The world didn’t stop

July 22, 2011 · 14 comments

Some of you will think I’m crazy. Others will think I’m kidding.

I canceled my cell phone service.

I didn’t change to a different carrier. I canceled my service. I no longer use a cell phone.

Here’s a question for you to consider: Do you really need your cell phone? I know I’m treading on sacred ground here because we all “need” our cell phones, right? Well, maybe not. I personally have improved the quality of my life by eliminating my cell phone.

I earnestly began to think about the advantages and disadvantages of a cell phone during a time when I was feeling overloaded with work. I was working long days and would usually go home each evening with many uncompleted tasks still on my to do list. I kept trying to figure out how to slow things down so I could get caught up. I started to focus on interruptions. It seemed like I had a lot of interruptions throughout my day. As I focused on the source of those interruptions, I realized I was getting many, many cell phone calls throughout the day. The calls started early, continued during my lunch and dinner hour, and occurred well into the evening.

I soon arrived at a new conclusion about my “busy” life. I started to feel like I wasn’t too busy… I was too interrupted. Twenty-five years ago, when I began my printing career, if someone wanted to communicate with me, they could either call me, write me, or stop in to see me. When I think back to those days, it was relatively easy to manage interruptions. But today, technology has brought faxes, FedEx, voicemail, e-mail, cell phones, texting, Twitter, and Facebook to our lives. Of course, each of those technologies competes for our attention. As I reflected on the many interruptions I was getting every day, I decided to do the unthinkable… and give up my cell phone.

On New Year’s Eve, my wife Jenny and I shut off our cell phones and threw them into the wastebasket under our kitchen sink.

Guess what? The world didn’t stop… but amazingly, the 50 interruptions we each average every single week went away. They simply vanished. I’m not sure where those phone calls went, but they just went away.

Just think about that for a minute because I’m sure you (like me) really have convinced yourself that you need your cell phone. I quickly found that I didn’t need my cell phone at all. My business life didn’t suffer, my social life didn’t suffer, my kids still talk to me, and I’m just as close to my extended family as I’ve always been. The only difference is that I have almost 250 fewer interruptions every single month. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? How much additional income could you earn with that extra time?

Almost every printing executive I talk to tells me they’re “too busy.” I wonder if maybe part of their ‘busyness’ stems from their over-interrupted lifestyle.

Not having a cell phone has caused a few minor inconveniences, but the tranquility (and clearheaded thinking time) I have enjoyed without a cell phone has been stellar.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve July 25, 2011 at 8:14 am

So what happens if you are caught in one of those famous N. Dakota snow storms for a few days? Not even an emergency cell in the glove compartment to upload a blog post 🙂

Simon Sheers July 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

Dear Mike,

I fully understand why you ditched your cellphones. I ditched mine in 1993 after realizing that I did not have the information at hand to answer inquiries from customers AND that with no cell phone, it forced me to delegate. Customers and suppliers have very, very rarely asked for a cellphone number and are trained to call the office.

My wife has a cell phone that is constantly ringing with one of two adult daughters wanting instant attention. An iPhone is on my wish list because of its multitude of functions, but that number would never be given out to business contacts – my wife or employees just want to get hold of me!

So bless you for making your life less hectic by dumping a device that started out by being a convenience and turned into an encumbrance.

all the best,
Simon Sheers

Mike Stevens July 24, 2011 at 10:24 am

Eloquently said, Simon.

What you said about “a convenience turned into an encumbrance” is a nice way to put it. Of course our cell phones can be very helpful at times, but it seems smart to me to consider the bigger negative impact they have on our lives, time-wise.

In my case, my choice to give up my cell phone was ’emotionally’ difficult, but much easier when I considered the hidden costs of ownership.

Thanks for writing…


David Doost July 24, 2011 at 8:42 am

Hi Mike,

Loved the post.
Can you please also bless and make It okay to cancel my email?
Now that would really free up my day!


Mike Stevens July 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

Haha… funny, but so true! -mike

Randy Hoyt July 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

Just read your post and I think you are exactly right when you say that perhaps we are not too busy to get things done but too interupted. It is Sunday morning and I am at my desk getting a lot of paperwork done precisely because I am not being interupted. While I could not give up my cell phone entirely, scheduling a block of time every day to turn it off is certainly an option.

Cora Purvine July 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Lots of room for thought there….

Clifford "Biff" Smith July 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm

LOVE it! 🙂

Clifford “Biff” Smith

Bev Harmon July 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I couldn’t give up my cell phone – the only people that have the number are my family and very close friends. I live in Missouri and I have a son and grandchildren on the east coast and would very spooky if I wasn’t a phone call away at all times. I can understand giving up a business cell, but the only ones we have with business numbers are sales reps and they should be available for our clients.

Bruce Thomas July 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

I love my iphone – but, do I need it? Once 15 years my cell phone been a live saver. Great article – I use my phone mostly to stay in contact with my wife, that has prove to be a timer saver and and an added level of family comfort.

Dan Huntingford July 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

I like my cell phone, but I guard it carefully and do not give the number out to most people. If I get a call, it’s normally either my wife or daughter or a true emergency.
It has proven to be very handy.
If it gets to the point of being nothing but a distraction, I would get a new number and start over. Throwing it away completely seems a bit of an over reaction.

Mike Stevens July 24, 2011 at 10:30 am

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, it was not an “over reaction”… it was actually an under reaction. I wish, in retrospect, I would have been smart enough – and courageous enough – to have done it sooner.

Thanks for writing, Dan. You have this way of challenging me that makes me think about things more thoroughly. That’s good.

Best regards,


Kevin Wax July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

What an awesome post Mike! As a busy company owner, I can relate to the interruption part of your life. I applaud your courage in unplugging that phone and getting on with your life. I haven’t taken that plunge, but I will say that I have more peace when I leave my phone at home or leave the ringer off!

Mike Stevens July 24, 2011 at 10:11 am

“Unplugging” is an interesting choice of words.

I will also add that I have unplugged other areas of my life that gobbled up little chunks of my time too. Doing so has allowed me to focus on what’s more important. It’s surprising how many little distractions we allow into our busy lives…

Nice to hear from you, Kevin!


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