Photo: David Yeo


I left my phone at home for the day…

And, reader, I’m alive, says Marisa Bate

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By Marisa Bate on

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The thought of leaving my phone at home makes my hands itch and my heart beat a little faster. It’s terrible to admit, but I know I’m not alone. As a nation, we spend two hours a day on our phones, on average, and my app, Mute, which is intended to get me using my phone less, has shamefully clocked up five hours in a day before now – which would definitely suggest I have A Problem.

So, I decided to do something about it; I decided to do something different. I decided to be bold and tackle my day in a different way. I left my phone at home.

Reader, I’m alive. I made it. I started and finished my day in good health; I managed to get where I was supposed to be and without any catastrophic mishaps. And, most of all, I’m really glad I did it.  

AM: I have to rely on my memory

I begin with a meeting close to where I live. This is fine – no need for Google Maps, something I rely on to a depressing degree. I arrive early and wait. And then two things happen – am I in the wrong place at the wrong time? As I can't double-check my Google Calendar or our emails arranging the meeting, I have to trust myself more than my phone, which feels like a first. The second thing is filling the five minutes before the person arrives. And this bit is great. I look out of the window and watch the world go past – the kind of thing normally reserved for pavement cafés in Paris. But, here I am, in south London, having a moment of peace and quiet. My guest arrives; I was in the right place.

Success, I think. Until, after our coffee, I suddenly have no idea what the time is and actually have to ask a stranger, like it's 1998 or something (they check their phone, not a watch, of course). I go back to my flat and start answering emails on my laptop. I’m connected again and my addiction is temporarily relieved. Lo and behold, the only notification on my phone is a new podcast update. Surprisingly, the world hasn't been clamouring to get hold of me in those few hours and I haven't missed a single thing.

There’s a lot more planning involved before leaving the house, but once that's done, I feel far more organised

PM: I plan my route, get lost, but survive

Next, I’ve got to go into town for two more meetings, before meeting a friend for dinner. As a freelancer, I’m often moving about the city, from meeting to meeting, killing time in cafés and keeping on top of where I’m meant to be and how to get there with my phone. All the information I need is on that small rectangle that has slowly started morphing into a new limb. On that day, however, I make sure I’ve written down everywhere I need to be, even with little maps. There’s a lot more planning involved before leaving the house, but once that’s done, I feel far more organised – I’m not waiting for my phone to tell me what’s going to happen next; I already know. On the way into town, I read, and keep reading as I jump on and off Tubes once I’m there. A bit like watching the world go by, bouts of being unconnected actually prove to be a bit of calming downtime in a hectic day. Not being able to see the streams of unanswered emails that will come into my inbox, causing a panic I can’t actually do anything about, helps me keep focused.   

I arrive on time for my first meeting and everything is fine. I jump on the Tube, feeling empowered and in control, until I get off the Tube and realise I’m not quite sure where I’m going. This is why my best friend always carried an A to Z before smartphones, I think to myself. There is a map in the Tube station and I ask a member of staff to get my bearings (my scribbled map, it turns out, was very scribbled). And then it’s a case of trial and error. Luckily, I am early, so, when I take the wrong turning, it doesn’t matter. Having the extra time means I'm not late, but it also reminds me that there’s something far calmer about not living right up to the edge of allocated time slots. Our phone breaks our lives into minutes and I think we feel much freer without that constant countdown.


My friend and I are meeting back in central. She’s late by nature, so I don’t expect her to be on time. Normally, she’d send a slew of “Sorry!! Be there in 5!!” messages but, if she has, obviously I can’t see them. I order a glass of wine while I wait and pull out my book again. I do have a moment of panic, however – have I got the right place? But then she walks through the door. I still need to work on trusting my memory over the software of a smartphone.

I just miss the train home (I couldn’t check the times), so spend 20 minutes in Victoria station. When I get home, there are some messages from my mum, a friend and a missed number from a call I don’t recognise. Most surprisingly, I decide not to check my email. It’s 11.30pm and there’s nothing I can do now anyway.

Everything that was meant to happen on that day did happen that day. And, if anything, I had a better day than usual – being able to focus on what I was doing without the millions of brain interruptions a phone allows. Of course, there are ways a smartphone makes our lives easier – providing train times, Google Maps, helpful prompts of what is happening next. But what I learnt was they aren’t essential. As a journalist, I do need to be connected, but not every single minute of every single day. I’m glad I did that day differently, and reminded myself that it’s me – not my phone – who’s in charge.

This blog is part of our Do The Day Differently series where we have asked writers to unfasten and liberate themselves from everyday constraints. The week is brought to you by sloggi, who are making it their mission to free women up from uncomfortable bras with their new ZERO Feel range of bodywear, bras so easy to wear they feel like a "second skin". Click here to buy. 


Luxe chair, £300 and Oro dressing table, £475, both Oliver Bonas. Prop stylist Stephanie Iles. 

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Photo: David Yeo
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