Too many emails? Can’t switch off? Time for a #phonefast


Sunday evening sees this twitter activity

Sustaining resilience is all about developing helpful habits.

Monday morning: I’m pretty well prepared for my trip to a conference in Manchester.  All I have to do is to pack my suitcase and organise lunch.  I unplug my phone from its charger and turn it on.  The usual Samsung message appears, followed by ..




Hmm.  What’s happening here?  I’m conscious of the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. With limited success I’m trying hard to breathe deeply to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system which tells my body that I really don’t need to panic.

An hour later: I’m scrabbling through the drawer, trying to find my previous phone. After a bit of origami, I manage to adapt my current sim so that it fits the slot on my old phone.  Hooray! Panic subsiding, I start to use my phone.  Then I remember why I ditched it in the first place: the touch screen no longer works.

Two hours later: Time is ticking by. What else can I try?  I find an old phone, the original sim and the charger.  The charger is working: I’ll soon be in touch with the world again. The world has other ideas: ‘Sim not registered’ says the message. I need to finish packing. I have to acknowledge that I’m going to have to travel to an unknown city without my usual mobile map, and remain disconnected from family and colleagues for three-and-a-half days.

Once I realise this I become calmer.  I email a colleague I’m meant to be meeting during the week and tell him I won’t be able to text my arrival time; email others who might need to get in touch and tell them it’s email or nothing. When I reach the hotel, I realise I have no idea how to work the alarm on my ancient analogue clock.  Thankfully, the hotel has a wake up service. I leave the upmarket hotel in Manchester. My next commitment requires a move to Stoke-on-Trent where the hotel doesn’t have a phone, let alone a wake-up service. Driven by necessity, I work out how to set my alarm.

On Friday, back home, I pick up a new phone. Phew; back in touch. But wait: the universe has one further lesson for me.  At the weekend I’m visiting my mother, who has managed her 95 years without ever connecting to wifi. My mobile data isn’t working.  It’s surprisingly liberating to leave my phone in my room rather than my back pocket, where I’m tempted to check it in an idle moment.  When smoking in public places was common, many people would light up because it gave them something to do with their hands.  I have a sneaking feeling that mobiles have taken over this function.

At the conference I attended in Manchester, a headteacher spoke about her student ‘digital ambassadors’ instituting a 3-day phone fast for students, which staff voluntarily joined. They’re now working on an ‘on/off campaign’ to encourage students to ask themselves ‘do I really need my mobile phone on at the moment?’ This is a question I will be asking myself in future. It’s 6.57 a.m. and my phone is off.  I’ll turn it on when I start work today, and turn it off as a signal that I’m finishing.  I’ve been through the first 3 stages of the 4 As and resolved to take ACTION.  With the help of those who wish to join me in the #phonefastchallenge, I hope to be able to ADHERE to my new habit and benefit from switching off from work when I can, adding focus to tasks not interrupted by bleeps and pings which tell me someone is paying me attention.

Join me?