Minimalism: Digital Detox + Digital Declutter – simple ways to create more mental space and inner peace.
When our physical world becomes cluttered or we have too many demands on our time, our lives feel unmanageable and overwhelming. We can’t make progress towards goals and we experience low level stress.
Our digital world is the same. Too much going on, too many notifications or distractions, and a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) can mean our time and mental space is whittled away in subtle, barely perceptible ways.
We can’t quite put our finger on why we feel the way we do. We may start to feel that a creeping unease is normal. At the same time, we might blame ourselves for being so scattered, distracted, ineffective…
A digital declutter or digital detox is a way to reclaim your power, your space, time and your sanity.
Make sure that you use your tech, not the other way round.
When to digital declutter or detox
The following symptoms of digital depletion are signs that you are ready to do a digital declutter or digital detox.
- Feeling that you must check your phone first thing in the morning or last thing at night
- Trouble falling sleep, or waking feeling tired
- Scrolling the feed or checking your screen several times an hour
- Always needing to have your phone switched on and near you
- Feeling that you have to respond to calls, emails or messages immediately, or an underlying feeling of having to be permanently responsive and ‘on call’ for loved ones or associates
- Feeling constantly alert due to a stream of notifications
- Getting lost down internet rabbit holes
- Addictive behaviours, like missing the internet or missing screen time
- Multitasking with multiple screens. For example, listening to iTunes while replying to Instagram comments and checking email, with an eye on YouTube playing (on 1.5 x speed with captions) in a pop-out window.
- Acute comparison-itus, anxiety, inadequacy or shame due to other seeing people’s posts or shares.
- Feeling emotional rejected by a lack of response, or by a different response than was expected, when you interact online or digitally.
- Your energy or outlook changes after using certain Apps, online groups or doing certain digital activities.
Why + How to digital declutter
I’m a nerd and I love tech. Yet, I hate the invasive quality of tech these days. I’ve been through phases of tech taking over my life, and I didn’t like it. So, now I try to stick to rules around email, texts, Apps – and even things like software or gadgets.
However, my weak spots include laptop browsing in bed (a guilty pleasure, I must say) and occasional YouTube pop culture rabbit holes.
It can be a challenge to wean yourself away from the digital world.
After all, billions have been spent developing digital products and systems that keep you hooked in.
Yet, if you can rise to the challenge, you may find your self esteem repaired, your mental health restored, goals reached, and a renewed clarity and confidence. Suddenly, life seems simpler. And, you finally have more time!
A digital declutter or digital detox can help kick-off good digital habits, as well as reconnect you with yourself and the wider world.
It’s a good idea to rate how stressed or anxious you feel before doing these digital declutter tips. Then again a few days after finishing your digital declutter or digital detox.
You may be surprised how helpful a digital declutter or detox can be.
Before you begin digital minimalism with a Digital Declutter + Detox, you can track your habits to get a clear picture of how much time is spent online + doing what.
Use an App like RescueTime.
Digital Declutter + Detox: Mobile Phone
The following habits – or rules – will help you use your phone intentionally. You will take calls or reply to messages at times convenient for you, instead of having your quality of life eroded by external influences.
Digital decluttering is a method of creating a boundary around your limited time, energy and space.
When you Digital Declutter + Detox, you increase your mental bandwidth and get more done.
Ways to digital declutter your phone
- Delete all social media Apps from your mobile phone.
- Take Apps that link to social media, like Facebook Messenger, off your phone.
- Delete any other non-essential Apps from your mobile phone.
- Turn off all notifications for any non-essential App that remain on your mobile.
- Put your phone on Airplaine Mode whenever you are not using it
- Never have your phone on the table when talking with real people. Keep your phone away.
- Don’t take long calls or engage in screen time when you are socialising with real people.
- Communicate your availability and manage expectations with real people who are used to you always being reachable.
- Set necessary boundaries around personal / professional use. For example, you may decide that your work may not call you after 5pm, or that your clients use a different number instead of your personal mobile, i.e. a Skype number, so you can screen calls during your time-off.
- Don’t receive work emails on your phone: use a computer or laptop for all work-related stuff.
Digital Declutter: Email
Some ways to introduce digital minimalism and Digital Declutter + Detox your email are:
- Go through your email inbox: delete, archive, reply or unsubscribe (i.e. from all unnecessary email newsletters).
- Set up rules so that incoming emails, such as bills or records, are automatically archived into different folders.
- Put reminders in your email signature to manage expectations: “Replies are typically within 24 / 48 / 72 hours” or “Replies are during business hours only“.
Digital Declutter: Gadgets
Digital Declutter + Detox habits for better gadget use include:
- No phones at the dining table / during dinner, or while doing joint activities, like watching a film with a real person or going on a family outing.
- No gadget use from at least an hour before sleep time, preferably an earlier cut-off.
- Consider limiting gadget use in the bedroom.
- Use blue light blocking glasses and lower screen brightness to avoid interference with your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.
- Buy an old fashioned alarm clock or a sunrise alarm clock, instead of using your phone’s alarm.
- Resist the urge to reach straight for your gadget or phone in the morning. The minutes after waking are a precious time of the day when you are fully rested, deeply relaxed and connected to your inner self. Gadget intrusion means you loose the insight, intuition and equilibrium this time offers. It is very hard to get that back during the day.
- A Minimalism: Digital Declutter + Detox App that can help you claw back your time, space and sanity is Freedom.
Digital Declutter: Social Media
This is perhaps one of the biggest areas you can benefit from digital minimalism: Digital Detox + Digital Declutter.
A social media digital declutter is to promote self-esteem and a feeling of autonomy from the digital world. A social media spring clean helps you pull your energy back from cyberspace, and be more present in real world relationships.
- As above, delete all social media Apps from your mobile phone.
- Cull any contacts / friends / followers that repeatedly trigger feelings of inadequacy, self pity, envy, anxiety or unfairness.
- Mute the above if you are unable to unfollow / unfriend due to genuine social obligation.
- Notice which Apps make your feel most uncomfortable. If you have to stay on social for work, choose a preferred method of communication. Don’t feel you have to engage across all platforms.
- Leave any groups where the energy is negative or you are not getting value.
- Don’t feel obligated to respond to private messages. If you do reply, it’s perfectly okay to explain “I don”t use PMs” or “I’m not on this App often.”
Digital Detox: Go Off-Grid
The meaning of off-grid is “not using or depending on public utilities, especially the supply of electricity.”
Being without electricity might be hard in winter, but it may still be possible to spend a day, 24 hours, a weekend or beyond without your gadgets or an internet connection.
Experiment with doing a digital detox.
Leave the equivalent of a ‘Do Not Disturb’ or ‘Back Soon’ sign on your social media.
If you’re not answering calls or texts, explain why to anyone who needs to know.
Most people understand and many will celebrate your digital detox with you.
Digital Detox: Habits
Finally, don’t feel you have to keep up with the latest gadgets.
I’m a geek, but I still use a 7 year old iPhone 5s without any problems. My workhorse PC has gradually been replaced by a laptop, but only after 9 solid years of frequent use.
Fear of missing out or not keeping up, leads to unnecessary spending, both personally and professionally.
Next time you see a shiny object, give yourself a 14 day cooling off period before buying. Likely, after 14 days, it will have lost much of it’s appeal. Meanwhile, your bank account remains strong.
Business-wise or creativity-wise, most times, you don’t need the latest gear to get going, i.e. latest camera, microphone, payment processor, business course, software or swanky new website.
Resist the urge to splurge on tech and your digital minimalism will survive.
Copyright Amy Garner 2020. See my Copyright Notice & Disclaimer.
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