Virtual Flip Phone Challenge

My friend Laurence Warner is running a challenge called #FirstWeekFlipPhone and I wanted to give that a try. He has written more about his motivations at Why I’m giving up my smartphone for one week each month.

In my case, I realized the friction of getting a flip phone, a SIM card (my phone doesn’t have a physical SIM card, it uses an eSIM) and finding someone to keep me honest were preventing me from coming onboard, so, I came up with a different version of the challenge.

Here’s how my setup works:

  • I am using a Pixel 2 with Android P Beta which has a Do Not Disturb (priority) mode to disable all notifications. During my virtual flip phone challenge week, priority mode automatically turns on during my work and sleep hours. This means no notifications and hence reduction in checking the phone constantly.
  • I have uninstalled all non-essential apps from the device (except those that are not cloud-synced and hence are a pain to go through a backup/restore process). For apps that come with the phone and cannot be uninstalled, I have disabled them, including Google Chrome, GMail and Google Maps. Among communication-related apps, I made an exception for Signal and Duo to be able to talk with a special someone who can’t reach me through the usual call/text.
  • To hold myself accountable, I am using RescueTime which at the end of the week will show me how much time I ended up spending on each app on the phone. I will consider myself successful if I manage to drastically reduce the time spent on smart features of the phone (except calls/texts and certain essential apps).
  • My challenge has a dual purpose of giving up smart features and being more productive by reducing interruptions caused by notifications. This doesn’t mean I will be inaccessible to friends/family. I will be available over email to schedule voice/video calls and will check my notifications two-three times in a day by temporarily disabling the priority mode.

For now, I am trying this experiment for just this week – Mon Jun 11 to Sun Jun 17. I will report back on how this goes and might consider doing this more often.