How a 99c eBay purchase dramatically improved my working week

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A couple of years ago, I bought a little piece of plastic on eBay. It’s completely changed the way I work.

Every Saturday night, I take my micro-SIM card out of my smartphone. I then take an old Nokia phone, and using a SIM adaptor which cost 99c, I place it in there. Being an old dinosaur, the Nokia doesn’t take micro-SIMs of course, so the adaptor is necessary. Who would have thought a simple piece of plastic would change the way I worked?

As fleeting as New Years Resolutions can be, I try and follow one every year. Last year, I made a promise to keep every Sunday a screen-free one. This is how it improved my working week.

I used to wake up on a Monday morning feeling edgy, like last week had somehow bled into last weekend, which had somehow bled into this week. Even if I had a good weekend, it didn’t feel like last week had officially ended.

Since starting OIC Cambodia, I’ve never worked as productively as I do now. One fairly common misconception about the organisation is that we have a staff load that approaches 100 people.

The reality is, on top of a whole heap of wonderful volunteers, there are 6 staff.

This is a great compliment, it shows that the OIC team produces a lot of good work, despite its small size.

5/6ths of the current OIC staff team.
5/6ths of the current OIC staff team.

In recent years, I’ve realised that working longer hours doesn’t necessarily result in producing quality work. Studies have shown this time and time again – which is why countries like Sweden are moving towards a six-hour work day. This is why, unless in extreme circumstances, I avoid doing any OIC work on weekends.

Every now and then, I’ve been tempted to work on Sundays. Maybe there was something that needed addressing, or more likely, I wanted to spend more time on websites that probably add very little to my life.

In January 2015, I decided to keep Sundays screen-free. No smartphones, no laptops. No Whatsapp, Facebook or email.

The exceptions to this rule are Skype with family and friends, watching sport, or going to the movies.

The 99c SIM adaptor is a crucial part of this routine, because it allows me to focus on being completely present on a Sunday. I set my Nokia phone to “discreet”, so that it only makes noise when someone calls. Considering that I’m under 35, phone calls are a rarity anyway.

A history of mobile phones (photo from my Dad). Productivity declined by the time we got to the last one.
A history of mobile phones (photo from my Dad). Productivity declined by the time we got to the last one.

Now, I spend my Sunday doing all the things that I should be doing regularly. Talking to family and friends, reading, going out and enjoying the city I live in.

It’s a wonderful coda to the working week. It forces me to have a break from technology.

Another byproduct is how much more productive I am during the week, knowing that I cannot simply catch up on Sundays. And when Monday rolls around, I’ve had a mental break from it all and can re-focus more quickly.

It amazes me that with all the modern comforts of technology, we still need to set rules to maintain discipline, yet we rarely do. Screen-free Sundays are one way in which I’m hoping this discipline will pay off. And, for the benefits of a more focussed working week, 99c is a small price to pay.


This is an updated post from my LinkedIn profile.

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