Fix your life with smartphone-free Sundays

Fix your life with smartphone-free Sundays

Summary: Reduce your device-induced anxiety by leaving your phone home at least one day a week. And cook up some ribs and have a few margaritas while you're at it.


Early May is probably the best time of year in South Florida. It's very warm, but it isn't too hot in the daytime.

It's warm enough that you can use your pool and not to have to heat it, and it retains enough heat from sun exposure during the day to use during the evenings.

Firing up the hot tub only takes an hour or two, and you can stay in it longer because the ambient temperature outside isn't that hot.

You can stay outside for extended periods during the evening, feeling the cool tropical breeze.

The insects haven't started to go crazy yet either. Early May is a great time to just relax on the patio with friends. To have a few margaritas. To eat guacamole and chips. To talk.

To socialize, in the purely human, face-to-face sense of the word.

This weekend my wife and I decided we were going to take advantage of the weather, put our devices away and focus on our face-to-face relationships.

I spent all Saturday afternoon barbecuing up some ribs and chicken for some friends I had invited over for that evening, which concluded in watching "Frozen" and sitting in the hot tub.

Barbecue, by the way, is an excellent way of ensuring you spend more time with friends and family than you do with your mobile device.

Unlike grilling, it's a low and slow cooking method that at its speediest, takes several hours to do properly.

Chickens take about an hour and a half. Ribs take four to six hours at sustained temperatures of around 225 to 260 degrees depending on what cut you're smoking and more ambitious BBQ projects such as pork shoulders or briskets can take 10-14 hours or even longer depending on the weight of what you're cooking.

There's not a lot of room for messing around with your smartphone, twitter and social networks when serious BBQ is concerned

Paying attention to thermal management is key to get best results with BBQ. And ideally, it's best to have friends around to help you keep an eye on things, if not just to shoot the breeze and to knock out a few dead soldiers while accomplishing the task.  

There's not a lot of room for messing around with your smartphone, Twitter and social networks when serious BBQ is concerned. Sure, we have some cool tech tools at our disposal to enhance the experience and to improve consistency, but ultimately this is a low-tech, highly social activity.

On Sunday afternoon, my wife and I went out and had dim sum with a dozen people. I didn't look at my phone the whole time. Hell, I didn't even bother to Instagram a single thing we ate, which is a big deal for me being a food blogger.

Then we spent a very leisurely evening at our friends' house, where we drank watermelon margaritas, ate fresh guacamole, and had lovely vegetarian Mexican dinner, in honor of the greatest American booze consumption holiday in the world, Cinco de Mayo. 

We sat around for hours on the patio just talking. We did bring out a tablet to play a funny video my friend brought up in conversation, but nobody was staring at phones like a bunch of antisocial teens or dare I say it, a gaggle of milennials out on a couples date.

Both days I left my smartphone at home. Initially, there was some anxiety involved, but if someone in the immediate family needed to reach us over the weekend, they would have phoned us.

My wife also keeps her phone in her purse. So at least one of us had that critical communications device with us if we really needed it.

Let me suggest this experimentally: During the weekends, leave the phone plugged in to charge when you are at home and only use it for calls. Keep off the tablets and the PCs as much as possible.

And when you leave the house, only have one adult carry a phone. If you have kids, and they are accompanying you out for dinner or another family or group event, make them leave the devices at home.

And if you are going out on a group date, do what my wife and her girlfriends do on Girls Night Out. Put the smartphones in a pile at the center of the table, and the first one to pick their device up picks up the check for the whole table.

I know for many of you this is a lot harder than it sounds. The results of a recently released study conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg and Bovitz, Inc. show that going a day without a smartphone — let alone spending an evening with friends without their precious device — is something many American adults find incredibly challenging.

Nearly one-third of all respondents said that if they left home without their mobile device, they would go home for it. And only twelve percent of millenials surveyed said that under any conditions and distance from their home would they not return to pick up the device. 

I'm the first to admit that I need my smartphone. My job at Microsoft pretty much requires I carry one to be able to respond to partners and other people I work with in a timely fashion with if I'm away from my desk, even if it's simply to acknowledge a meeting request or to say "I'll get back to this as soon as I'm back at the office."

But on the weekends? On a Sunday? Not so much. If I'm responding to work emails on the weekend (yes, I do this) then it's my fault and nobody else's. 

I realize not everyone lives in a tropical climate like I do. However, no matter where you live, try to pretend that every weekend this summer is like going on vacation to some remote island in the Caribbean with no practical internet access.

It will do wonders for your social life, as well as any device-induced anxiety that you almost certainly are plagued with.

Have you tried leaving your smartphone at home on the weekends?

Topics: Smartphones, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Where/when possible, turn off AutoSync

    with respect to email, Facebook, Twitter, etc... turn off the autosync when possible. Only have it on manual sync (I realize that may not be an option for work communication), but if you manually sync, you will find that you are being interrupted with stuff every 2 minutes. You do it as time premits. Also, teach family members who use text every minute to start using email so that it can be processed as time permits. Teach them that Text is for serious stuff only.
    The great thing about manual sync is, it will likely increase your battery life by about 25% or more also.
  • I shut down on Friday night

    Until Saturday night. Everyone needs a day at the end of the week to, as Paul Simon said to "wonder and rejoice".
  • Sunday stroll

    I use my smartphone more on Sunday than most other days of the week - but as an Audible audiobook player, for when I take long walks along the canal with the dog.

    I tend to leave my smartphone at home when I go out socially or just pop down to the shops - although I sometimes take it if the trip is longer so I can hear said books.
  • No stress

    If I experienced any stress from carrying a smartphone then I just wouldn't have one. I don't think ditching it would help me relax, as I generally only use it when I'm alone and bored anyway.
  • Take care

    If you're outside the USA, then using the advice "Ribs take four to six hours at sustained temperatures of around 225 to 260 degrees" may result in charcoal...
  • Long time on coming

    About 10 years ago I wrote a book called Serious Play. In it I noted that multitasking has seriously bad health behavior. The phone has turned most of our playtime into work time. It is time to regain the balance and learn the art of doing nothing
  • NO

    Quite simply, no. No to leaving my smartphone home, and NO to a margarita. Both impose a rick that is not necessary. First, I don't require alcohol to relax, and have a good time, and second, my smartphone is a safety device, but if I don't have it, it doesn't keep me safe. I am a 71 year old mildly handicapped person, and the smartphone is a lifeline. With it, can find out where I am, should I become lost, I can call for help if my car quits, or has a flat, when the temperature is over 100 degrees outside, and I can entertain myself if I am forced to wait on someone, or sit in a traffic jam. I don't live for the smartphone, it WORKS for me.
    For those is good health, who obsess with texting, or talking constantly, or playing Candy Crush until they are bankrupt, I guess turning it off one day a week might let them connect with the real world, but it is also a lifeline for them as well, but NOT if they don't have it on them.
  • I don't get the slave to device thing

    I carry my phone 24/7 and it is always ready but, the most used app, soduko, when waiting in the car for "her" to get something from a store.
    It is my slave, I am not its. if I need it I have it, but I don't get how everyone is a slave to their devices. Well not my phone, my XBox, that's different :-) (Drinking mead in the halls of Whiterun...)
  • I have a better idea:

    Get rid of the smartphone entirely! Get a plain phone that only makes phone calls, turn off the ringer at night and nap time, and don't answer it or make calls while driving.

    I have a stupid phone. Sometimes I forget to turn it on all day. It's there if I need to use it (for safety, as another commenter noted) but it does not rule my life.