In today’s fast-paced world, we are continually bombarded by technology; our smartphones, tablets, and computers are consistently at our fingertips and are basically an extension of ourselves these days, I mean, we use our gadgets not only to entertain ourselves but also to work and to live through ordering anything from groceries, food, and supplies online.
Improper ways of using our gadgets may often result in digital clutter and addiction. Digital minimalism is the answer to this growing problem. Today we’ll explore different ideas on how to declutter your gadgets and use them for good, creating a more productive and mindful life!
What Is Digital Minimalism?
Minimalism and Digital minimalism is essentially the same at their cores, they both share the common philosophy of simplicity, intentionality, and prioritizing what truly matters. It’s the areas they address that are completely different; while minimalism focuses on a broader lifestyle, digital minimalism, while a subset of minimalism, brings specific and sometimes harder-to-solve and often neglected problems.
So that brings us to our next point…
Why Is Digital Minimalism Important?
As we use our gadgets more and the line between the digital world and the real world becomes thinner, more potential problems arise between us and our phones.
First, we have the problem of gadget addiction, I’ll say it, gadgets are cool, it’s amazing to think that we can play games on our phones that literally contain whole worlds within them, and while it’s cool and amazing, this can lead to gaming addiction.
And it’s not just gamers that are prone to addiction, people who work on their gadgets can also lead to addiction, especially if your work requires you to research online, it’s called information addiction. It’s not new, but the virtually unlimited amount of information that you can access right at the tips of your fingers just stimulates our naturally curious minds to the point of exhaustion, often leading to another trip to satiate our curiosity, again to the point of exhaustion, until it becomes an addiction damaging your physical and sociocultural wellbeing.
Failing to organize your digital life might lead you to mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and conditions like depression, ADHD, and more. Of course, this will lead to a significant drop in productivity.
Another reason why digital minimalism is important is to promote privacy and security, I mean, you’ll just be surprised to discover that there are literally hundreds if not thousands of sites and companies tracking every move you make on the internet for their own benefit. And applying some aspects of digital minimalism might help you with that!
And of course, if you apply digital minimalism in your life, you’ll also help the environment, how? Well as you get addicted and let loose on your gadget use, you might use more energy with your computers, phones, and other devices, and even make you buy more and more pieces of tech that only clutters your digital and physical world and feeds your tech addiction even further.
So, if you want to take action, let’s move on to declutter your digital world!
How to Declutter Your Gadgets and Use Them Better
Conduct a Digital Audit
The first step to embracing digital minimalism is to conduct a thorough audit of all your digital devices and platforms. Make a list of all the gadgets you own, apps installed, and online services you use. Then, assess the necessity and value of each item. Consider deleting or uninstalling apps, services, or devices that do not serve a meaningful purpose in your life.
These meaningless apps and services might include games, utility apps, apps that you might have downloaded and proved to be useless but you forgot to delete, and the list goes on and on.
An easy way to check what might be important to you is to look at your app usage, the most used app can either be a bad thing or a thing you need to keep, but if your most used app is an entertainment app, you need to cut loose with it. Only keep essentials like communication and work-related apps. Also consider removing apps that rank as least used, of course, don’t remove your banking apps that might exist here. Just use your common sense and put in the effort.
Don’t be hard on yourself as well, you should still keep some social media and entertainment apps, but that brings us to our next point, which is to…
Establish Clear Boundaries and Automate
Set clear boundaries for your technology use to maintain a healthy balance between the digital and real world. Create a schedule that outlines designated times for checking emails, social media, and other non-essential digital activities. Consider implementing device-free zones within your living space, such as your bedroom or dining area, to promote more mindful and present living.
A great way to establish clear boundaries is to utilize apps and settings on your devices that limit your app use depending on the situation you’re in. The Focus modes on Apple devices are by far the best way to help you with this. For example, I’ve set separate focus modes that automatically activate when my location or time says so:
I have a work mode that activates when my GPS detects me at my school or when I open Safari on my laptop which is my designated browser for work, I also have a sleep mode that activates at night time, and a driving mode that activates when my phone’s GPS detects driving speeds.
This helps me set clear boundaries of what I can do with my phone, and automatically activating it is one thing, each focus mode will also have different home screens with specific apps on it, specific notification settings, and even specific wallpapers which is useful for the driving mode since I have an eye condition and I don’t want my phone blinding me when driving at night!
Sure the way I establish my boundaries can be extensive, but it’s a one-time setup with the occasional weekly tweaks, and it certainly works for me! I end up touching my phone and laptop less, and when I do, it’s ready for what I need to do.
Now, this whole part is a bit too much too quickly, and it’s mostly the focus of digital minimalism so let’s discuss more of it and maybe you can also follow along the way.
Turn off Notifications
One of the things I mindfully set up on Focus modes are my notifications, they are the bane of focus and are literally designed to grab our attention, and before we discuss anything else, let’s divide notifications between apps and messages.
So, when it comes to apps, I usually turn off everything, since most of them are pretty useless and distracting, especially notifications from social media, streaming apps, and games. The only apps you should only let your notifications on are navigation, home security, finance (but turn off their promotional notifications), and apps we use for our work,
When it comes to message notifications (emails and messaging apps) I recommend blocking notifications out from everyone you don’t know and only letting known contacts through at all times, letting you sort out other messages and emails at a specific time of day. On certain focus modes, you can block out everybody and set your phone to only let people through when they call three times (most phones can do this these days).
Some phones can also look for keywords that are automatically or manually set like “urgent” and “emergency” so you can still see them even when focus modes are activated.
Remember, you’re free to pick which you want to notify! Start by blocking everything and start picking what you want to be notified for.
Prioritize Offline Activities
One of the main things that minimalism promotes is making genuine and great social connections, and you should also apply this in minimalism. Engage in hobbies, exercise, or spend quality time with friends and family without the distraction of technology. By doing so, you will create a more balanced and intentional lifestyle!
A great way to help you balance the real and digital worlds is by only using your phone or computer to communicate and plan a hangout or date with your loved ones instead of using your phones to chat and FaceTime all the time, talking to your friends and loved ones exclusively through chat can be very detrimental to your relationships!
Limit Social Media Consumption
As a continuation of my previous point, you might want to limit social media and entertainment apps on your phone, and here’s how to do it.
To start limiting your social media usage, you should track the time you spend on social media and entertainment platforms, your phone will let you do this easily by looking at your battery and power consumption. If you noticed a huge amount of time spent on these apps, you can either limit yourself through willpower, but if you’re having some trouble, you can install apps and browser extensions to automatically limit your usage.
Furthermore, once you have the leisure to kill time, be selective about the content you consume and engage with, focusing on material that adds value, promotes positivity, and supports personal growth. Being mindful of selecting things you want to watch and catch up on can prevent doomscrolling which is basically the main enemy of digital minimalism.
Organize Your Digital Files
One key aspect of digital minimalism is maintaining an organized digital environment. Sort through your digital files, delete duplicates and outdated documents, and organize the remaining files into clearly labeled folders. This will not only declutter your digital space but also make it easier to locate important files when needed.
Most computers already have pre-set folders to separate photos, documents, videos, apps, and downloads, make sure to regularly move files around so they are where they belong, and again, use folders!
A quick tip! Make sure to take extra time sorting your downloads folder and desktop which gets cluttered the most.
As for your phones, I’d advise you to use the “one-page rule” whereas the name states, you only use one home page to contain all of the important apps you use every day. This can also be a great way to reduce distraction if you keep all your social media and entertainment apps in the app library, that way, accessing these apps will require thought and intention instead of mindlessly opening those apps.
In a world where multitasking is often praised, digital minimalism encourages the practice of single-tasking. Focus on one task at a time, whether it’s getting things done or for entertainment, and give it your full attention. This approach can improve productivity, reduce stress, and create a more satisfying and meaningful digital experience.
So how would you do this? Well, you can just use your apps and windows on full-screen so you don’t glance over multiple windows at a time or you can also stick to a single-screen setup (I know multiple screens are cool, but if not utilized properly, it’s just distracting).
It’s a bit easier to do on your phones since switching through different apps can be much tiring to do. But still, if you have set shortcuts where you can tap a button to switch to another app or activate split screen features, you can just remove or turn it off, so you can be more mindful of what you do.
Single-tasking can also mean a more secure digital experience, use just one browser, one shopping app, and one social media app at a time. This way, we can also limit the amount of apps and sites that tracks us!
Opt For Quality Over Quantity
I’m not saying you should spend tremendous amounts of money on your gadgets and apps. I’m just saying you should invest in high-quality devices and applications that genuinely serve your needs rather than constantly upgrading or accumulating gadgets for the sake of novelty. This approach not only minimizes clutter but also reduces the environmental impact associated with e-waste. Mindfulness is key! This is also one of the reasons why a lot of wealthy people don’t buy the latest and shiniest gadgets to come out!
Regularly Review and Adjust
Congratulations! You might now have a great and clutter-free digital world. But remember, digital minimalism is an ongoing practice that requires regular review and adjustment. Periodically assess your technology usage and habits to ensure that they align with your digital minimalist goals. Be prepared to make changes when necessary, whether it involves removing additional apps, adjusting your schedule, or setting new boundaries.
I’m sure we only scratched the surface of every thing that you can do to achieve digital minimalism, so are there digital minimalism tips that you can share? Make sure to leave a comment and tell us what you think!