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Amy

freelance front-end web dev, Society 6 creator & travel writer - podcastaholic - IFPA-certified pilates instructor

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My phone was stolen twice in 2015. That’s right, twice. The same phone. My mind boggles.

The first time was to be only a warm up. In a hilariously retarded sequence of events my recently stolen phone was sold to a friend of a friend who, upon seeing the desperate return-to-owner message on the lock screen, called to say he had it. Like “oh hey, Amy? I’ve got your phone. Yeah, someone tried selling it to me.”

After the briefest of separations, owner and device reunited at last.

Unfortunately, the happy union was not meant to be. Just 6 short months later said phone was stolen again when my purse was snatched from my neck with force enough to snap the strap. Once more I was phone-less, this time for good.

I decided to wait ‘till the next iPhone release to purchase a replacement, and so, over the following 60-odd days, I went rogue. I disappeared from the Snapchat universe and off the Face(book) of the earth. No new Instagram posts or Vine vids. No more Vivino wine chronicling or Bejeweled marathons.

Unexpectedly, freedom turned out to be quite the teacher.

1. Turn off Notifications

Without a phone, the number 1 thing I noticed was the blissful absence of notifications. No whistles, blips, pops or wushes. No lights or vibrations. Nothing.

Like I said, bliss.

I had always discounted the distracting power of notifications, rationalizing that “I just don’t get enough of them for there to be any negative impact on how I live and work.” So wrong. Even just the quickest of glances to check the screen interrupts one’s train of thought. And most of the time I would do more than just glance. I’d swipe, read, reply. Suddenly 5 minutes are wasted doing who the hell knows what.

Lesson 1: turn off notification sounds and limit lock screen pings to only the most essential apps.

2. Stop Using Your Phone In Line

I can’t say that I enjoy the monotony of standing in line. It wasn’t until I had no phone to distract me that I realized how much technology had become a crutch for boredom.

Now, forced to entertain myself with (gasp) my eyes and ears, I started listening to and watching (gasp) actual people around me. Funny conversations, amusing situations, bad parenting, good parenting. The brief exchanges that otherwise go completely unnoticed by the oblivious masses.

Lesson 2: put phone back in purse and observe people, you may learn something.

3. Don’t Use GPS When Learning A New Place

Not born a particularly gifted navigator, I’ve always relied heavily on my phone’s GPS to guide me wherever I needed to go. Lacking this, I turned to the tools of the cavemen: pencil and paper.

The crudest of homemade maps in hand, I set out to explore Pacific Beach, San Diego on foot. No device, no backup.

Not only did I notice I was learning streets and landmarks, but I was also forming a mental map of the entire area instead of muscle memory for the Google Maps app. Within 2 days (not 20) I no longer needed my hand-drawn masterpiece.

Lesson 3: turn off GPS and read street signs, you’ll remember so much more.

Conclusion

It’s a weird thing to say that I’m happy my phone was stolen. But I am. Because not having the crutch of that little rectangle in my palm of my hand forced me to acknowledge how technology is affecting my productivity, my awareness and my ability to navigate- plus the dozens of other effects to which I am oblivious.

I wonder what would happen if everyone took a break for a month. Hell, maybe even just a single day.

Would that be so horrible? Maybe the world could actually get something done for a change.