Table of Contents
Digital minimalism, for those who are foreign to its recent popularity, is a concept related to tech and our human relationship to it. Its intent is meant to help us question not only the time we spend on digital platforms but also the value. According to Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism, it’s a philosophy, an idea that focuses on less is more and a promise that using tech intentionally rather than habitually can structure our lives in a better way.
In theory, it can help to quiet an otherwise hectic existence and push you to focus on the important things - key relationships, meaningful work and healthy habits. Rather than steer our attention, at times unknowingly, to wasteful energy and mindless browsing. Not to mention, it can facilitate the creation of a routine, one that’s beneficial to our overall well-being and the achievement of our ultimate goals.
We all know that obsessively checking social media or succumbing to panic because we forgot our phone at home are harmful behaviours, yet most of us are so used to living that way we forget they’re ridiculous. What we don’t realize is the impact these small and simple tech-related lifestyle choices have on our joy and productivity, nor do we always foresee the long-term effects.
So, what are the benefits of a digital minimalist lifestyle?
Balance is necessary. Juggling too many balls or bouncing from place to place or task to task will naturally cause chaos and confusion. Having a stronger balance within your personal and work lives will ensure calmness and efficiency. Each aspect, personal or work, deserves attention, and digital minimalism will ensure these parts of your life are organized accordingly.
When you start to nail down where you spend your time, you’ll likely notice plenty of time-wasting throughout your day. All the time you spend on tech-related devices eats into your most productive hours, and it has a habit of sucking you into its attractive lure. Dedicate time to the people and the tasks that matter most.
Let’s be honest, smartphones are incredibly convenient and for the most part, easily accessible. Though, have you wondered what it is you mostly use it for? Are you using it to maintain relationships or are you using it to Google the background of every character on the latest Netflix show you watched? As you clear out apps and pay more attention to the ones that bring meaning into your life, you can begin using this innovative tool for good.
Collate all the money you spend on tech items and see how much it accumulates. Do you have the latest Apple iPhones? Or is Photoshop taking up space on your computer, even though you’ve opened it once? Whatever it is that you spend your money on, throwing around your credit card is easier than ever nowadays with a shiny phone, tablet or laptop in your hands. As a digital minimalist, you get the chance to decide where your money is best spent and set a budget.
As life gets busy and our brains become scattered, we tend to dismiss the people who make our lives feel whole and worthwhile. Perhaps it’s easier to watch TikTok videos than have a deep conversation or to miss a catch up with an old friend because you couldn’t finish work on time. Yet, when we look back at life from our elderly rocking chairs, none of those things will have any significance. So, when you start to clear out the things that don’t possess any real purpose, the things and the relationships that do have space to flourish.
There is a distinct connection between tech and mental health. For some, we use tech for respite or as a sort of refuge, but when used improperly, or even compulsively, it can spur on depression or negative thought patterns. For hypochondriacs, the ease of Google and symptom checkers are a nightmare and for anyone lacking in the self-esteem department, repetitive social media stalking can be damaging. Using tech smartly encourages stability and gives our fears and doubts less of a chance to prosper.
Now we know the benefits. But how do you adapt to a new way of being? Well, thankfully, there are useful adjustments you can make, either by changing a little at a time or by forging ahead and accepting a new personal challenge.
Here are a few tips to start a digital minimalist journey:
- Clear out clutter and delete any apps that you barely use
There is a psychological benefit to decluttering. Think of it as spring cleaning but for tech. The less background noise and mess, the clearer your life becomes.
- Track your time online using guilt-free programs like TimeIvy
Apps like TimeIvy show you exactly where most of your time is being spent online. From there, you can set time limits, make necessary modifications and be more conscious of harmful or extravagant online activity.
- Organize your folders on your phone and computer and make them searchable
The modern equivalent of an untidy filing system is an untidy phone or online storage system. If your files and apps are neatly arranged and titled, the less time it takes to access them.
- Use storage clouds to get rid of toxic or unwanted photos or videos
Online storage platforms or apps like iCloud or OneDrive are not just excellent for the safety of your files, but also the maintenance of them. It keeps all documents in one central place and offers accessibility features and time-saving benefits.
- File or delete old emails
This step can be time-consuming, especially if you have thousands of emails sitting in your inbox. Though, getting rid of old emails is known to help with mental clarity and reduce stress. A clean inbox is like a clean closet.
- Measure the apps or websites you’re subscribed to and delete any you don’t need
How often do you subscribe to an app and forget about it? Or overindulge online? It’s so easy to do, that most of us are guilty of overdoing it. Do a poll of all your subscriptions and unsubscribe from any you hardly use or don’t really need.
- Keep only the contacts you speak to on your phone
The benefits of this one fall under decluttering, but the fewer names in your contact list, the more likely you’ll be reminded to get in touch with key people. If you have hundreds of contacts you don’t speak to or need to leave in the past, ask yourself why are they there? Will you really speak to them again?
- Give yourself time limits
If you know that you use certain apps or visit particular websites more than others, set time limits and lessen the urge to waste time on them.
- Set a reminder weekly to clean your digital house
Mostly, setting a routine or building a schedule can be a walk in the park at first, but as the weeks or months go by and life gets busier, keeping up with it is difficult. Weekly reminders will keep you on the right track and jog your memory to complete tasks or get rid of useless files.
- Remove shopping apps that are harming your bank account
Online shopping can be a real form of addiction, one that drains your bank accounts and induces anxiety. So, get rid of any apps that you overspend on. At least for a while.
- Keep a spreadsheet or use a program to store all passwords in one central place
Password trackers are lifesavers and time-savers. If all your passwords are stored in one accessible place, you won’t have to click ‘forgot your password?’ regularly or spend hours searching.
- Challenge yourself to a digital detox – start with 2 days and progress from there
If you find yourself addicted to destructive patterns online, detox yourself from it. Try as little as 2 days or as much as 2 months. Try whatever length is achievable at first and progress from there. Eventually, these patterns won’t be a weakness.
- Leave time for creative pursuits
Whether you’re the analytical or creative type, there’s no doubt that creativity lives within all of us. Make sure to leave space for that part of you to flourish.
If anything, digital minimalism sheds a bright light on the sheer weight of tech and the power it has over every decision you make, the small and the large. It plainly shows just how much you rely on digital platforms or devices and how often they interfere with the best version of yourself. But if you use tech to your advantage, rather than letting it overcome your finances and dictate your every move, you’re guaranteed to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life. And in the grand scheme of things, what more could you ask for?