An Experiment in Simplicity
A few months back, I had a revelation. Okay, so, maybe it wasn’t a revelation! Perhaps, I just finally picked up on my wife’s frustration of my incessant need to pull out my iPhone every spare second I had. Anyway, I came to the realization that I was spending way too much time on my phone. Whether it was email, Facebook, Instagram, Words with Friends, Twitter, or ESPN, I was constantly using my “downtime” to keep up with the digital world around me.
I have a strong attachment to my mobile phone.
Since the purchase of my first phone, I was hooked. It was a Sony Ericsson T68, the first phone with a color screen, bluetooth, SMS capability, and you could even purchase a camera attachment! This was back in 2002, so, this technology was just beginning to develop. I knew this was the beginning of something big.
I pre-ordered the first true “smartphone,” the Palm Treo 600, about a year later. If you were to look at it now, you would laugh. But back when it was first released, it was amazing. The Treo became much more than a phone to me, it was a necessity. I had my calendar, camera, phone, and web browser all in the palm of my hands. I was purchasing every update to the Palm Treo until January 9, 2007.
Of course on that day, mobile phones were changed forever with the announcement of the iPhone. Yeah, I’m that guy that stood in line for the first, second, and third generation iPhone. And, yes, I’ve pre-ordered every one after that!
Mobile phones have come to completely revolutionize the way we communicate, interact, and correspond with people. As I considered my iPhone and just how much I use it, I asked myself if I really needed a fully featured “computer” in my hand at all times?
As I thought about it, I really didn’t. So, I tried something I thought would be really difficult—I crippled my iPhone. As an experiment, I deleted the applications on my phone that caused me the most distractions. This included email, web browser, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the to-do app I use, and more. I went from 63 apps to just 16.
My iPhone, as a result, now functions more like a phone instead of a computer. Here are the apps that I left on my phone and why.
- Phone – The primary reason I have a cell phone in the first place . . . to make calls.
- Messages – I text more than I use my phone to call.
- 1Password – This app houses my accounts, passwords, logins, and secure information. It also has a web browser built-in. Because I need to enter a password when I open the app, I only use the web browser when I absolutely need it.
- Settings – to change . . . settings.
- App Store – From time to time, I need to download an app in an emergency.
- Calcbot – I use a calculator quite regularly, and I like the functionality of this calculator better than the native calculator app.
- Camera – The iPhone camera is far better than most dedicated point and shoot cameras. I love taking high-quality pictures at a moment’s notice.
- Drafts – My note taking app of choice. I rarely have pen and paper on me, so I use this when I need to jot notes. Drafts automatically sync with my iPad, or I can send the text file to Dropbox.
- Dropbox – I have my photos/videos automatically set to upload to Dropbox so I don’t have to sync my phone with my computer to backup my photos.
- Evernote – This app functions as my digital file cabinet. I don’t access it on the go very often, but when I need it; it is very helpful.
- Flashlight – I use this all the time!
- Pandora – Listening to classical music helps to put me in a productive zone. This is the app I use to listen to it.
- Photos – Necessary for the “camera” app.
- Clock – This is my alarm clock, timer, and timepiece.
- Fantastical – A better and more simplistic app than the native iPhone calendar app. I have my calendars synced up with my phone so I can be alerted with time sensitive alerts.
- Maps – I have absolutely no sense of direction. I get lost driving to my house (I’m not exaggerating). GPS is essential for me to find my way around.
And that is it—nothing more and nothing less. I setup my experiment several months ago and have no intentions of returning to my app-filled phone days. I find, by habit, I still take my phone out of my pocket and flip it on when I have some downtime, but when I realize I have nothing to look at, it quickly returns to my pocket.
It may sound silly that I’m wasting such a powerful device. But, I’ve already benefited by making the plunge. Here are just a few ways:
I am reading more. I recently read the book 137 Books in One Year by Kevin D. Hendricks. The major takeaway was to always have a book present to pick up in the event you have a spare minute, so you can reclaim the time by reading. The Bible says in I Timothy 4:13, “Till I come, give attendance to reading.” It is so easy to excuse away a lack of reading because we “don’t have the time.” I couldn’t believe how many pages I was reading throughout the course of a day. Because I reach for a book instead of my phone, I am reading so much more.
I am more attentive to people around me. In the past, I would regularly reach for my phone without thinking twice while eating dinner, out with friends, in a meeting, or on a date with my wife. In hindsight, I was rude. In Philippians 2:4 we find the admonition, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” I was ashamed that often I valued my phone more than the person or people I was with. I was missing out on how I could be a blessing to others.
I have a greater focus. I don’t worry about missing a helpful article posted on Twitter or receiving an email that I generally can’t do anything about until I’m in front of my computer. Then, I thought of the singular focus of the Apostle Paul when he said in Philippians, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do.” I would rather have a crippled phone and improve the focus of my time spent at work, home, and church.
I challenge you to evaluate the areas in your life that could possibly be distracting you and stealing your precious time. Then, isolate just one area in your life that you could simplify. It may not involve crippling your iPhone like it did in my case, but hopefully by removing the distraction, whatever it may be; you will gain a greater focus in the areas that are of true importance. I would love to hear your thoughts.