Time flies – eventually

Last week I had an evening trip down to London. As it was after work, after a full day and with the travel, well I felt like skipping it… it would be easier to stay local.

However, a casual unrelated, comment “it is always much better to meet in person” – set a seed and made me change my mind… I’m glad I did; they were right. Sometimes is better to take the more difficult path in the end and meeting in person does make the difference.

Yet, in my rush to get out at 5pm, to make the train, I forgot my spare phone battery. Imagine my horror, too late I saw my battery percentage at 24%, it was not ideal.

No Battery, Nothing to do?

With a phone now being the Swiss army knife of the 21st century, I needed it to both communicate and find the meeting location – running out of battery juice was not an option. So as I sulked back into the seat on the train, I resigned myself to having to eke it out and strictly ration its use. Glumly I starred out the window for the rest journey.

You see these days killing time is not normally a problem – grab a coffee, maybe a pain au raisin, and a quick surf of the news, it’s enough to fill an hour. But without a phone or online access? what then?

So arriving ahead of time I was stuck with dread. I head to Pret (of course) with 40 minutes to kill… and nothing to “do”.

  • First 10 minutes. Felt very self-conscious, didn’t fit in. (everyone else – on their phone). Found myself staring at passers-by and trying not to look too much like a weirdo (I’m not sure I succeeded, and I apologise to those who noticed). Time passed slowly.
  • Next 10 minutes. I thought… “I can do some thinking”… “now where is my pen?”. I had forgotten a pen!… Checked watch 20 times, time did not seem to move.
  • Next 10 minutes… Some strange stirrings in the brain… a few interesting things to think about… ideas started to pop up… how would I approach this, think about that?… I was definitely checking my watch less now!
  • Then… time to go… hang on, where did the last 10 minutes go? I ran out of time, lost in thought and now needing to hurry.
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It was an interesting experience, just stopping and thinking. There were some surprising results.

If our lives are filled with noise, can we actually hear ourselves think?

In all our busyness, doing, being active, and need to feel busy (which the phone is great for by the way), how much critical thinking time are we actually missing?

In today’s world we are so reliant on our devices, yet as this (enforced) exercise really illustrated, these devices also feed yet more busyness.

Had my phone not been almost out of charge, I would have spent a pleasant 40 minutes doom-scrolling the news or watching TikTok (mainly of Excel spreadsheet functions these days, it seems!). It most certainly would have passed the time; I may have learned something and would have at least felt ‘busy’.

Yet I would not have had as much in the way of new big ideas, nor been able to use my rational, conscious, brain to think things through.

Is our modern world shutting down our ability to think, instead training us to scroll, shortening our attention spans? Is it forcing us to rely on our unconscious, automatic reactionary decision-making centres in the brain instead? It feels like it may and this may not be a good thing, at least all the time.

Fortunately, not all is lost; and although difficult at first, with a bit of practice, we can get these skills back… and maybe some new ideas too. It is worth a try, at least for 45 min.

So this week, my resolution is to put the phone down a little more… maybe pick up a book, or just stare into space again. You never know it may be worth it.

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