Freelancing means you need to have an intimate relationship with your phone, or so I thought.
I’m Al, I’ve been freelancing for as long as I can remember. One of the things that I learned is to be very efficient in maintaining a fantastic communication speed. If a client sends an email, then I’d respond instantly. I kept doing this for a while… a long while… around 8 years.
Then, it became a habit. I would never sleep with a single notification. I needed everything resolved instantly. Here’s what I didn’t know. This causes a tiny bit of stress on your mind every time a notification comes in. When it’s a busy day, you’re stressing your brain. When it’s 8 years, it’s just not right.
There was no obvious solution to this particular problem. It’s not like I can just turn off my phone. My clients need work done. I need my clients. The maths is straightforward.
So I started a three months plan to relax my mind. I hired a project manager.
She was a part-timer so that it would be humane. Her job was simple – handle things when I’m not here.
I introduced her to my clients and team. She worked with me and I trained her for around 2 months.
I never felt that I’m ready. But I did feel that I am more ready than 2 months ago. So, I put a date one month from now to have a vacation. This vacation was technically my first client-free vacation in 8 years.
So I turned it up a notch. I informed my project manager to be ready by then and get aligned with all projects as I’ll be “off-the-grid” for a week.
Then the date arrived. I had the intention of going through with this as seriously as possible. So I turned off my iPhone, killed it. I put it on my desk and turned it upside down (I don’t know why.)
I purchased a burner phone. It was exactly this phone.
Then I packed a bag and embarked on a one-week retreat. The first thing I noticed is that I need a ride, and this Nokia doesn’t have Uber on it. So I jumped on the old-fashioned Taxi and went on with it.
I went to this place called “Ras Shitan”. It’s in Egypt, close to the Sinai mountain.
I rented a hut in a camp where they provide me with food. Full stop.
For the first day, not having my iPhone felt like a morphine addict’s drawback. All I could think of is whether my manager is doing the job right, whether I lost any clients yet. The beauty of the situation I put myself in is, it’s almost impossible to find out the answer to this question.
There’s no internet on that beach camp. It’s you, the beach, a few cats every now and then, some tourists, and a whale that once appeared.
The only way to get an answer to my question is to go back, turn on my iPhone, and call my project manager.
So then, I powered through the first night.
Then the second day arrived. It’s the same beach, the same cats, the same tourists, and no whale today. Then it struck me. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s the same fantastic beach, a bunch of amazing cats, the most friendly tourists, and for heaven’s sake, I saw a whale yesterday.
It’s like that scene from the movie Limitless, and I just took the pill.
That week, I’ve made friendships, took amazing dives, read a couple of books, meditated, saw one of the most beautiful beaches, oh and saw a whale.
Eventually, I returned home and turned on my iPhone.
However, I was fully aware of the toxic relationship we have. Additionally, I’ve been enlightened with a conclusion.
It’s true that we get too attached to our phones that we don’t notice what’s around us. I was expecting my work to get into chaos when I’m not there. Yet, the real question to think about was supposed to be, “What if it does?”
One moves on. If a client can’t understand that I need a week off, then there are millions of other clients who would understand. It was very hard to care when I was snorkeling surrounded by the corals looking at huge mountains and an endless sea.
That’s how the curse got broken. My reaction to turning off my phone a year ago is certainly not the same as the one I would have now.
Oh, and regarding my work after my retreat. Everything was better than what I dreamed it would be. I put my trust in my project manager, and she did it better than how I would.
What I do nowadays is as follows:-
- I turn off my iPhone when I sleep, always. (This is a game changer. Whomever wants to call or message me during my sleeping hours, I’m sleeping. Try again when I wake up.)
- Every few weekends, I kill the iPhone.
- I do the same retreat on a semi-annual basis. It does something to my brain. It’s as if you cleared the cache, rebooted, formatted, and rebuilt your brain from scratch.
My performance after these is always on the rise. I used to force myself to hang out on the weekend. During which, I answered clients and team members all the time. Then when Monday starts, I’d have the face that’s only fixed with a double espresso.
When I turn the phone off, I have this excitement and energy on Monday that is indescribable.
I’ll leave you with one message. We’re human beings. One of the main things that define us amongst other beings is our curiosity. Turn “it” off every now and then and open your eyes to that huge world around you.
I’m Al, a business consultant in Zurich, Switzerland. I believe in providing readers with value. Hence, I created Learn, a section on my website purely dedicated to guides and articles providing value in the fields of Freelancing, and Entrepreneurship. Alternatively, you could visit my journal for all my articles, or my Medium profile.