I made a bold goal for 2017.
Every weekend, from Friday at 5 p.m. to Sunday around the same time, I’m shutting off my phone. I’m not just shutting it off, either—it’s in a drawer in another room.
At first, this idea challenged and scared me. What if someone needed me? What if I had a really cool experience and wanted a picture? I asked a lot of “what if..?” questions when I planned my goals, but the fact that taking a weekly phone break made me so uncomfortable told me it was very necessary. In 2017, my goal is “52 Free Weekends”—phone free, and eventually social media free, too.
Perhaps that idea makes you as uncomfortable as it did me. Want to know something? The first weekend I did it, I was astonished at the results. As I write, we aren’t yet out of January, and I’m already looking forward to these weekend breaks. Here are four things I realized by taking a weekly break from my phone.
1. I’m not living my life in pictures.
My husband has joked that I’m in a relationship with Instagram. I sure do love that platform! The sad thing is that I often use real-life experiences as an excuse to spend more time on social media. I want to document every “cool” thing I do, place I go or activity I join. In doing so, I cheat myself of the full experience.
The first weekend I put away my phone, I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. I noticed things I had only seen through the lens of a camera, things meant to be paired with a caption and advertised to thousands. In only a few days I began to appreciate my experiences simply for what they were. Not everything needs to be a picture. Sometimes it needs to be a memory.
2. I’m more focused on the present.
Shutting off my phone makes me focus on what’s going on in my immediate world. Instead of retreating from reality, checking statuses, taking pictures or answering texts, I’m able to engage with the people and tasks of my real life.
My phone makes me focus on the past or the future: past pictures and experiences, even those of others, or plans and ideas for future use. It doesn’t keep me focused on the present, and therefore cheats me of all God wants from my life.
3. I’m less tempted to peruse social media when I’m bored or uncomfortable.
My response when bored or uncomfortable—such as walking into a room of strangers—is to pull out my phone. Many of us react this same way. Rather than embrace the discomfort and deal with our emotions, we hide behind a screen, protecting ourselves from the world. But in most cases, we’re shorting ourselves of real relationships. I know I was.
By making a habit of having no phone, I can’t peruse social media when I feel this way. I have to deal with my feelings, look up and around, smile and engage with my community. That’s a good thing!
4. I have to be intentional with my time.
Finally, shutting off my phone made me realize where my time was going—albeit in short, five-minute bursts. Even though I’m generally very productive, I discovered how much time I wasted in these small glances at my phone. Removing it completely helped me create a distinction between the important and the urgent.
Taking a break on weekends has encouraged me to shut my phone off during the week, too. From 5 p.m. to bedtime I try to shut it down and put it away, focusing completely on evening activities, family and more meaningful hobbies like reading and writing.
Who knows what kind of impact a decision like this could make in your life? It can’t hurt to try. Start small—perhaps an evening “fast” like the ones I do during the week. Work up to a weekend break, and notice how it changes your life for the better!