Friday, November 25, 2011

It's been two months since I canceled my data plan

Nearly two months ago, I wrote that I had canceled the data plan on my mobile phone. I'm reporting back that it has been a smashing success. I love being connected... to the people around me rather than the interwebs.

If you're disciplined about keeping the phone in your pocket, good for you. If you're not, this might be an option for you.

The experiment was given an extra boost when two weeks into the experiment I promptly lost my non-smart phone. Brilliant move in retrospect. I avoided the nervous, fidgety grabbing of the phone to look to see if a new message arrived. One might say that I went cold turkey, and it likely made the whole transition easier. So easy, in fact, I often questioned whether I needed any kind of phone at all!

That's not to say that the data plan isn't missed. My expectations were pretty spot on. I miss Google Maps and posting photos for the family. Here are the few notes I've jotted down along the way...

The pot

Let's get it right out there... I miss having reading material when I'm on the pot. If you have a smart phone, you know what I'm talking about.

My calendar

I miss access to my calendar... I haven't missed big meetings, but I have missed those non-vital but still important events that aren't necessarily on my radar every day. I've looked into the Google API to get access via SMS and will try to implement this one.


I'd like to find a better desktop tool for Twitter. Now that I see less of it throughout the day, it would be nice to find a tool that helps me catchup on some feeds I don't want to miss.


Email becomes less important - which is good. Everyone talks about the email tax where you can't control inbound email. I've found that by sending less and reading less frequently, I've been able to lower the burden of managing email. It now comes in well controlled bursts - those blocks of time that I dedicate to my inbox. I've also become ruthless with unsubscribe options.

Better focus

I haven't quantified this, but it feels like I have better focus through less distraction. If you're not pulling your phone out all the time to check in on your online life, you've improved your chances of focusing on a specific task whether it's work, a game with the kids or cleaning up around the house.

You all have become more annoying

I'm now way more annoyed by people who choose their phones over me. Whether it's to take a phone call, respond to a text message and check the sports scores, it's nothing short of annoying. I don't know how much I did this to other people two months ago, but I'm glad I don't do it anymore.


  1. I was always wondering why American carriers are so weird… only data plan or no data. I live in Russia and I can always use data. I can have a fixed data plan (unlimited or some megabytes), but if I don't, it's pay-for-what-you-use.About reading material: Instapaper. Download on Wi-Fi, read offline. You can use it with a Kindle or an iPod touch, by the way.

  2. American carriers let you do pay as you go as well. But that doesn't solve my particular problem.When I'm at home, I tend to grab the tablet for reading. :)

  3. I'm thinking of doing this come november 1st. Are you still on verzion and using google voice?

  4. I am. I've been handing out my Google Voice number for a few years now so I have calls and texts sent to that number forwarded to my Verizon number.

  5. Cracked up laughing @ the pot comment.. I swear it had nothing to do being on the pot as I read it!

  6. Nice one. I did this in March (though in a slightly different way) and love it - though I think I'll switch back one day.Here is the post I wrote about it at the time:

  7. @ned thanks for sharing.

  8. I'm concerned by your statement email becomes less important - are you at all concerned that by voluntarily excusing yourself from being connected (via email, messaging) you're obsoleting yourself in the workplace? I've had both coworkers and consultants who didn't believe in (and flat-out refused) carrying data-enabled phones, and I've watched my employers shed them for being less productive and less available.Put this way: if I send you an email at 9:30 and you don't respond until 3, and your excuse is "I only check my email a few times a day" - explain how that is an asset in the workplace, or why I as a manager would want to keep you?I'm sure you can get away with this if you're at the top of your chosen profession or in an otherwise highly desirable skill set - but for those of us who are not absolute rockstars, is it really a smart move to voluntarily disconnect?

  9. @calciphusI think if you're in a service organization or work directly with clients, it's important to stay on top of your email, and it is important to always have access to email when you're on call. So the time off email is really just a function of your job role.  I'm not trying to create a playbook for others. I spend 12+ hours on my computer every day. It's easy for me to make the case that I can afford to stay offline for another three. But more importantly, I disagree with the premise that managing your inbox is work. I bring value when I get stuff done - not when I answer emails. When you use your inbox like a worklist, you're missing an opportunity to focus on the hard and important problems for extended periods. This could be writing specifications, creating designs, writing code or spending one-on-one time with peers and direct reports.  If you and I work together and you need an answer quickly or need to emphasize that my priority list should change that day, it's worthy of a phone call or visit to my office.  Email is a great tool but one of its negative attributes is the tendency to cause context shifts for readers. Your less productive when you thrash between threads based on whatever lands in your inbox.

  10. Thanks for your thorough response, it was certainly informative to read. I can see how time spent at a machine all day would alleviate some of the need for email on a mobile device. I can certainly see reliance on At my last job, I basically professionally attended meetings (whole other complaints about that, to be sure) - and in doing so pretty much relied on email from my device in the time between meetings. Still, an interesting read and curious to see if you ever go back, to be sure.

  11. Greatly enjoyed this. Re the "better twitter app," I've been wanting for some time (and have yet to find the extra time) to craft up an LDA or K-mean-cluster algorithm to pull topics out of my twitter and blogs and let me see what the topics are, and from there, mine out the contributors.This doesn't catch diamond-in-the-rough post, but you can easily attache a Lucene or Ferret database to the text and filter for things important to you.