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I Lived 7 Days without a Smartphone

I’m addicted to my phone. You are probably too.

And I’m trying to fix this: I don’t have TikTok1 or Instagram, I only use YouTube in Safari with Shorts blocked, and I use one-sec for apps that I don’t want to waste my time on. But still, time-sinks keep creeping in after a week or two.

So, I did what I wanted to do for years: I put my iPhone at my desk and left it there for 7 days2. Here’s how it went.

The setup

Here’s all the things I can do reasonably effective with my Apple Watch Ultra 2:

  • Inspect and create calendar events
  • Manage my tasks with the OmniFocus 4 watch app
  • Send and receive texts with a swipe-capable on-screen keyboard or voice input
  • Make and receive phone calls
  • Track my hydration using Waterminder
  • Track medication
  • Check the weather with Carrot Weather
  • Record workouts with Gentler Streak
  • Record voice notes with Just Press Record
  • Navigate to and in places with Maps
  • Listen to music and podcasts with Apple’s apps

I also utilized the Action Button to run a Shortcut with the following menu:

  • New OmniFocus inbox item
  • Start audio recording
  • Toggle my office light (for that sweet sweet Rembrandt lighting)
  • Defer OmniFocus items to tomorrow (you can’t do that using the watchOS app)

How it changed my everyday life

Instead of being constantly reachable—not only via text or calls, but also via email and socials, I sat down in the evenings for some admin time. In that time, I would check and reply to emails and non-iMessage text messages, as well as going through OmniFocus and Just Press Record data to clean it up.

But besides that time, I was just—present. When I was out and about and waiting for something, I was forced to just wait. This gave me time to reflect and think things through, a time I didn’t know I was missing. Instead of having to make an effort to not look at my phone when I’m with friends, I was relaxed because I had no other choice. And instead of doom-scrolling while watching a TV show on the couch, I just watched the TV show (a nice side effect is that this raises the bar of content you consume).

But there were some downsides: I bought a new pair of glasses in that week and had no phone to make a quick photo (I hope I still like them when they arrive this week, lol). My watch had an issue with phone calls one morning, so I couldn’t make or take phone calls (a restart eventually fixed it). My 4-year-old complained that I can’t play an audiobook or music for him while in the car. Because the swipe keyboard was not as reliable as I wished it’d been, I used the voice input in places where it might be awkward. I had to take a piece of paper to write things down that I needed to remember (like the model of the lenses for my new glasses).

Here’s a guest contribution from my wife:

This husband of mine has many ideas. The “I dump my phone”-experiment was not my favorite one. I’m all for reducing your screen time and limiting doomscrolling. But being unreachable because your Apple Watch decides to throw a tantrum, not being able to answer quickly to a text or to capture an important family moment because you don’t have a camera—that’s just not practical, especially when you forget to recharge your watch. So this little experiment drove me crazy more than once tbh—and I am a little relieved it’s over now. I really do hope he still likes his new glasses when they arrive. It never gets boring with this one.

Should you do this?

This heavily depends on how much you are willing to give up. You can carry a notebook and pen and a camera and fix some of the issues noted above. Maybe you don’t need to text as much.

I definitely recommend trying it; I got my phone back today, and I appreciate both the flexibility—I can do almost anything with it—and being more present in some situations.

That being said, I was looking forward to getting my phone back after four days. Worth a try.

  1. I tried TikTok for a few days and had ~4h screen time per day just for that app.

  2. Full disclosure: I made one exception when I had to drive somewhere with navigation and my Watch was at 10%.