What happens when we disconnect!

So, I did something during vacation time this month.

I went offline

Phone on “do not disturb.” Out of office message on email. Let my family know I’d be unavailable unless there was an emergency. Zero social media. Turned off my laptop.

For eight days. EIGHT DAYS. Guess what happened…


The universe didn’t implode. There were no emergencies. No one died, including me. 

Do you remember what life is like NOT checking your phone, NOT responding to texts like one of Pavlov’s dogs, NOT checking email or social media?

ANSWER: It’s glorious. 

Days feel longer. The tightness in your chest subsides. Your imagination unsticks it’s vast engines. 

Everything is lighter. 

The consequences of smartphone overuse…

According to research, “the average adult spends two to six hours a day answering email and at least a third of that isn’t urgent.”

Two to six hours a day. On email. Most of which (in my experience) is garbage. 

So, when you say, “I don’t have time to exercise/take piano lessons” do you really NOT have time, or are you spending it checking unimportant email?

Americans check their phones anywhere from 96 to 160 times a day, depending upon which study you read.

So, when you say, “I don’t have time to relax,” do you really NOT have time, or are you spending it compulsively checking your phone?

We spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media every day.

So, when you say, “I don’t have time to play with my kids,” do you really NOT have time, or are you spending it scrolling through Facebook and Twitter?

75% of us admit to using our smartphone WHILE WE’RE SITTING ON THE TOILET! 

So, when you say, “I’m not addicted to my phone,” is that true? If you can’t bear to leave your phone on the kitchen counter while you’re taking a poop, you’re not addicted? What else would you call that?

We spend an average of 4.2 hours per day on apps. 

So, when you say, “I don’t have time to meal-prep/meditate,” do you really NOT have time, or are you spending it on Clubhouse?

1.6 million car crashes per year result from people using their phones while driving

So, when you think, “I have to answer this text now, I’ll be fine,” while you’re merging onto the 101 from the 405, is that actually true?

60% of us respond to texts within 1 to 2 minutes, which means that 60% of us will INTERRUPT WHATEVER WE’RE DOING at any given time to shoot an emoji back to someone. And “once you break your focus for any reason, it takes an average of twenty-three minutes to get back to full concentration.”

So, when you say “I don’t have time to read a book/shoot baskets with my buddies,” do you really NOT have time, or are you wasting a bunch of time every day getting refocused because you can’t resist the siren call of your texts?

Do you respond to non-emergency texts while in the middle of a conversation with someone? Or a doctor’s appointment, a job interview? 

Do you have to ask the dentist, “can you hang on a second?” when she’s prying around in your mouth so you can check the text that just buzzed against your leg?

When did that become okay? What happened to our manners?

Do you carry your phone in your hand while you’re on a walk so you can instantaneously investigate every notification? Do you really NEED to know immediately when someone sends you a text or email, when someone comments on one of your social media posts, when a news headline pops up?

Do you casually surf around on social media or Google when also on the phone with someone?

Is it inconceivable to sit down to a meal without a screen of some kind in front of you?

Do you text friends or family at 6am or 10pm and get agitated when you don’t get an immediate response? 

Do you text businesspeople during off-hours and get salty when they don’t text back right away?

We have a problem. And it’s getting worse year-over-year. 

Okay, so what do we do about this?

If none of this bothers you, if you aren’t concerned about your screen use, if you don’t mind that you spend a lot of time on your phone, then ignore this email. No point in making a problem where one doesn’t exist, so if you genuinely have no concern over your tech use, that’s great, keep doing what you’re doing!

And I’m not suggesting that tech is bad or that we should all become Luddites, eschewing the benefits of technology and progress.

It’s awesome that I can check my bank balance when I’m in IKEA so I know whether I need to transfer money from savings to checking before buying something.

It’s amazing that I can check the weather for the next week before taking a trip so I know what clothes to bring.

I love the fact that I have the ability to reach my wife almost immediately in the event of an emergency. 

Technology can be a HUGE asset in our lives.

But, if after ten seconds of boredom while standing in line for the ATM, you feel your phone calling to you from your pocket like the One Ring and your eyes roll back into your head while your fingers find the screen of your phone to open a random YouTube video, that’s a problem. 

So, if there’s a voice in your head that keeps whispering to you about getting a handle on your tech use, or if you feel badly about how much time you spend on your phone and other devices and have been wanting to do something about it, let’s brainstorm some ideas. 

I’ll go first.

  • Let your friends and family know you’re trying to cut down on your phone use and ask for their support. 
  • Try setting two or three specific times per day for checking email and texts, and use only those specific times to respond to your messages. Since returning from my time off I have designated three specific times for checking and responding to emails and messages; 8am, 12pm, and right before the end of the day at 5pm. I haven’t been perfect, and these times aren’t absolute, but I’m practicing and getting better. This keeps me from intermittently checking messages 50 times throughout the day.
  • Put your phone on “do not disturb” between your message-check times so you can be productive!!! This works GREAT most of the time, but not ALL of the time.
  • Set a HARD STOP time at the end of your workday after which time you go offline. My hard stop is 5pm, except Thursdays, when I work at the Encino gym until 7:30pm. 
  • Set weekend parameters. I work in the Northridge gym on Saturday mornings, so I make myself available until about 11am, then I go on “do not disturb” until Monday morning. 
  • Set specific times or days for checking social media. Right now I’m only visiting social media two days a week.
  • If you own an iPhone, create a custom “do not disturb” message. This way when people text they will receive the message and know you’re unavailable, but will also have an idea of when they can expect a reply.
  • Add people to your Favorites list who will be able to get through even if your phone is on “do not disturb” so you don’t have to worry about emergency situations
  • Let your “have to know” people know that you’re going to be unavailable, but let them know that in the event of an emergency they can contact you by another means. When I was on vacation I let my family know I was going offline but that they could contact me through my wife in the event of an emergency because she had her phone on. 
  • Set an “out of office” reply on your email that outlines your response policy. 
  • Get a “weekend” phone. I have one. Yep, I have two phones. The only people who have the number of my Weekend Phone are my family, Joe and Will. When I need privacy, like when I’m on vacation or it’s a weekend, I put my primary phone on “do not disturb” and use my Weekend Phone so I’m available for emergencies, if necessary. I pay $15 per month through Spectrum for a really cheap cell plan. 
  • If you have a Weekend Phone, keep it stripped of communication apps. My Weekend Phone doesn’t have my email set up, doesn’t have social media apps installed, it really just has the bare minimum, like weather, navigation, Safari, etc.. This helps me avoid temptation.
  • Be more respectful of other people’s schedules. For my part, I realized how often I text people whenever I feel like it instead of when it’s necessary. Now, if I want to set up a haircut, I wait until Monday to reach out to my stylist instead of texting her at 7pm on a Sunday

Some caveats!

I recognize that some people have to be more accessible than others because of work or family circumstances, and that these particular ideas may not work for them. Totally get that. I encourage you to experiment with other ideas that might enable less phone use without producing other problems. 

I would be happy to brainstorm with anyone who would like to come up with a plan for reducing screen time. 

And finally, this important message:

I’m not doing any of this because I don’t like people or don’t care about my business or members. I’m doing this because by making myself available pretty much ALL THE TIME over the last decade I have created chronic stress and anxiety for myself which makes me unhappy and resentful. 

By protecting my free time I am able to reduce stress and anxiety, improve the quality of my life, and be a better person and business owner. I’m guessing it will work for you too.