Downsize Your Digital Life: And how to declutter your digital life simply.
You’re not alone if you’re leading a chaotic digital life. If you are mocked for being attached to your device with a million apps, hundreds of folders and countless browser tabs open at once you’re part of a growing group of folks who are dysfunctionally attached to their digital life.
In the last five years, we’ve moved very swiftly to an “always-on” society and the increased complexity of managing the flow of information, devices and time are fast drowning us.
Much like your home, you need to regularly “clean house” – and get rid of the crap that you don’t need. You need to stop being a digital hoarder.
Ideally, you should aim to simplify how you use digital services on all your devices. Here’s my quick 10-minute read to decluttering your digital life – it could free up hours and hours every week and save you a pretty penny, too.
Junk your email
By some quite margin, Email is the most disruptive and wasteful digital service you will use if you are over 25. Interestingly, very few under 25s rely on email and they survive perfectly fine. You could be brave and dump your reliance on email – more and more companies are going email-free so if you’re lucky enough to dump email then go for it.
The average person checks email 15 times a day, causing stress and wasted time. It’s likely you’ll still be reliant on email for some communications but don’t let it ruin your life.
Switch off device-based email notification, it’s almost never needed and puts you at the mercy of every email marketer. Reduce the number of times you check email to twice per day (once in the morning and once late afternoon) and deal with email on a “last-in, first-out” basis.
Don’t let your email box become a to-do list, clear your email box out after transferring important stuff to your task list.
Avoid contributing to multiple threaded emails, instead start a new one or use alternative methods of communication such as messaging collaboration applications. Email is a good a point-to-point communication method, much like a letter, but it’s weak for discussion, collaborating, planning or general communication.
Finally, send less email. Send fewer emails, and you are less likely to receive replies, obviously.
We carry around so much physical junk that falls into the “not required on journey” category, often under the premise of “I might need it”. You probably won’t and if you did you could buy/borrow/steal/rent whatever it was. The same applies to the digital world.
Do we need five different camera applications on our smartphone or 2 different calendars? Your phone (or tablet or laptop) will work faster, for longer and more efficiently with less crap installed so delete it. Be brutal and remove apps that you don’t need – and switch off auto-downloads while you’re at it too.
No, no, no notifications
We all have far too many applications (see above) and many of them compete for your attention by “pinging” notifications. Switch them off – not all of them, but very few applications should have the right to interrupt our life and outbound marketing it not one of them.
Most devices have a way to “store” the notifications in a single list, use this instead as a way to check-up on what you’ve missed. And avoid checking it more than a few times a day.
But not one password for every service you use, that’s the fast track to a nightmare. Use one of the many one-password security services such as LastPass or One Password. They remove the hassle of passwords while improving security.
A natural extension to using fewer applications. Keeping your home screen clear of crap you don’t use frequently will allow faster access to what you need. Shift lesser-used apps to a folder or a second screen and periodically clear them out. The phrase “a clean desk is the sign of a clean mind” spring to mind.
While not wanting to unpack the social engineering and psychology surrounding social networks, it’s clear that a lot of us have a dysfunctional relationship to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Most social accounts could easily cull 2/3rds of their “friends” (from 150 to 50 follows) with no loss of quality of life.
If you actively follow 1,000+ friends on Facebook, then I can’t offer any useful advice.
Live in the cloud
Avoid storing anything locally on machines or hard drives – these will fail, and you’ll spend time worrying about or fixing data loss. And share the data storage across all the devices you own so everything is available everywhere.
Digital AI is now so good it can carry out a lot of mundane tasks, so look to automate frequently occurring tasks. Or least use applications that assist you with the heavy lifting. Examples include automated backups (e.g. your camera roll to Flickr, or files to Dropbox), email readers with built-in task list management and voice control applications.
Always on is stressful so plan periods of disconnection. “Going dark” doesn’t need to be a draconian – just a planned period, maybe a few hours a day, when you’ll be untethered from the digital world.
Go for a walk, ride a bike, pop down the pub, watch the pigeons in the park, sit on the waterside … and watch life go by.