do ABSOLUTELY nothing on it. Trying resets and charging just took it over the edge with the full screen going white and then black/nothingness. Voila! The beginning of my cell phone sabbatical. Tempted to try this at home? (Minus the dropping part please!) Here’s what my top takeaways were from it.

Dr. Jo’s Top 3 Cell Phone Sabbatical Take-Aways:

  1. Make plans early, and then show up for them. Similar to when I was in college and people were not holding little connection devices with them at all times, I had to plan with my family when and where I would meet them. And then show up! No phone means no texting “5 min late, B there soon!” or “Where r u?” There’s only remembering to make plans ahead of time, and then honoring them. I’ll admit I cheated once and asked another guest to use her cell phone briefly. She looked at me like I had 3 heads as I mumbled about dropping my phone, but graciously let me text my husband a lunch meeting time.
  2. No one needs you that badly.  I have kids, a dog (which means a dogwalker), and clients. It turns out there were no urgent texts. Well, there was one from my daughter but by the time I saw it, she had figured out a solution. It’s always shocking to realize people don’t need you as much as they seem to in that moment. Perhaps less shocking to me, who used to routinely get three phone calls in a row from my kids. Panicked, I would interrupt a client session to pick up, only to have a little voice asking me what’s for dinner that night. Sigh. . . No matter how much your family, work, or employees seem to need you, you’ll find they’re much more resourceful when you’re not a text or call away.
  3. I’m really unpracticed at hiking/working-out without sound. Between listening to music, podcasts, and Audible, I’m not used to just working out to my own thoughts. Some of that time is great and I used it to think deeply about future planning and situations. And some of that time I felt bored. I tried to look around at the gorgeous mountains, I tried to mindfully step and listen to my own heavy breathing. But I realized how accustomed I am to surrounding myself with learning opportunities and distraction from my thoughts. In 2022 I’m hoping to have more boredom in my life, and to transform it to mindfulness. It’s a journey of 1000 miles and perhaps this weekend was my single step.

Whether my cell-free four days were the result of mercury in retrograde, my klutziness, or as my friend Sara suggested, “The lord’s way of forcing me to be mindful,” it has shown me opportunities to upgrade both my own mindfulness, and my ability to arrive on time to scheduled meet-ups.

Have you ever taken some cell-free time? What were your biggest take-aways? 

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Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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