With every new year we tend to assess the many facets of our lives and focus on the things that are not working. This seems to be common with every passing year, so I decided to see how I could curb the amount of time I spent staring into my phone. Even as I write this, I have already been interrupted by the urge to check it.

About a month ago I had a lightbulb moment where I realized that I am using my phone mostly as a watch. It is the act of looking at my phone to get the time that is a gateway to me wasting more of my time. This time checking usually leads to e-mail, messages, instagram, news, bank balances, sports scores, music releases, long-range weather forecasts, product research, extraneous fact checking, and the urge to take a picture of everything. Don’t get me wrong, it is truly incredible that we can do these things with our phones, but it gets to be too much if you are doing them all every time you unlock your phone.

The distraction is amplified even more when we are continuously aware of and responding to notifications of every message, e-mail, retweet, mention, like, and breaking news story. This dependence is also felt in the fact that we feel the need to always have our phones on us everywhere we go, and even feeling the need to have it right beside our bed. We seem to be bound to these devices 24/7 and expect everyone else to do the same.

So who cares? Why does this matter? It’s the new digital world we live in—right? Maybe so, but with more and more people showing increased signs of exhaustion, depression and an inability to cope with day-to-day life, maybe this perpetual need to be connected and constantly communicating is helping contribute to the problem. Maybe it’s a form of illness contributing to even more illnesses.

Like any kind of problem you try to diagnose the root cause. So my first order of business was to find an inexpensive watch that I was happy to wear (I’m generally pretty picky about watches). Just for fun I searched for Casio watches on Amazon and to my surprise they still make a model quite similar to one of the first watches I wore as a child. The warm and fuzzies immediately came back when I saw the pictures of the watch face.

The Casio F-91W has been made for the past 26 years and is a no-frills classic digital watch that you can pickup for under $20 bucks. I had actually been searching a few months prior for a simple watch with a stopwatch to take with me while running, but didn’t want all of the connectivity, monitoring and GPS nonsense that comes with much of the available watches these days. So not only did I find a watch that gave me the warm and fuzzies, but I also found one I could use as a simple stopwatch for running. I was sold.

The switch back to a simple watch has helped me to slow down my life significantly even just over the span of a month. It has made me question why I was taking my phone with me everywhere when all I really wanted it for was the time. It has offered a vehicle for me to reflect on what is truly necessary in this digital world we now live in.

Things I have noticed over the last month:

  1. More quality time with my family
  2. Increased clarity
  3. A feeling of being more in control of the day as opposed to the day controlling me
  4. Generally lower levels of stress and more running with my new stopwatch :)
  5. Less desire to bring the phone to bed

This is all very closely connected to the work we do as a designers. One of our main objectives as designers is to distill and simplify our designs to their most important and necessary elements. We are continuously resisting the urge to add anything that might not be of use or extraneous. Similarly, our phones can help us do many amazing things, but we still don’t necessarily need access to everything all of the time. Screens cannot be eliminated completely from our lives, as this is what we do for a living and we use them as our tools. But we certainly can limit the amount of exposure that we seem to subject ourselves to.

I’m proposing that people join me and take the Casio challenge. It didn’t fully cure my phone addiction, but it has certainly put me on the right path. Less phone and more real living.