I’ve started experimenting with leaving the house without my phone. On purpose. Here are some things I’ve noticed.

I need to get a watch. Without a watch, however, I have to seek out the time, usually on the clocks above buildings, on church towers, behind the counter in cafes. My favourite is when you can’t see the time but you can hear it. Two nights ago I slept out under the starts without a phone or watch – my clock was the peel of bells in the nearby village; my alarm the dawn.

Failing architectural time pieces, I have become adept at spotting the time on the screens of people adjacent to me. Sometimes I have to crane my neck.

I look at the map before I leave the house, and try to identify landmarks that will help guide me on my way. I make use of maps I find in the street, and I find I am more conscious of where to find these. Sometimes I ask the way. Usually I figure it out. Before long my own mental map starts to form.

I see things that make me think of friends and family and times together. I notice how often I want to reach for my phone and share that thought there and then with the subject concerned. I try instead to sit and savour the warm feeling of the association – and just live it without taking any action. I sometimes write a note about the moment in my diary and tell myself to save it for when I next see the person concerned.

A notebook is the friend of the phone-free flaneur. Use it to:

  • Do a quick sketch map to help you find your way.
  • Write down your itinerary, including confirmation numbers and train times.
  • Note any things you would like to tell your friends about next time you see them.
  • Tear out pages and use them to send a message to someone you are thinking of.
  • Draw a sketch of the view from the top of a mountain (you may be rubbish at drawing, but photos taken from mountaintops are always disappointing, so what have you got to lose?)
  • Slide a debit card in the back cover of your notebook and its like you’ve got Apple Pay.

Without distractions, I can hold onto and let ideas mature more fully in my mind. Once they have taken shape I can write those down in the diary too. But with my phone in my pocket, a message can arrive out-of-the-blue and my clarity of thought is gone.

All it takes is for me to receive a message about something or other for my emotional state to change in a flash. I wish my brain could stay more firmly attached to the hear-and-now but it quickly focuses its attention on the new stimulus, and my emotions are hijacked. Of course, I want to be helpful and see to whatever matter is arising, but there may be a better time for it than when I am walking down the street – and I might respond better when I am in a more appropriate place. Without my phone, I feel I keep on a much more even emotional keel.

And, I’m reading more.

So, give it a go. Leave your phone at home, and see what happens. Let me know how you get on (tell me when you get home).