Two Week Smartphone Detox Challenge – Results

In my last post, I announced that I was going to do a challenge on smartphone detox for two weeks. I will reiterate the rules that I have signed up to:

  1. Do not look at phone first thing in the morning
  2. Do not look at / post on social media all day except during designated slots in the morning and evening
  3. Leave phone at home when going out for short distances from home
  4. Do not look at phone before (at least one hour before) sleep

Firstly, let me explain why I have decided to do this challenge.

Why?

Some background first. I have had a smartphone for years now. I use it mostly for connecting to people via social media, mails, a bit of working and online shopping (I shop most of my stuff online these days, I don’t like the crowded malls/shops). I mostly use Whatsapp and Instagram. I have a FaceBook account but I deleted the app from my phone over two years ago. I’m not at all active on Twitter and I hardly ever use it. Finally, I don’t have push notifications for anything. (except of course for normal calls and texts).

So, I’m somewhere in the middle of the phone addiction spectrum. Why did I take this challenge?

  • Reality check: How much am I really addicted to my phone? And if the addiction is really bad, use this challenge as an initiative to get de-addicted.
  • Phoneless life: How does life feel like without constant checking of phone?
  • Know myself: By cutting down the clutter/noise from phone, I was hoping to be more aware of myself.

 

How did it go?

First thing in the morning and at least one hour before sleep:

Initially I struggled to even remember these but eventually, these became easy to stick to. Somewhere in the middle of week 1, I gave in and spent an hour on the phone in the middle of the night because I got woken up by my two year old (who went back to bed and I couldn’t! So typical!). But overall, I can say there has been success in these two rules.

Check social media apps only at pre-determined times:

I chose two designated times for this – 11.30am – 12.30pm and 6.30 pm – 7.30 pm. I sucked at this in the initial few days. To remember firstly and then to resist the automatic urge to check Whatsapp messages and Instagram feed. These apps were filling my empty spaces between one task and the next, while waiting for something or sometimes while eating too. Any moment when I’m not actively “doing” anything, I’d automatically open the social media apps, even without my full awareness. I sort of knew this was the case but taking up this challenge confirmed it.

So in these two weeks, after crossing the hurdle of being able to remember the two time slots, I got better at being aware when my hand would go out to reach for the phone in auto-pilot mode. Then I got better at resisting my strong urge. My strong urge was related to my mind-talk along the lines of “what’s the harm in quickly checking Whatsapp messages?”, “let me just check if XYZ has replied”, “I’m not doing anything for the next 10 mins so what’s wrong in just browsing through my Insta feed?”, “Who cares about this challenge anyway?”. Overall, there were days when I failed and there were days when I was able to go by the rules of the challenge.

Leave phone at home when going out short distances:

I did not follow this well as I failed to remember to not take my phone with me when going out.

 

What did I learn?

Now that I know how much I’m addicted, I think I’m going to continue the ‘check social media apps only at these times’ rule. I’m almost out of the urge to check phone first thing in the morning and last thing in the night. I don’t see a strong reason to leave phone at home as long as I stick to the ‘check social media apps only at these times’ rule.

Phoneless life did not seem extremely different from life before this challenge mainly because I don’t have alerts/push notifications anyway. It was definitely different in that I had sudden pockets of space which I could choose to deal with differently, which actually links to the next point:

I chose to use some spaces in between tasks to meditate for a couple of minutes or may be just take a step back and see how I was feeling. Was I feeling calm or stressed or annoyed or just about anything? This allowed me to catch any negative emotions or even meaningless mind chatter before they became big. Sometimes, during these spaces or waiting times, I chose to just zoom out and watch around – my surroundings, nature, people, other sounds apart from the voice in my head.

This experience is my favourite part of this challenge. It almost is a ready-at-hand self-awareness and calming trick. I was using these spaces to check phone which just resulted in more information noise into my head or aggravate existing emotions or just plain distraction from what is. By cutting the phone out, I feel more calm and balanced as I now realise that I actually have some ‘me’ time at hand if only I choose to use that time in this way.

 

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Two Week Smartphone Detox Challenge

I’m taking a two week smartphone detox challenge. I checked some challenges online and used some of the rules from there. And then I added some of my rules as well. Starting today, I’m doing this challenge. I will do a full post on why I’m doing this and how it went once it’s over.

So here are the four simple rules of this challenge:

  1. Do not look at phone first thing in the morning
  2. Do not look at / post on social media all day except during designated slots in the morning and evening
  3. Leave phone at home when going out for short distances from home
  4. Do not look at phone before (at least one hour before) sleep

Seemingly simple rules. But will need a lot of discipline and willpower to stick to them.

Find a purpose or buy a house?

WHY DID WE POUR ALL OUR MONEY INTO STARTING A BUSINESS INSTEAD OF BUYING A HOME?

This is a question we asked ourselves several times before reaching a conclusion (and still ask ourselves at times even now). “Why don’t you buy a home?” is a question many people still ask us every now and then.

Yes, it was a conscious decision to invest all our savings into our start-up business rather than buy a home as expected from a middle-aged adult couple. A couple who have just had a baby girl. A couple who were in well-paid corporate jobs in well-respected high-profile roles. A couple who were doing exceptionally well in their respective professions. A couple who had no other financial asset or liability. When all was going perfectly well as per the world’s definition of ‘life is good’ and the norm would be to buy a house and “settle down”, we took a sharp U-turn by deciding to quit both our jobs and put most of our time and a big majority of our savings into starting a business. Here’s why:

 

Finding a purpose:

Personally, ever since I left Scotland, I was going through an identity crisis. I worked really hard, sacrificed many weekends, party nights and all kinds of leisure for several years to become an actuary. And when I became one, I struggled to know what my purpose was. Yes, a fully qualified actuary did not know what to do with her life. Performing regulatory and business valuations, designing and pricing life insurance products just did not satiate my “what the hell am I doing in this world” question. I constantly felt the hollow of not being able to do something that has a direct (and good) impact on the world.

“Settling down” wasn’t enough:

Both of us had this urge to do much more than “settle down”. I had a constant stream of haunting thoughts like “what’s the point of our big salaries?”, “what is the kind of world that I’d love our daughter to live in?”, “How can I make my profession better?”. We both knew that quitting both our jobs would be highly risky – for us, for our new born baby, for our parents, for our career. And yet, we just HAD to take that difficult step to find out what awaited us on the other side.

Set an example by doing:

There was no doubt about how much we both complained about the “corporate-ness” of our jobs. How people became machines by working like machines, how companies became machine-producing machines by treating people like machines and how most people that we knew worked only because their jobs pay their monthly bills, their mortgage and maintain their life style. And not because they truly loved their work. It was depressing to see the vicious circle most people were living in; the circle of work because you want to be able to buy the stuff that you want, buy stuff because you can afford it and make more money and buy more stuff and so on.

We both absolutely loved our jobs while we lived in Scotland and we have the urge for people around us now to experience what “loving your job” feels like. So, we wanted a platform to start fresh, work and lead by example and set a culture where people love what they do.

Why buy when we can rent? We just need a homely shelter:

For someone like me who needs certainty, renting a home isn’t the ideal solution. But somehow, one day I suddenly realised that buying a home means that we not only pour all our savings into one physical structure but also that we lose the financial freedom to quit/change/try something new with our career altogether. The thought of not having financial freedom gave us nightmares, not being able to buy a home did not. And in a karmic way to end this, if we were meant to buy a home, it will happen at a time it is meant to happen. Plus, renting a home and having to move every now and then will contribute to a ‘living light’ way of living and I’d like to embrace lightness as much as possible.

 

It has been over an year since our start-up came into existence. We are now a bunch of ten people working together – passionate, happy and loving our jobs. Running a start-up has been the toughest thing we have ever done (some days we both feel like killing each other) besides raising a baby (also makes us both feel like killing each other), but does it answer the ‘what the hell am I doing in this world?’ question? Yes, to an extent and eventually, this path will answer it fully. We just know.

 

A tale of 1000 origami cranes

Last week marked the half-way milestone for one of the craft projects that I’m currently working on. I thought I’d share my experience and the outcome here.

So it all started off with my google search on fun things to do for my birthday (like a wish-list or a bucket list). And I came across this bucket-list idea (from this blog) of making 1000 origami cranes and instantly, it made its way to my bucket-list. I decided to make it for someone special for their birthday in October. I learnt how to make an origami crane from this website: http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-crane.html

The end result that I had in mind was to make 1000 origami cranes and hang them from our ceiling in the living room. I decided to make in yellow and blue as I thought they would look colourful and bright against our white ceiling. I did not work on my own on this project and instead took help, given that I had my normal full-time job to do everyday! I did not use the ready-made origami paper and instead cut the paper to size from scratch! In hindsight, that was not a very wise thing to do but I’ll talk about it a bit more in the ‘What I’ve learnt’ section below.

Here is a brief overview of the process and the end result of this fun project:

IMG_0467 IMG_0468 IMG_0471 IMG_0476 IMG_0482 IMG_0488 IMG_0496 IMG_0514 (1) IMG_0518 (1) IMG_0519 (1) IMG_0520 (1) IMG_0526 (1) IMG_0528 (1) IMG_0530 IMG_0531 IMG_0533 (1) IMG_0541

Needless to say, they looked beautiful. My favourite part is watching them cradle when the wind blows (which is my happy corner (#11) for this post). They are still hanging from our ceiling and remind me everyday that no matter what, its important to keep going and that success will automatically follow 🙂

Now some insight into what I’ve learnt from this project:

  • Do not underestimate the time-scales. I’m usually good at planning but I did not pay much attention to the time this project would take since I thought 3 months would be ample time to make 1000 cranes. That turned out to be quite destructive as I could not make 1000 in time and had to compromise with 500 by October. I should have been more careful in my estimation.
  • Think efficiency, efficiency and efficiency. Due to the repetitive and mundane nature of the task, I made sure that I improved with each repetition and constantly looked for ways to increase the speed and quality. One costly (and related) lesson that I learnt was: outsource where you can. I should have bought the ready-made origami paper and saved time. This is an important tip for anyone looking to take a similar project.
  • Perseverance and ‘enjoying the journey’ are the crux of such large scale projects. Worrying about the end result and deadlines is not going to make the project finish any sooner. Enjoy every bit of the process. I discovered how much determination I had inside of me – to make one crane after the other.

I’m still working on this project by the way and I am still determined to complete 1000 cranes. I’m excited to see the finish line and check the box against this bucket-list item.

Just to reiterate, for anyone interested to learn how to make an origami crane, this website has a step-by-step process: http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-crane.html. Enjoy!

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Dear June 2014

Dear June,

You have:

  • taught me how well I could work if I did not take the stress of deadlines. Deadlines are in the future, the only wise thing I can do right now is to give my best and not worry about the final outcome.
  • changed constantly. Although daunting to start with, it has been fun to see that I did well in adapting to the changes.
  • pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to enjoy the discomfort.
  • reminded me constantly that “whenever you feel like quitting, think about why you started”. Whoever said/wrote this quote, thank you.
  • made me feel grateful for what I have today. I can’t help comparing today with what I was doing and where I was this time last year and every time I do that, I feel ever so thankful for the relentless nature of time to keep moving.
  • given me the opportunity and ability to evaluate a potential business idea. It doesn’t matter that it did not materialise, I’m just glad that I tried and almost took it up. The mere exciting thought of ‘this could probably be my very first business’ was well worth the try. I now know more than ever that I want to have a business of my own one day. This is my happy corner for this post. (Happy Corner #6; What is Happy Corner? Read this)
  • given me happy times with family. I love them more everyday.
  • introduced me to ‘Star Wars’. Yes, I haven’t seen star wars until very recently. But now that I started watching the series, I can’t wait to see parts 4, 5 and 6. So far, my favourite characters are Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master Yoda and Padme.
  • also shown me movies like Godzilla (2014, of course) and Edge of Tomorrow. My rating? Godzilla: a waste of 123 minutes of my life, there is no need to spend 123 minutes to figure that out. Just don’t see it. Edge of Tomorrow: Clever. Actually, I think I want to say that it is me who is clever because I understood the movie in my first attempt. That said, the movie was indeed engaging, had a bit of humour and well, it was in 3D 🙂 So yes, go see it.
  • made me feel nostalgic about Edinburgh. We were this close to travelling to Edinburgh in July but it did not go according to plan. Edinburgh, I miss you so much but there’s a time for everything and I know I will come see you again one day.
  • got me addicted to 11 pm rides to have ice cream. Yay to summer 🙂
  • talked me into getting back to doing yoga regularly. Well thank you for my sore legs!
  • motivated me to finish my first painting on a tee. Not my best work but I like it. I did not wear it yet so I don’t know with certainty whether it is street friendly.
  • almost made me give up on Candy Crush. But alas the addiction is back. I’m not proud of it.
  • made me realise that I’m one of the biggest procrastinators/lazy bugs and should have written a post many days earlier.
  • almost come to an end and that is going to mark half year 2014. Half year! Is it just me or is the earth revolving 10 times faster these days?

 

 

10 lessons learnt

These are some lessons I learnt recently and thought it would be fun to share them here:

  1. It is extremely difficult to practise and cultivate a new habit, even if it is a ‘2 minutes per day’ kind of a habit. However, it is not impossible.
  2. Always think happy thoughts. You are what you think.
  3. It is a necessity to take rest when down with cold/general illness. Popping some pills and watching telly all day does not always help. Playing Candy Crush doesn’t help either. Getting stuck in one of the levels of Candy Crush for hours is enough of a sign to close the app and sleep. Clearing that level is tomorrow’s motto 😉
  4. It is never too late to start something new and exciting. Similarly, you are never too old to have fun.
  5. Not many people realise that you know they are looking at you with their supposedly “sneaky” corner-of-the-eye trick. And it is very difficult to make them realise you do!
  6. Idle man’s brain is not always a devil’s workshop. It is sometimes necessary to be idle, not do anything and not think anything.
  7. Knowing how much salt to put in your dish without tasting it is a specialised skill. Mums are usually experts in this skill. When they say that’s enough, stop.
  8. Everyone around you has problems. May not be the same as your’s but equally challenging. Keeping this in mind helps with relationships with people around you.
  9. Online shopping is addictive. It is important to strictly close the browser after completing your purchase and not look at the ‘people who bought this also bought these’ suggestions. It is also important to realise that it is not necessary to avail e-v-e-r-y discount coupon that is emailed to you because this is just a gateway to more shopping and more discount coupons! Good time to get a thought bubble over your head which says “Now that’s just silly”.
  10. There is order in almost all chaos. There is just a varying degree of order from one chaos to the other. Also, there is chaos everywhere and its absolutely ok for it to be there.

 

My Happy Corner #5 (for background to ‘My Happy Corner: click here):

My happy corner today is that moment where you do the right thing (although not necessarily an easy thing) and then get to see the direct wonderful result of that action. Sometimes, doing the right thing might raise questions of why you need to what you need to do. You just need to believe that it is the right to do and do it. Sooner or later you will look back and smile. But sometimes, you don’t need to wait too long to have that ‘look back and smile’ moment. It happens almost immediately after doing the right thing. I love those moments.