Less is More: 5 Ways to Jumpstart a ‘Digital Minimalist’ Mindset
Editor’s Note: This is part II of a series on Digital Minimalism in 2020.
Is this the year you rethink and rebuild your relationship with technology? If so, embracing digital minimalism may be the most powerful way to achieve that goal.
We learned last week in our first post on this series tht digital minimalism isn’t about chucking your devices and going off the grid. It’s about being hyper intentional that your technology choices support the things you value.
And, as outlined by Cal Newport in his book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, the first step in the process is clarifying your values. Your values are the guiding principles that motivate you and give your life meaning such as family, education, work/life balance, community service, friendship, integrity, health, or wealth. With values clearly defined, you can evaluate every piece of technology, app, or social network you use to be sure it aligns with those values.
For instance, if you establish your top values to be family and volunteering, then maybe it’s time to let go of all the podcasts, apps, and email subscriptions that no longer support those priorities. The online social communities you habitually peruse may trigger anxiety and be taking time from activities that could be far more fulfilling.
If you get overwhelmed amid your technology pruning, come back to these two critical questions:
- Does this technology directly support something that I deeply value?
- Is this technology the best way to support this value?
There’s a ton of great information as well as passion online around the concept of digital minimalism. But to keep this new idea “minimal” and easy to grasp, we’ve chosen 5 things you can do today to help you and your family jumpstart this new way of thinking.
5 ways to jumpstart a ‘digital minimalist’ mindset
- Make social accounts private. Last week we suggested cutting all non-essential media for 30 days. Another way to mentally shift into a minimalist mindset is to transition your social media accounts from public to private if you haven’t already. Not only will this small change increase your online privacy, but it could also help you become more aware of the amount of content you share, the people with whom you share it, and the value of what you share. For people who post frequently (and often out of habit), this may prove to be a game-changer. The goal of digital minimalism isn’t a digital detox or white-knuckling no-or-less-tech life. The goal is to consciously, willingly, and consistently be rebuilding your relationship with technology into a formula that decreases distraction and increases value.
- Audit those apps! Want to feel a rush of minimalist adrenaline? Whack some apps! Most of us have amassed a galaxy of apps on our phones, tablets, and laptops. Newport suggests getting rid of any apps or devices that continuously distract and are “outside of work.” Those brain games, cooking apps, calorie trackers, and delivery apps you rarely use or value, may no longer be relevant to your values. Some will find this exercise exhilarating, while others may feel panicked. If that’s the case, pace yourself and delete a handful of apps over the next few weeks. The goal is more peace, not panic. On a security note: Remember, apps are one of the main channels for malware. Consider adding security software to your family devices, reading app reviews, and only downloading trusted products.
- Reclaim your space. Do you carry your phone with you into restaurants, upstairs, on a walk, and even to the bathroom? If so, this step may be especially tricky but incredibly beneficial. Think about it — you weren’t born with a phone. Over the years, it became a companion, maybe even an extra appendage. So start small to reclaim your birthright to phone-free space. If you go outside to walk your dog, leave your phone inside. Are you headed into a restaurant? Leave the phone in the car. Newport also suggests leaving your phone in a fixed spot in your home and treating it like the “house phones” of the past. When you go to bed, leave your phone in another room. Over time, hopefully, these small changes will add more hours, sleep, relaxation, conversation, and contemplation to your day.
- Condense home screens, turn off all notifications. Clutter — especially digital clutter — can trigger feelings of chaos and anxiety. By creating folders for random files and apps on your laptop, tablet, and phone, you can declutter and breathe a little easier. If later you can’t find a document, use the search tool on your device. Also, turn off all notifications, including your phone ringer, to reduce interruptions and to avoid the temptation to phub (phone snub) the person in front of you.
- Replace device time with more productive activities. The pain and regret of the social media time suck are very real. We lose days, even years going down digital rabbit holes and getting emotionally invested in random social media posts and exchanges. Some ideas: If you are a night scroller, opt to read a physical book. If you take breaks to scroll during work hours, put your phone in a drawer — out of sight, out of mind. If you’ve defined “relaxing” as curling up with your coffee and phone and reading through social feeds, reclaim those hours by calling a friend, taking a walk, connecting with your family, reading, or getting outside.
Embracing a new mindset, especially when it comes to our sacred technology habits, won’t be an easy task. However, if you know (and yes, you do know) that technology is taking up too much of your time, attention, and emotional bandwidth, then 2020 may the perfect time to release digital distractions, rethink your technology choices, and reclaim the things that matter most.
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