May 19, 2019

What happened when I had an untouchable day

Reading time: 4 minutes

In this era of uber-connection, it’s not often that you’re completely unreachable by anyone. So I gave it a go.

A duotoned dark purple and beige version of the Apple emoji of a desert island (showing a palm tree on a little mound), in front of a bright green starburst shape

On Good Friday this year, I was untouchable… and by that I mean I put my phone on airplane mode, and didn’t open a computer. I can tell you without hesitation: it was pure bliss.

I’d been meaning to try one of these Untouchable Days since I heard about it from Lil, but was waiting for an opening, a day without any plans — at least any that would require phone-based coordination or email checking. Good Friday was it! I checked my calendar the night before and saw the mystical “No events today”. A poor night’s sleep the night before really sealed the deal, as I kept turning to my phone through the night like an addict hooked on social media (which is probably not far from the truth).

An especially Good Friday

7:30am

I put my phone on airplane mode, decided I was going to be both untouchable and screen free for the day, then wrote a list of all the things I was going to do*:

  • Clean the house
  • Read
  • Exercise
  • Something creative (write? draw?)
  • Garden
  • Meditate
  • Create a meal plan

*It went into finer detail than this, like to take photos of cracks I had noticed in the walls of my house, and trimming the cat’s nails, but I didn’t feel like they added much to the story here 😂

I’ll also admit that I didn’t get through the whole list, but stating my intentions for the day was a helpful practice I will use again.

8am

I’m guessing at the time here, because my phone was in a drawer and I wasn’t checking the clock, but after I’d written my list of things to do, I wrote a few more lists:

Questions: these were things I wondered during the day which I would usually Google, so I could remember to find answers the next day. It’s funny though, I still have this list of questions and never felt the need to answer them.

Shopping list: things I would usually plug into a grocery list app, which is shared with my partner.

Guiding principles for the next month: these were some aspirational health goals (e.g. try to get in at least 20 minutes exercise every day), along with some self-care strategies (e.g. take a walk if you need to clear your head).

10am-ish

I allowed myself to briefly turn off airplane mode to call my brother — I wanted to check if he was home so I could drive over and visit my new baby niece. I promptly turned airplane mode back on after speaking to him, and put the phone back in the drawer. I noticed my train of thoughts getting into the car sans-phone: “But what if I need to call someone? Or decide to go somewhere that I need Google Maps for? Or have an accident?” 😳 Really, brain? Wow.

Late morning, early afternoon

I still couldn’t tell you what time it was, but after visiting my brother I came home, retreated to the study and did the following:

1. I started drawing without purpose or expectation. What came out was more like a blueprint for an artwork, which I’ve stuck on the fridge as a reminder to return to it sometime.

2. Inspired by her recent TV show, I flipped through most of Marie Kondo’s book: ‘Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up’ in preparation for my own closet overhaul. It’s the companion book to ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’, and goes into more detail around the how than the what; literally, how to fold a hooded jumper, how to store bras, and the like.

The book cover for 'Spark Joy: an illustrated master class to the art of decluttering and organising' by Marie Kondo, with a beige background and abstract green watercolour circle in the centre, and book title beneath

3. Started reading ‘Less’ by Andrew Sean Greer. This is one I picked up on a recent Readings haul, which they describe as, “A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, Less is the winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.”

I’ll be honest though, I also chose it as I sometimes choose my wines: because I liked the look of the cover.

An animated gif with light blue background, depicting a blonde man in a blue suit appearing to fall with his legs in the air, dropping printed paper as he falls, and the book title 'Less' floating past him in the background

Late afternoon

I knew I needed to move my body (and hey, it was on the list) so I went to the gym. I had wanted to start using the Sweat with Kayla app but held firm on the no screen rule and left the phone at home.

7:30pm

I gave myself another leave pass to turn off airplane mode, respond to any messages (there were two), then turn it on again.

For the rest of the evening

I created a meal plan for the week with my partner.

I cooked and ate dinner.

I finished reading the book I started earlier. Yes, that means I read an entire novel from start to finish in one day! It was a fun, easy read.

I went to sleep without checking my phone again, or setting an alarm for the next day.

So what did I learn?

I proved to myself that it was possible to go without a phone or computer for the day (almost completely) and beyond that, there’s exponential value in doing so. I felt clear headed, calm, refreshed and energised.

It was helpful to trial on a public holiday, when I knew there wouldn’t be any work related notifications to deal with. I might consider variations in future such as:

  • An untouchable, screen-free half day
  • An untouchable day but not screen-free — so I can use the phone and computer, but without checking Slack, email or social media
  • An untouchable day, with allowance for specified checkpoints (for example, at 9am, 1pm and 5pm) — so I can make sure there are no pressing emails or messages to deal with

The importance of this ‘untouchable’ time hadn’t fully landed when I read about it from others, but I really can’t recommend it highly enough. Please try it at least once and see for yourself!

And in case you were wondering…

The list of (unanswered) questions I had to Google were:

  • How much fibre is in meat?
  • What can cause a flakey scalp?
  • How much are iPhone 6s selling for on eBay?
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Jess Allison

Optimist. Traveller. Dreamer. Doer. Delivery Manager (ex Digital Producer). See what else I've written here.

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