Honest truth: the thought that ran through my head when I decided to turn my phone of was, ‘what could I possibly miss?’
It turns out a lot: Tigerair was no more, massive Beirut explosion, and Melbourne to enter stage four restrictions.
But here’s the thing: did I really need to know all that when it happened? The answer is no.
I’m a journalist, so when I’m working, I need to know what’s going on as soon as possible, why, and how it affects all of us.
It’s really important to get that analysis right. Yahoo and ABC readers rely on the information being accurate and dependable.
It does take a large commitment of time and energy. And it’s energy I want to focus on here.
Without loads of energy, it’s very hard to do most jobs, including journalism.
What I discovered by turning my phone off was a freedom from the ‘need to know’ voice in my head. That freedom helped to recharge my batteries.
That’s the big picture.
Let’s look at how I got there.
It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.
Mind you I did mentally prepare myself. I booked the leave weeks in advance and was reassured by a friend that it could only be good for me.
A big help too was going away. We went to the Hunter Valley in NSW for a couple of days.
I literally, as planned, turned my phone off as I turned the car ignition on. I kept my mobile close by most of the time, but because it was off, I wasn’t tempted to check it.
I also told people I was going away and put the automatic out-of-office reply on, so if someone desperately want to contact me, they could find a away.
There’s need to know, and there’s need to know.
I discovered, much to my relief, that I didn’t need to know about the Virgin job losses, the collapse of Tiger Air, or about the Beirut bomb blast and stage 4 Victorian restrictions at the time they happened.
These events are all tragic in their own way, some are devastating, and it’s absolutely in the public interest that they are covered. But I didn’t need to know about them when they happened.
For a start, I couldn’t do anything to help even if I wanted to, but I was also on leave so, for me, there was nothing to report.
I was able to watch, listen and read the reports later.
Let’s face it, there’s no coronavirus vaccine as yet, at it may be well into next year that one is developed to the point of being distributed.
We all face a tough road ahead.
Our bodies are designed to cope with stress. Crucially though, we also know they are not well equipped to cope with chronic, heightened states of stress and anxiety. It leads to fatigue and burnout.
The only cure for beating chronic stress is to find time to relax. This can involve a combination of mindfulness, exercise and getting stuck into your favourite hobby.
Either way, occasionally we need to stop. This is not possible when we have a mobile device close by giving us alerts every 20 minutes.
My final discovery was somewhat unexpected.
By removing distractions and creating space for my mind to settle, I found myself resolving issues I’ve been wresting with for a while.
For example, a personal struggle I have is disrupted sleep. However, by turning my phone off I found it incredibly easy to fall asleep, and by not checking my phone as soon as I woke, the blood pressure stayed lower for longer.
I grew up in the 1980s. Back then all we had was a PC at school that only performed basic functions like word processing.
The world did not end. Yes, we didn’t have unlimited access to information, a voice telling us how to get from A to B in the car without looking up a Gregory’s Street Directory, and you had to go to a video store to buy a VHS move… BUT we still survived.
My mobile phone gives me access to digital services and information which adds convenience to my life and helps me do my job.
There is a time a place for it though. It need not always be on.
By turning it off occasionally you allow your mind refresh and recover.
It’s counter-cultural, but after my experience, I’d argue you’re actually giving yourself a competitive advantage by putting that thing away for a time – after all, there is more to life.
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