What Happens When You Take a Time Out From Tech?

How many times a day do you check your phone? 

Most people have heard the average person checks a smart phone between 80-90 times a day. Crazy right? New studies have shown its now over 200! 200 times a day?! What the fuck! 

The worst thing is that it’s believable. Even worse, there’s usually nothing new to look at. I know I have had a shocking relationship with my iPhone since starting the podcast. Before ‘Take FL1GHT’ I posted about once a month. Usually when on holiday or drinking unbelievably hip coffee. Now I’m around 3 a week! That’s more than 10 times as many posts as before! There’s no surprise my urge to check social has probably increased by the same amount!

Have you ever read a book and thought “I could not have read this at a better time!”? That’s what happened when I read Cal Newport’s new book ‘Digital Minimalism’. His previous book ‘Deep Work’ was decent, but I preferred this one. 

It opened my eyes to how bad my phone addiction was and what it was doing to my attention span, my happiness and my relationships. So I thought “Fuck this! I’m dropping it altogether..... for 2 weeks” - so began the first ever ‘Take FL1GHT Tech Time Out’ (say it 10 times fast...).

Cal Newport suggests dropping everything for 30 days. Not as a digital detox, but as a way to break the bad habits we have with technology and reassess the tech that’s actually giving us value, and then re introducing only the positive behaviours back into our lives. As much as I would love to do 30 days, I instead opted for 14 days with no tech apart from WhatsApp and email. The only way I market the podcast / announce new episodes is on social and 90% of the guests I get are through people’s Instagram profiles. So I thought 14days would be a start!


RESULTS 

Surprisingly I didn’t miss social media one bit. I deleted all apps off my phone and for the first day or two would open my phone automatically before realising the apps weren’t there anymore. Not because I wanted to check social, but purely because I’m wired to look for that ‘like’, ‘comment’ or ‘DM’ that gives a dopamine spike in my brain, feels temporarily good and then goes away. Every time my brain was thinking it will be bored the habit would kick in again and I would get my phone out. 

The problem is, I was starting to do this all the time. Not only when waiting for a train or waiting for my next meeting, but in pauses in conversation (when people are actually stood in front of me!), rest between sets in the gym and any other few seconds of down time. Our brains need this down time, we can’t always be on! That’s what causes stress and anxiety. 

After the first two days I genuinely lost that urge. The habit of scrolling turned to looking at my own photos for a bit, then that went too. The only thing I genuinely missed was looking up potential guests and getting their emails to ask to come on the podcast. As well as hearing feedback on episodes that are already out from people listening. 

The best 3 things to come from the Time Out : 


1. A week before I started this, I’d listened to a podcast Tim Ferriss did with the amazing British author Neil Gaiman. He spoke in depth about the power of writing your thoughts down with a nice pen and pad. I’ve heard this a lot but never acted on it, so thought it would be good timing to invest and fill the time I would usually be spending on my phone. I got a beaut Parker pen! My dad got me one when I was 12 in school. I loved it! I actually identified with it a lot too (as must of us do when we are young. When looking for our identity we often attach to material things - more on this in another blog post). One day someone stole it and I got in a fight and punched them in the face. That got me in a lot shit at school! A 12 year old throwing haymakers! Anyway, writing in a journal has been so good for me. Instead of ideas just rolling around in my head, writing them down massively lowered my anxiety levels and sparked other ideas! I’m definitely going to carry this on!

2. I noticeably feel so much more present! I met the bro BSG (on episode #007) for a coffee at Kaffeine in fitzrovia and we were talking about the tech time out. We looked around and 90% of the people there were hunched over, face in their phones scrolling. It’s insane. I see it everywhere now too. It’s taking us completely out of the moment. We will never be happy in the past or in the future and that’s what I feel our tech forces us to do. It ruins a lot of experiences for us. Even the act of taking a photo during an amazing moment dulls the full feeling we should get. Cal Newport talks about the importance of reading facial expression when connecting / communicating with someone. We are built to gradually learn and understand how someone feels through a subtle glance down, or a cheeky grin, or a raised eye brow. Now we communicate more and more on email, WhatsApp and through bright red alarm style notifications to grab our attention. How long before our ability to read people and offer empathy or know when someone is being sarcastic or even flirting disappears? So the time out brought me in to the present, even if only for 14 days. 

3. The third best thing to come out of this, was meeting an awesome person at Tony Robbins UPW. I think his name was Greg and he’d been listening to Take FL1GHT since my episode with my brother Stevie Ward (episode #008). He’d continued to listen and during the Ed Mylett episode heard us talking about Tony Robbins so bought a ticket and travelled from Bristol to attend the 4 days. Firstly, it was amazing to meet someone who was enjoying the podcast and was actively taking action on the things we’ve been speaking about. Secondly, he’d joined in the Tech Time Out too! I’ve also had a number of msg’s since going back on social with others who had joined in and found benefit. So the 3rd high was knowing what we are doing is having a positive impact! I’m sure it was Greg, and if you read this it would be great to hear what you thought of UPW!

It’s mad how quickly the addiction kicks back in. But if you’ve made it to the end of this post, maybe your attention is intact and we are alright after all? Regardless, next time the ‘Take FL1GHT Time Out’ will last 30 days. Who’s in?