You know how it is today. A lot of us live our lives out of our phones and laptops. I guess it’s safe to say that’s where we spend a lot (majority??) of our time – hours on end. And there are apps for everything – a lot of them designed to keep us hooked as long as possible. We work, create, entertain, read, write, plan, shop, flirt, decide, pay, and what not with our screens. Think about those tens of thousands of pictures we all have. (Btw who remembers the analog rolls with 24 or 36 frames each?) Our multiple mailboxes are full of emails from the last ten years we don’t need anymore, but yet again, we do nothing or little to resolve this. (You can read the article on Inbox Zero here)
We are getting bombarded with notifications about yet another useless newsletter we signed up for last winter looking for ski goggles.
For the majority of us – it’s a tiring reality.
There are new apps every day, we read about them, we want them. Usually, because we think we need them, to be the “better version of us”. Because we fantasize that with this brand new app – we will now be able to plan better, eat better, sleep better, and so on and so forth.
The thing is – we have too many already. Too many distractions that keep us chained to our screens, too many apps that leave an enormous digital footprint too. And instead of our better productivity and comfort, we often get… well – the opposite. Problems with focus, anxiety, procrastination, strained relationships, increased tension, problem sleeping, headaches, guilt… We’re drowning in the sea of digital clutter.
What is digital clutter?
All the apps on your phone/computer/tablet that you don’t consider essential; that you don’t find indispensable for either your work or everyday life. Apps that take too much of something that’s yours, something precious and not renewable. Your TIME and ATTENTION.
Is there something wrong with “too much”?
We live in times of too much information, of endless possibilities. Each time we want something, there are 20 kinds of it, all available now. Whether it’s a car, a phone, a book, cereal, an app – whatever it is – it’s there – waiting for you to get nuts.
There’s data that suggests we are only capable of making a certain number of decisions a day, and if we are faced with more – we also face anxiety. Now think about trying to pick this one picture of your baby you want to show your mom. One out of 19,000. Or choosing an app to edit it – you probably have a minimum of 3 apps for that already, don’t you?
Have you ever found yourself staring at your phone because you just wanted to quickly “check something”? And an hour later, you were still browsing FB, Twitter, or IG feed?
Have you ever wanted to message someone but forgot what social media messenger was the one they used? And you have like 6 of them on your phone?
What happens when you face all this? Anxiety rises, focus, and creativity drop.
A digital minimalist? Say what now?
Or is a better name ‘digital essentialist’?
What could be the correct definition?
- Someone who does not use technology at all.
- Someone who uses technology that is simple and minimalistic looking.
- Someone who uses the most efficient apps and does it to simplify their life.
- Someone who is able to engage in a conversation without picking up their phone every 12 seconds.
- A person who enjoys their analog time more than time spent with their nose glued to their phone.
- A person who decides that he owns the screen, not the other way round.
- A person who is aware that minimalism is a form of attention management.
- A combination of above, or do you have any other definition?
Do I need to declutter?
First of all – only you can decide for yourself whether you think something’s wrong. Maybe it was already on your mind. Maybe that’s the reason you’re reading this article. Maybe someone close told you they think you’re a bit too engaged, or maybe you feel the overwhelm getting the better of you.
Below you’ll find a couple of questions that should make the answer easier. In order not to flood you with dozens of questions – let’s focus on the phones only:
* how many apps do you have on your phone?
* how many of those are games?
* how many of those apps do you actually use?
* how many are there that you downloaded three years ago?
* how many pictures are there on your camera roll?
* how many albums in your camera?
* how many hours on average do you spend on your phone daily? (You can check your screen time settings.)
* what do you do right after you wake up?
* what do you do right before you go to sleep?
* can you imagine going out without your phone?
An orthodox way of dealing with digital declutter would be to get rid of everything and then install only what you truly need. The softer way is deleting – one by one. It is a similar process to what you go through to deal with your clothes if you’re a minimalist. You only leave (and buy for that matter) what you need and love. Things you feel good wearing and (that’s crucial) that you do wear. Same with apps. The key word here would be INTENTIONAL. You have a plan, a vision, and you stick to it. Not letting the notifications and feeds distract you from what’s essential.
A pretty practical option you can use is to let the system work for you. There’s an option on the iPhones where the unused apps are offloaded from your phone. When you see that happen – it might be a great indicator that it’s better to get rid of it for good.
In the end, minimalism – or essentialism is a process. It won’t do you any good if you have one burst of motivation, and after a week, you get back to the way things were.
It’s like if you get yourself a plant, it won’t stay beautiful and healthy if you don’t take proper care of it. Just keeping it in the house won’t do. It will need your attention, watering, repotting. If you have something you have to take care of it, you have to maintain it. Same with our digital devices.
The success lies in the small steps we take every day. The habits we create are essential.
More about habits soon:)