You may recall the popular bestseller of ‘89: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Ring a bell?
This trailblazing read continues to inspire millions with its timeless habits rooted in fairness, integrity and honesty. Healthy mindful habits stick because they are, well, habitual. We repeat them over time, and eventually, they become our guideposts in life.
During these days of screen time overload, it helps to shine a light on our daily digital habits and look for areas to optimize (aka, minimize).
The Modern-Day Minimalist
Digital minimalism is not some Futurist cult manifesto. It isn’t rocket science either. It simply applies a “less is more” philosophy to the digital world.
In “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World,” author Cal Newport describes it as “a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviours surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life.”
While Newport believes in reducing low-value digital noise and optimizing digital tools that add value, digital minimalism can look different for each of us.
Author and psychologist Nick Wignall’s approach offers three basic principles:
- Technology use should be intentional, not habitual.
- Technology is for creating, not feeling better.
- Technology should come secondary to people.
Sound about right?
Then perhaps it’s time to declutter your digital world and adopt the habits of a digital minimalist.
7 Habits of a Digital Minimalist
There’s no single path to becoming a digital minimalist. On the contrary, there are many ways to practice this philosophy. Here are some habits to restore balance in your relationship with technology.
1. Be honest and accountable.
Confront the smudged reflection in your locked phone screen and examine your relationship with technology. Use built-in or third-party usage trackers to get an accurate picture of how much time you spend on your screen(s). It’s essential to set realistic goals and be accountable. If you’re stuck, share your goals with someone; chances are they could benefit too.
2. Be discerning.
You have the power to be picky about what you save, download, and subscribe to. Be decisive about what you need and let go of what might come in handy later. In general, hit ‘delete’ more than ‘save.’
3. Detach and set boundaries.
Whether you leave your device in the car while running errands, flip it upside down while working, or keep it away from the dinner table, spend more time with your gadgets beyond arm’s reach. Get outdoors and engage in activities that keep your device out of your hand. Detachment is not about returning to the dark ages; it’s about maintaining a level of independence from our devices by setting healthy boundaries that prevent burnout.
4. ‘Tech out’ with intention.
Re-evaluate technology’s role and purpose in your life. Decide when to turn to your devices instead of being called to them (start by turning off push notifications and the “raise to wake” feature, which illuminates your phone and calls your attention each time you lift it). Remember that technology is intended to support you, not overwhelm or control you.
5. Wise up in the digital world.
Invest in software that sweeps, backs up, and declutters your files. Use features to silence or unfollow accounts that don’t bring value to your feed. When you need to focus, turn your phone to black and white; you’ll be less inclined to scroll through Instagram absent-mindedly.
6. Return to analog.
Consciously choose to read paperback books, print magazines and newspapers. Experiment with film photography. Handwrite to-do lists and love notes. Dedicate a weeknight to board games, card games, or fishbowl. Use your hands for something more nuanced than scrolling, whether it’s drawing, knitting, or finger painting.
7. Make minimalism your routine.
Long-term change starts with slow, habitual shifts. Begin by shutting down all of your apps and tabs at the end of each day. Set yourself up for a refreshing, clear-minded morning.
Digital minimalism is not about rejecting technology or returning to the stone age. It’s about restoring mindfulness to your relationship with technology.
The role technology plays in your life is entirely up to you. Perhaps it’s time to take a break from scrolling and discover what a little digital minimalism can offer you. Game of Wingspan, anyone?