We have all recognized the trend towards minimalism, and if you are reading this blog – my guess is that you are diligently seeking minimalism for your life.
When I think about minimalism, I envision a life without the chaos of the digital world. If you follow me on Instagram, I imagine you might be perplexed as you look at my personal relationship with digital communication and technology…especially knowing that it doesn’t fit in with the concept of minimalism that you most likely imagine.
By trade, I am a digital advertiser. I spend my days writing blogs, running social media accounts and handling SEO (Search Engine Optimization) through Google Ads and proper Metadata for myself, as well as many other companies in the Tulsa area. Due to the fact that I spend so much time on my computer/smartphone for work purposes, I have diligently pursued ways outside of work to minimize my digital life. My continued goal is to use the technology I have been given to serve me, not the other way around.
So, how can you minimize your digital life? Let me tell you, giving up your smartphone or deleting social media doesn’t have to be the answer. (Though I am 100% in your corner if that is what you choose to do!)
Start by becoming aware of your relationship with technology.
In order to make progress, you must first figure out where you are coming from. Most smartphones give you the ability to easily view your screen time. This data does not just show you how many hours you spend every day on your phone, it shows you which apps you are spending that time in and how many times you picked up your phone.
If you are anything like me, the first time you view this data you will be shocked and appalled. I had no idea that I was using my phone that often, and after viewing this information I knew that I wanted to make a change.
Next, follow these steps to help you digitally declutter.
Less is more when it comes to your desktop.
Are you one of those people who have icons all over your desktop? Good for you, though I would not be able to find anything with a virtual mess.
My desktop looks like this:
My desktop is simple, and due to proper optimization, everything has a place. My documents host folders with-in folders, with-in folders…but because of this, everything is organized and easy to find. The apps I use daily are located in the taskbar at the bottom of my screen for easy access. Should I need to find another app, I simply use the search function at the bottom left and go from there.
Unsubscribe from all junk emails that you do not read.
I recently read that spam messages accounted for 54.68% of email traffic in the month of September. That number is absolutely insane. Though these emails sometimes provide information about sales that you might be interested in, SPAM emails are typically unwanted clutter that needs to be deleted from your inbox.
When I started my digital minimalism journey, I spent the better part of a weekend unsubscribing from emails. I now get 2-5 spam emails a week, which is an INSANE improvement. As these emails come in, I am quickly able to unsubscribe from them.
The reality of spam emails is that they most likely advertise something that I don’t need to add to my minimalist home…so why allow the glory of these products to even come into my thoughts and waste my time?
Clean up your email inbox.
When it comes to your house, everything should have a place. The same goes for your email. As I receive an important email, it gets moved to a folder so I can reference it easily.
If an email needs a reply, I take care of it as soon as the email comes in. Then the email is archived to a folder or discarded to the trash. It’s truly as simple as that!
Minimize your smartphone apps.
How many apps do you have on your phone that you don’t use on a regular basis? Did you know that deleting those apps from your phone not only helps free up extra storage, it also helps protect your privacy? Lifehacker.com wrote an awesome article going in-depth on the topic, should you like to read more about it.
Though I still have a ton of apps on my phone, the apps left are the ones I regularly use. I should note that I do have social media on my phone, but I do not have games or anything of that nature. I enjoy a good cell phone game, but they tend to suck me in at night when I should be paying attention to my family. Hence why I’m not okay with having them on my device.
Here is a look at my current smartphone screen:
Two pages of organized folders and information.
Disable push notifications from your smartphone.
The push notifications I am referring to appear on your locked screen or come down to notify you of something when your phone is in use. When you download a few apps to your phone, notifications instantly start coming through in waterfall fashion. The buzzing and dinging notifications are an endless attempt to get your attention. Rather you are interested in the notifications or not, they subliminally make you want to check the app.
In 2013 Apple proudly announced that they pushed 7.4 trillion push notifications through their servers. If that many were sent in 2013, imagine how many are sent now! With that said, the solution to the constant buzzing is to stop your notifications completely. I’d venture to say that 90% of my apps have all notifications turned off. For the few apps that matter, I have turned off banner notifications and strictly allow a red dot to be placed on the corner of the app. No sound or vibration comes through when the dot appears. Then when I have time to spend on my phone, I can find the things that require my attention easily. I mean, let’s face it…if someone really needs something from me on an emergency basis they will call me.
Since turning off most of my notifications, I have become much more relaxed. My phone doesn’t buzz nearly as much as it once did. If you think I’m crazy for missing out on all the good stuff happening in the world because nothing alerts my phone anymore…feel free to tell me about it. Or, I’ll find out when I check my apps again (which will be when I want to, not a minute before).
Organize your photos.
If having an excessive amount of digital photos on your phone strikes your fancy, then awesome. More power to you…but might I suggest organizing them instead of leaving them in a bulk mass on your phone?
When you have a spare minute, go through your photos and first focus on removing all duplicate or bad photos. I have three kids. In order to get one semi-good photo, I typically take 8 different shots. Going through and deleting the bad photos or duplicates will help you organize much easier.
Next, create albums to house different types of pictures. From recipes you took a screenshot of, to vacation photos, there is an easy way to organize all the photos that can save you loads of time in the long-run as you are searching for that one particular photo in the sea of photos your phone contains.
Set limits for your apps.
Most of the articles I have read on this topic suggest setting app limits for children. Though I 100% agree with that, why not do it with yourself as well? Daily app limits reset every day at midnight and will be placed only on the apps you want them on. When your time limit is up, a screen will pop up letting you know. It will then give you the opportunity to remind you again in 15 minutes or to ignore the time limit for today. Even if you choose to ignore the limit, the pause it will require you to take is worth setting up for. After all, it is a nice reminder that you’re going against the lifestyle you want for yourself.
Do your weekly chores…
All of the items mentioned above are time-consuming to start, which is why I want to encourage you to commit to making these tasks part of your weekly chores. Every Sunday night set aside 20-30 minutes to make sure all of these items above are done. In staying on top of these tasks you are working to maintain a healthy/less overwhelmed relationship with digital devices.
All these digital minimalist steps are coping mechanisms to deal with the underlying problem of technology addiction. Though I still rely on my phone a great amount, learning how to cut back has been lifesaving for me and I hope it is for you too!