Peter Akkies

Life without a phone… I just about remember it. Do you?

Published about 1 month ago • 2 min read

This morning I was having brunch with a friend and our conversation turned to the topic of phones. In particular, smartphones.

We asked each other: when did you first start using a phone? What about a smartphone?

We both just about remembered the time when we did not have personal phones at all, as young teenagers. It’s hard to imagine now, but somehow I managed to make and keep appointments with people without being able to text or call them anytime. Eventually I did get a phone—a Motorola flip phone, if I remember correctly—and I was able to text people using the amazing T9 technology.

Later, in 2007, I was in high school in Hong Kong. I lived and studied at a boarding school and had three roommates. One of the guys was from a rich local family—they own a famous restaurant chain—and his family flew someone from Hong Kong to the US to get their son an iPhone immediately, because the iPhone didn’t launch in Hong Kong right away. When he showed me his fancy new iPhone, I initially wasn’t very impressed—but a few years later I badly wanted one and eventually saved up enough money.

Today it’s easy to take for granted how much our phones can do. We talk about the downsides of our smartphones: they distract us, they ruin our attention span, and they prevent us from connecting with other humans. There’s some truth in that. Many, if not most, of my happiest moments happen without my smartphone: having dinner with friends, attending a party, going to a local storytelling night, scuba diving, skydiving… it’s all better without my phone. And, in the case of skydiving, it’s positively dangerous to have your head in your phone rather than in the present moment!

At the same time, our (smart)phones give us so much. They include some amazing apps with amazing functionality.

For example, lately I’ve been in a cutting phase of strength training: lowering my body fat percentage while retaining my muscle mass. I use a nifty app called MacroFactor to help me figure out how many calories to eat every day. No need to do the math myself. It’s body sculpting on autopilot.

Another example: the other day, I was exploring the world of investment apps. I know a good amount about personal investing because I’ve done tons of research, so I don’t need an app like this. I have an automatic monthly purchase of stock index funds set up. But for people who haven’t done the research, there are now apps that let you conveniently invest for the long term with really low fees. A great local (Dutch) app for this is Peaks, but there are lots like it. An app like Peaks can, for instance, round up every transaction to the nearest euro and invest the difference. It’s not much, but it’s a start, and often starting small leads to an appetite for more.

Another one: tomorrow I’m flying to Bali for a two-month coworking trip with a friend. When I was younger, flying entailed bringing a bunch of paperwork. And I wouldn’t find out about any delays or changes until I got to the airport. Now my flight information is always available at a glance with Flighty—I don’t need to use clunky airline apps and I’ll be the first to hear any updates about my flight.

All in all, I feel pretty grateful to always have such a powerful computing device—my iPhone—with me. At the same time, I’d like to disconnect from my phone more. It doesn’t help that I’ve chosen a rather online business.

Anyway. I feel grateful. We all should. Technology is amazing.

If you remember what life was like before (smart)phones and have any reflections or interesting stories to share, please do.

And either way, have a great day.

Peter Akkies

Productivity Teacher

Hi, I’m Peter from Amsterdam. I’ll help you get organized and be more productive. Every Sunday, I send a productivity-themed newsletter to 9,000 people. Join us!

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