No one can deny that digital technology has revolutionized the way we live and work, but it has also brought with it a host of distractions and information overload that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and unfocused.
As someone who has spent the majority of my adult life working in front of a computer screen, I can attest to the overwhelming nature of technology and its ability to distract us from our goals and priorities. Not too long ago, I found myself constantly checking emails, scrolling through social media, and responding to messages; mindlessly. If you are reading this, I am sure you have too.
It wasn’t until I started applying digital minimalism that I was able to take back control of my digital life and live with greater intention and focus. It’s not easy to break bad habits but for me, it’s been worth it.
In this post, I’ll share 8 ways that you too can embrace digital minimalism and create a more fulfilling and focused life.
01 Identify Your Digital Waste
The first step to embracing digital minimalism is to identify your digital waste. This could be anything from excessive social media use to constant email checking. Take some time to assess your digital habits and identify areas where you could (and should) cut back.
For me, this was all about social media usage.
I used to wake up and immediately check my social media accounts, scrolling mindlessly through my feeds, or watching videos for at least 30 minutes. More specifically, I realized that I was spending way too much time mindlessly scrolling through YouTube shorts on my phone. I found myself getting sucked into a rabbit hole of funny or interesting short videos, often spending more than an hour without even realizing it. This set me up for a distracted day, as my mind was already cluttered with information and updates before I even got out of bed.
To address this, I decided to implement a no-screen time rule in the mornings. Instead of checking my phone right after waking up, I spend some time journaling or doing some light exercise. This has helped me to start my day with a clear and focused mind, and I’ve noticed that I’m able to be more productive and present throughout the day.
02 Prioritize Your Apps
In a world where we’re bombarded with information and distractions, it’s important to prioritize what’s truly important. Identify the digital tools and platforms that are most essential to your work and personal life, and eliminate the ones that aren’t.
When I first started my digital minimalism journey, I realized that I had way too many apps and programs on my phone and computer. I had multiple social media accounts, various productivity apps, and different note-taking tools. It was all just too much, and I found myself spending more time jumping between all these tools than actually getting things done.
There are some apps that you will need for work or for staying in touch with certain friends but the rest? Be brutal and delete them. You can always reinstall them if you find you have made a huge mistake.
As a writer, I’ve found that the most essential digital tools for my work are a word processor (google docs), a design tool (Canva), an SEO keyword tool, and email. I’ve eliminated other tools and platforms that I don’t really need.
Taking regular breaks from digital technology can help you recharge and refocus. Plan regular “digital detox” days or weekends where you disconnect completely from technology and focus on other activities like reading, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing a hobby.
I’ve found that taking a break from technology, even for a day or two, can make a big difference in my ability to focus and be productive.
I know this might sound but starting small can be really helpful; I experimented with just taking an evening off at first.
Yes, it is challenging at first but you’d be amazed at how much time you have when you put the phone down!
04 Embrace Analog Tools
Digital minimalism isn’t about abandoning technology completely, but rather using it intentionally. Embrace analog tools like a physical planner, a notebook, or a printed book to help you focus and stay organized.
As someone who spends a lot of time in front of a screen for work and leisure, I’ve found that incorporating analog tools into my daily routine has helped me stay focused and organized.
While I still use a digital to-do list for its convenience and accessibility, in other areas I opt for old-school methods.
For example, I journal in a physical notebook to reflect on my thoughts and feelings without the distraction of notifications or other digital distractions.
I’ve also found that reading physical books instead of e-books helps me concentrate better and reduces eye strain from screen time leading to, what I feel, is better sleep. This is actually backed up by a 2014 study, which showed that light emitting electronic devices can disrupt circadian rhythm.
I also opt for using an analog alarm clock but this was so important for me, I thought it deserved a full point (see next point).
05 Use an old-school alarm clock (instead of your phone)
I used to rely on my phone as an alarm clock, but as mentioned every morning when I woke up, I would immediately start scrolling through notifications and social media feeds. This not only made me feel groggy and unfocused, but it also ate up valuable time that I could have spent doing something productive or positive to start my day.
So, I decided to switch to using an analog alarm clock and leaving my phone in the living room at night. This small change has had a big impact on my morning routine. Without my phone by my side, I wake up feeling more refreshed and clear-headed. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through my phone, I now have time to journal, or even just enjoy a cup of coffee in peace.
I also sleep better knowing that my phone isn’t within arm’s reach. It’s tempting to check it throughout the night when it’s right next to me, but by leaving it in another room, I’m able to disconnect and give my brain a break.
Overall, using an analog alarm clock and leaving my phone in the living room has been a game-changer for me. It’s a simple habit that has helped me start my day on the right foot and prioritize my mental health and well-being.
Just like you would curate your physical space, curate your digital space to eliminate distractions and clutter.
I used to receive hundreds of emails every day, many of which were newsletters, spam, or promotions that I never even opened. It was overwhelming and made it hard for me to focus on the important emails that actually required my attention.
So, I started by unsubscribing from newsletters and promotions that I didn’t need or want. I also created filters to automatically sort my emails into different folders based on their priority. This helped me to reduce my email overload and focus on the emails that were truly important.
07 Turn off Notifications
Turn off notifications on your phone for apps that aren’t essential, and resist the urge to constantly check your phone for updates.
If you find yourself constantly clicking social media notifications, turn off those notifications and set a time you allow yourself to indulge in them each day. For example, you could limit yourself to 30 minutes of social media use after you finish work, and then log off once your time is up. This will help you avoid constantly getting distracted.
Also, consider turning off work-related notifications outside of working hours (this is especially important if you work remotely. You also probably need to read a work mail at midnight; turn off the notification so that you actually relax and deal with the mails at set times during your working day.
08 Build Real-Life Connections
Digital technology can be a great way to connect with others, but it’s important to also build real-life connections. Make an effort to spend time with loved ones in person, attend events and social gatherings, and prioritize face-to-face communication.
Personally, I found that spending too much time on social media and texting can make me feel isolated and disconnected from my friends and family. To combat this, I’ve started making more of an effort to schedule regular meetups with friends for coffee or dinner, or even just to go for a walk together. I also try to attend more in-person events and gatherings, like concerts, art exhibits, or community events, to meet new people and expand my social circle.
By building more real-life connections, I feel more fulfilled and less reliant on digital technology to feel connected to others.
In conclusion, digital minimalism offers an approach that can help you to reclaim your focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase productivity. At least, it has for me.
By following the steps outlined in this article, such as identifying your digital waste, setting boundaries, prioritizing essential apps, disconnecting regularly, embracing analog tools, and unsubscribing from non-essential email lists, I was able to begin to take control of my digital life and create a more fulfilling and focused existence.
Remember, digital minimalism is not about abandoning technology entirely, but rather using it intentionally and purposefully to enhance your life, rather than detract from it.
By taking small steps and implementing these strategies, you can start to enjoy the benefits of a more mindful, intentional approach to your digital life, and find more time for the things that truly matter.
Have any more tips that might help fellow readers? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.