How to Survive Without a Cell Phone

Being without a cell phone can make you feel as if you have been cut off from your friends and family, and from other events happening around the world. But there are many pros to not having constant access to a cell phone, including having more time to focus on goals and activities you enjoy and complete freedom from individuals who can contact you at a moment's notice. If you find yourself without a phone or want to phase one out of your life, focus on productive things you can do with your time instead.

Completing Daily Tasks without a Smart Phone

Check your email during working hours.

Most people keep a smart phone on hand at all times to respond instantly to work- or school-related emails. If you can, limit yourself to checking and replying to emails during working hours (around 9am-5pm). Tell your boss and coworkers that if they contact you outside of those hours, they can expect you to reply the next morning.

  • This also helps create boundaries between your work life and home life.
  • If you absolutely need to check your email outside of working hours, use a laptop or desktop computer.

Use a watch to tell time.

It’s simple but effective to invest in a wristwatch to tell time throughout the day. Using a watch means you won’t have to look at your phone to check the time, which can lead to checking notifications or scrolling through time-sucking apps.

  • Look for a watch that also keeps track of the date to be able to check it without relying on your phone.
  • Use an alarm clock to wake up on time rather than using your phone’s alarm.
  • Alternatively, find clocks while you are out and about. Many stores and banks display the time, date, and temperature. If all else fails, ask someone for the time or date if you really need to know.

Look up directions ahead of time and write them down.

If you’re going somewhere new, use a computer to look up directions ahead of time. Either memorize the directions, if you can, or write them down, making note of any landmarks you need to look out for. If you get turned around, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help to point you in the right direction.

  • For longer road trips, consider investing in a GPS if you are worried about getting lost.

Check the weather before you go out rather than checking it on your phone.

Watch the news or check the weather to see the forecast for the upcoming day or days rather than checking the weather on your phone. If there is a chance of rain or cold weather, make sure to layer up and bring an umbrella with you.

  • If the weather is unpredictable where you live, it’s always a good idea to bring some light layers and an umbrella with you, regardless of what the forecast says.

Make plans for meetings in advance.

While it can be convenient to text someone and arrange plans within a matter of minutes, it also ties you to your phone. Instead, get in the habit of making plans at least a day or so in advance. Call up friends to invite them to meet up and make work-related meeting plans over email in advance. Then, you won’t need to rely on texting or instant messaging in the moment.

  • Letting people know that you won’t have a phone with you when you meet up can also prompt them to pay extra attention to where you are meeting and show up on time.

Bring a camera with you if you want to take photos.

One of the most convenient aspects of owning a smartphone is being able to have a high-quality camera on you at all times. However, if you want to depend less on your smartphone, consider investing in a digital camera instead. There are many small point-and-shoot digital cameras that are only slightly thicker than a smartphone. Or, you can go for a DSLR and invest some time and effort into improving your photography skills.

  • Ask yourself if you will really need a camera before leaving home. If you’re going out for a meal or running to the store, you probably don’t need to bring a camera with you.

Carry a book with you to have something to do.

If you’re worried about being bored while you commute, wait in lines, or simply have a few minutes with nothing to do, start bringing a book with you. You’ll always have something to do that never runs out of battery power.

  • You can also consider carrying a small sketchbook or journal and pencil, a crafty hobby such as knitting or crocheting, or you can try simply being in the moment without doing anything whenever you have a few minutes to spare.

Replacing Your Cell Phone Habit

Replace your cell phone with other physical objects.

Carry a portable music player, notepad, book, or similar object to take the place of your cell phone. This can be helpful if you are familiar with the weight or feel of the cell phone in your purse or pocket, or if you used your cell phone for purposes such as taking notes.

  • This can also be helpful if you want to replace a cell phone addiction with another habit. If you want to read more, try bringing a book with you instead of your phone.

Use the time you used to spend on your phone for other activities.

Use this as an opportunity to rediscover hobbies you used to love, or even to find a new hobby. Or, spend your extra time connecting with the people around you.

  • For example, if your daily ritual was playing games on your phone or texting during your lunch hour, then read a book or magazine, or listen to music instead.
  • You can also ask a coworker or classmate to join you for lunch or a coffee.
  • Look for self-improvement activities you’ve been putting off, such as going to the gym, educating yourself, or spending more time with your family.

Sign up for a class to commit to a phone-free evening.

Doing something like pottery, dance, or learning an instrument one evening a night can help you cut down on screen time and learn a new skill. You won’t be able to reach for your phone for an hour or more.

  • Doing something with your hands can help ease the anxiety of not having a phone in front of you.

Make specific, phone-free plans for the weekend.

If you don’t have any specific plans, it can be tempting to sit and scroll through social media. Instead, plan to do something like go for a hike, attend a concert, stroll through a museum, or simply catch up with friends.

  • If you plan to hang out with friends, try leaving your phones face down in the center of the table. Whoever reaches for their phone first has to pick up the tab for coffee, lunch, or drinks.

Phasing Your Phone out of Your Life

Inform your contacts about your new system for getting in touch.

This can prevent your acquaintances from becoming frustrated, angry, or perplexed when they are unable to reach you, and can also prevent your loved ones from worrying about your well-being. Provide your acquaintances with information regarding the best methods for reaching you, whether it be at your email address, or a landline telephone.

  • Be specific when you tell people how to contact you. For example, tell them if you will only be available during specific hours, or if you won’t be able to receive text messages anymore.

Remove personalized features from your phone.

The more you personalize your phone, the more you will see it as an extension of yourself. This makes it harder to separate yourself from your phone and can even cause separation anxiety when you leave your phone behind.

  • Set your wallpaper and background to a generic, dull image.
  • Stop using your phone to track personal data, such as the steps you take in a day or the foods you eat.

Delete the most distracting apps on your phone.

What apps do you find yourself checking over and over again? Do you constantly open up your Internet browser to look things up? Delete those apps so that you aren’t tempted to open them up and mindlessly scroll or waste time. If you really need to check on something, such as your email, use a computer.

  • Some phones have a feature that allows you to see which apps you spend your time on. Take a look at that information to see exactly how much time you spend on your phone.

Use airplane mode or “do not disturb” to limit distractions for a block of time.

Choose a period of time when you don’t want to look at your phone at all, such as when you’re concentrating on a project, studying, or spending time with loved ones. If you don’t want to use your phone at all, try putting it on airplane mode so that you won’t be able to connect to the internet, or even turn it off. If you simply don’t want to be distracted by incoming messages, try using “do not disturb” mode.

  • Start with a limited amount of time, like an hour, when you’ll disconnect. Work up to longer blocks of time once you get used to it.

Leave your phone in another room at night.

If you find that you wake up and immediately reach for your phone, try leaving it in another room. Find another morning ritual to replace your morning scroll. For example, you can start your day with a morning meditation or workout, or you can just spend a few extra minutes to make a homemade breakfast.

  • Once you are comfortable leaving your phone in another room at night, try leaving it in another room during the day. Leave your phone in your bag during work or school hours.

Start using your cell phone only to make calls.

Once you get rid of the most distracting features of your phone, you can start using it for its original purpose: making calls. To help with this, you can try turning off notifications for any remaining apps you have.

  • For example, use the phone to make doctor’s or business appointments, or use the phone to make plans with friends and family to spend time with them in person.

Try leaving your phone at home during outings.

Start small. If you’re making a quick trip to the grocery store or another short errand, leave your phone at home. Once you get used to leaving your phone at home for short outings, try leaving your phone at home for a whole day.

  • By breaking the habit of automatically grabbing your phone when you go out, you can start to ask yourself if you really need it before leaving the house.

Establish a back-up plan for emergencies.

You may want to consider keeping a small flip phone with you in case of emergencies. If not, come up with a plan for when you really need to get in contact with someone, such as using a landline or using another device with wifi to send an email.

  • By law, most regions allow cell phones to dial emergency services free of charge even if the cell phone does not currently have service with a wireless provider.


  • Phone and internet addictions can cause real harm. If you notice that you aren’t able to interact with people face-to-face, you use your phone to distract yourself from real life, or you have severe anxiety when you leave your phone behind, seek counseling.

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