After wrapping up at the gym recently, I threw my mobile phone along with my other necessities into the bottom of my gym bag before heading home for breakfast with the kids.
I had no idea a rogue water bottle lid was about to provide me with one of the most valuable lessons I'd received in a long, long time: Upon opening the bag I found that the lid had come undone and created a small personal dam at the bottom, soaking everything in it.
And my phone? My much-loved mobile phone was lifeless, void.
A wave of stress tinged with fear swept across my body, "What on earth would I do without my mobile? How will I survive?"
A newfound freedom
The answer to that question is profound. I was about to undertake a 3-day experiment without being constantly connected to my weapon of mass distraction.
I was about to rediscover the lost art of being present. Like, truly present.
I was about to discover that I, like so many people I coach and teach, have become totally addicted to our electronic devices.
I was about to discover how much more creative, innovative and focused I can be without being glued to my screen from sun up to sundown.
The experiment begins
Monday morning I did feel some anxiety not having my mobile. Who had texted me? What important calls were I missing?
What was happening on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter?
It was doubly annoying having to fire up my laptop to check emails and internal messages when it was once so conveniently accessible from my pocket. So annoying.
But Monday lunchtime something inside me changed. I felt an unexpected calmness, a stillness. It was going to be OK. Not having my mobile was not going to destroy my relationships, or bring on a cataclysmic series of events precipitating the downfall of my career, and ruining everything that I most value in my life.
That afternoon, as I was preparing to duck out of the office to buy a new mobile, but something inside me said "don't rush, take it easy big fella, you can get it tomorrow".
Tuesday morning I dropped my kids at daycare and school and I noticed something. I was much more present. The sneaky little check while getting the kids ready each morning was eroding my attention a lot more than I thought.
Tuesday morning I presented a leadership workshop and not checking my mobile in the break meant I was more focused on the participants and what I was delivering. Tuesday afternoon I had three meetings and I noticed that everyone walked into meetings and the first thing they did was check their mobiles. Swipe, click, toggle, flick. Not having a mobile meant I was 'in' the meeting, not just 'at' the meeting. I felt ready to communicate, ready to engage, ready to make more informed decisions.
Breaking the habit
The experiment continued all day Wednesday until Thursday morning when I finally gave in and became mobile once more. Upon turning on my new phone, what had I missed out on? Well, there were a stack of text messages and missed calls, but the really important things had got through to me via email or other means. Life really can and does go on without being plugged in 24/7.
Before my experiment I didn't realise just how much I had become attached to my mobile phone (yes mum, I know you've been saying this for a while now). It appears my Nomophobia had no lasting repercussions at all. On the flip side, going mobile free has given me a renewed focus and made me think about how to take these learning into other parts of my life.
So I propose the following periods of regularly unplugging:
One week Digital Detox
At least once a year from now on I am going to attempt to go mobile-free for a week. Try getting off the grid and head somewhere without mobile reception.
Technology Free Sunday's
I've tried this a few times with my children, disconnecting from technology on a Sunday, and my experiment has convinced me in the benefits of making this a weekly routine. Yes, I will feel lost at first but I am convinced we are becoming a society suffering from 'disconnected connectivity'.
Leaving my mobile phone out of meetings
Being mobile-less, it was so obvious watching other people and how distracted they can be in meetings. For important meetings I'm going to leave my mobile phone in my bag or at my desk and focus on being 'in' the meeting.
Switching off before bed
For years I've been talking about the need to switch off technology 30 to 45 minutes before sleep (blue light stimulates the sympathetic nervous system). While I do this most nights, I can be guilty (like all of us) of spending a bit too much time on technology before bed.
What have you done to get off your addiction to technology? Share your experience in the comments section.
Workplace performance expert Andrew May is a Partner at KPMG Performance Clinic, a best-selling author and keynote speaker. He has spent the past 20 years helping business leaders and their teams improve performance, productivity and wellbeing.
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