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Dossier: Changing habits

«I’m creating offline islands for myself»

“My day often starts and ends with a glance at my smartphone. And I’ll look at it many more times during the course of the day.” Hana Disch, 35, has started to create little “offline islands” for herself.

My smartphone is an essential part of both my working and private life. I use it to communicate, meet friends, plan a journey from A to B and to buy and sell things. It’s my camera, my knowledge store, my newsroom and my bank. It constantly feeds my thirst for knowledge and my curiosity. It’s great because it makes lots of things easier and opens up new opportunities.

But at some point I realised that this seemingly innocuous device had completely taken over my life. It leaves absolutely no space for quiet time and banishes peace and quiet. Suddenly you find it’s too much. The flood of information is overwhelming. You don’t want to be accessible 24/7. So I decided to make better – smarter! – use of my phone.

I don’t want to do away with my mobile entirely, but I want to set limits. So I’ve started to create little “offline islands” for myself. For example, I switch off my smartphone when I’m talking to someone. And when I’m eating, my phone doesn’t have to be on the table.

« It leaves absolutely no space for quiet time and banishes peace and quiet.»

Vintage watch and valuable free time

Five months have passed since my decision to create “offline islands”. In the morning I’m woken by an old radio alarm clock that I found in a box in the cellar. It’s great. And to be punctual during the day I’ve bought a beautiful  vintage watch. This way I don’t need to use my smartphone to wake up or check the time. I no longer check my office email while I’m in bed either. What’s the point? There’s time enough for that when I get to work.

Sometimes I use my morning commute as an “offline island”. I look out the window of the train and let my mind wander, or I watch the people around me. Of course, the pinging tone of WhatsApp messages constantly arriving on my smartphone tries to distract me, but I stay strong and just ignore them.

Now and again, when I don’t immediately give in to the impulse to check my phone, I start to feel stressed or plagued by a guilty conscience. At times  like these I remind myself that this impulse robs me of the opportunity to let go and just do nothing for a while. More and more often I’m allowing myself these valuable moments of free time, because they create room for new ideas, for creativity.

«These valuable moments of free time create room for new ideas, for creativity.»

An offline island community?

Of course I sometimes find myself looking at my smartphone without even thinking about it, particularly when I’m waiting for something or someone. And then I’m soon trawling through news platforms, messages and pictures. But I don’t find it difficult to forget about my phone when I’m engaged in a serious conversation. Some offline islands come about naturally, while others have to be forced.

My next idea is to share offline islands with others. As some of my colleagues have also been wrestling with this topic, we’ve started a small project. We want to create shared offline islands. We’re not sure where the journey will end, but one thing’s for sure – we’ll keep trying.