The positive impacts of “old” technology
The day I got a smartphone in 2008, it replaced my alarm clock. I was impressed by this new technology and sure about its positive impact on my life, so since that day, every morning starts with me reaching for my phone, turning it off, and then staying on it to scroll through social media and news. For over a decade, I start my morning by consuming content through a screen — and I realised that is not the way I want things to be.
Three months ago I went out and bought a physical alarm clock to test whether this “old” piece of technology might be a better choice for my bedroom. Today I know that it was my best purchase of the year.
I have an evening routine I start around 9 pm and as a new part, I now connect my phone to a charger outside my bedroom and leave it there. After that, I get ready to sleep and lay down.
In bed, I normally scroll through Reddit, Instagram & Co., but my new alarm clock can only tell the time and beep so that is not an option anymore. My first night without any consumption of digital content was … boring. I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to go to sleep but because it was way too early, I just lay on my back and did nothing. While being annoyed at first, I realised that this is a good thing; I have a bit of free time, every day, and I can choose what I want to do with it (except wasting it on my phone).
So, over the next few days, I experimented with ways to spend this new time and in the end, I came up with just two simple things:
- I meditate for 15 minutes
- I read until I am tired
I don’t want to do any creative/productive things in bed because they keep me from winding down. For at least one hour, I am disconnected from the internet and any screens and one thing I noticed pretty fast: I did not have the feeling of missing anything. Even though I spend about 7 hours a week less on my phone, I didn’t miss out on any important information. And that is just one of the positive aspects.
Getting out of bed is hard for me — and having a new alarm clock did not make it easier. It made it much harder. I am used to spending the first minutes of the day on my phone and letting the blue light help my brain wake up, but now, I have to fight myself out of bed and under the shower. After that, I do a few stretches and by that time I am fully awake.
And then, something amazing happened: I started loving the morning. Not consuming content and news in bed gives me a clear start to the day and I feel like my mind is recharged with all the mess from the previous day gone.
By not confronting my mind with other peoples thoughts and content, my head feels clear and truly refreshed.
Now, I try to wake up at least two hours before I have to leave for work and these early hours have become my favourite part of the day. I use this time to work and brainstorm about my ideas - they have become the most productive time of my day.
It is not until I am about to make breakfast and get ready for work when I check my phone for the first time. There has yet to be a push notification or a breaking news story that made me regret not touching it earlier. I even think about subscribing to a physical newspaper again because I cannot think about any kind of news that cannot wait for a bit.
I am 100% convinced about my new, non-digital approach to the end and start of my day. My phone hasn’t entered my bedroom in three months and building small morning- and evening routines around this new habit has led to numerous improvements in my life:
- My screen time is down by 10 hours a week
- I already read more books than the entire last year
- I have a fresh start into the day
- I feel more refreshed and more focused
- My sleep has improved
- I love the mornings and getting stuff done (e.g. this article)
- I feel more happy and relaxed
- Social media lost a good chunk of its influence on my life
I am sure I missed a few points but I think the general message is clear: switching to an analogue alarm clock was a great choice.
The one concern I have with my new approach is a potential emergency. My family should always be able to reach me, and when my phone is in another room that is not possible. My solution is to charge it on a little table in the hallway so I can hear it from my bed so wake up if one of my emergency contacts calls me.
Alternatively, I thought about reactivating my landline and telling my close family to call me through that number in case of an emergency (or even in general). But that is an experiment for the future.
Another thing I miss is my meditation app. I like to get into mediation, but I am not good at doing it without guidance. I am a big fan of Waking Up but cannot use it without a phone.
When I was younger my mother told me to not play video games after studying for school because it would distract my brain and “overwrite” the things I learned. Back then, I thought this to be total nonsense — today I think she might have been on to something.
I used to flood my brain with information and the misery of the whole world while just waking up or falling asleep. First thing in the morning, my mind had to engage with apps that are carefully designed to take as much time and attention from me as possible and by eliminating these influences from my morning, I allowed myself a refreshing and productive start into the day.
I love technology and I am convinced that it can improve our world if we use it in the right way. But I have to be careful to not just mindlessly adopt it into every aspect of my life and be mindful of the negative aspects a digital world can bring. Cutting technology out of my evenings and mornings had a tremendously positive effect and I highly suggest anyone give it a try as well.