5 min read

My Physical Alarm Clock

A story about 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 was sure about its positive impact on my life. Since then, 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 contend through a screen – and I realised that is not the way I want things to be.

Three month ago I went out and bought a physical alarm clock. I wanted to test whether this “old” piece of technology might be a better choice for my bedroom.

Spoiler: While I thought this to be only a small experiment at first, I now consider this alarm clock one of my best purchase of the last year.

Photo by Jessica Delp

The Evening

I have a loose 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.

This is when I normally scroll through reddit, instagram & co. until I am tired enough to put my phone aside and fall asleep – 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. 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.

So, over the next days I experimented with ways to spend this new time. In the end, I came up with just two simple things:

  • I meditate for 15 minutes
  • I read until I am tired

And that’s it. I found out that I don’t want to do any creative / productive things in bed because it doesn’t help me to wind down.

For at least one hour I am disconnected from the internet and any screens. 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 social media or news there wasn’t one time where I missed out on important information. And that is just one of the positive aspects.

The Morning

Getting out of bed is hard for me – and having a new alarm clock did not make it easier. In fact, it made it much harder. I am used to spend the first minutes of the day on my phone-screen and let the blue light help my brain waking up. 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 happened I did not expect – I started loving the morning. Not consuming content and news in bed gives me a clear start into the day and I feel like my mind really recharged – all the mess from the previous day is gone.

By not confronting my mind with other peoples thoughts and content, my head feels clear and truly refreshed.

By now I try to wake up at least two hours before I have to leave for work. These early hours are just for me and they have become my favourite time of the day. I started to use this time to work and brainstorm about my ideas and 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 that 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 – I honestly cannot think about any kind of news that I have to read instantly and that cannot wait for a bit.

The Positive

You might have caught on to it by now – I am 100% convinced about my new, non-digital approach to the end and start of the day. My phone hasn’t entered my bedroom in three month and building small morning- and evening routines around this new habit has let to numerous improvements in my life. I strongly suggest you make your own experiences – here are some of the things that changed for me:

  • 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 in general
  • I have a relaxed time before going to sleep that lets me wind down
  • My sleep has improved
  • I love the mornings and get stuff done (e.g. this article)
  • I feel like I am more happy and relaxed
  • Social media lost a good chunk of its influence on me

I am sure I missed a few points but I think the general message is clear: switching to an analog alarm clock had a lot of positive impacts on my life.

The Negative

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 for now is to charge it on a little table in the hallway so I can hear it from my bed. This way I should wake up if any of my emergency contacts calls me.

Alternatively, I thought about reactivating my landline and tell 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 Calm but cannot use it without a phone.

Other than that I didn’t recognise any negative impacts. In the beginning it was weird to not have a phone in bed but I got used to it very quick. Now I batch my social media activities (read more about this here) and just catch up (and focus) on activities of my friends and family. I consume the content that mattes to me and not the one from people I don’t know or companies

Conclusion

When I was younger my mother told me to not play video games after studying for school because it would distract my brain from what I have learned and “overwrite” it. Back then I thought this to be total nonsense – today I think she might have be on to something.

I didn’t realise that 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. Eliminating this from my morning made me realise how refreshing a clear start into the day can be.

I love technology and I am convinced that it can improve our world if we use it in the right way. But we have to be careful to not just mindlessly adopt it into every aspect of our live and be mindful about 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 you give it a try as well.


Let me know about your experiences with a physical alarm clock and be sure to follow the Digital Oase Newsletter for more stories like this.