Digital Minimalism: The Ultimate Guide To Be A Digital Minimalist

Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time in a day to do everything that’s on your to-do list? You’re not alone. In fact, 3 out of 5 people can’t finish their to-do lists. And one of the biggest reasons is distraction caused by technology. In this article, I’ll share with you about digital minimalism. And how it could help you focus on what really matters.

We are all living a digital lifestyle. From the moment we wake up to the time we sleep, we’re in constant connection with technology. But did you know that our dependency on technology can be considered borderline addiction? And it’s taking away so much from our lives.

Instead of focusing on doing work that matters, we’re distracted by push notifications. From Social Media updates to email messages, from news to the mundane weather reports. It takes our focus away from what’s important to what’s urgent.

Think about the kinds of projects you could finish but didn’t. The potentials you’re not discovering because you’re too busy looking at other people’s updates. (I’m guilty as charged.)

One thing I’ve found that helped me keep my focus is digital minimalism. It wasn’t easy at first since there are Social Media platforms I love so much (YouTube, ahem!). But once I practiced what I learned, not only did my productivity shoot up…

The fulfillment and happiness I felt after doing work that matters to me skyrocketed. So allow me to walk you through how digital minimalism made a difference in my life.

What Is Digital Minimalism?

Digital minimalism is a concept Author and Georgetown Professor, Cal Newport, introduced. Here’s the official definition of the philosophy according to the author himself:

“A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities. Activities that strongly support things you value. And then happily miss out on everything else.”

Basically, it’s applying the general concept of minimalism to technology use. It advocates being intentional. Making sure that the use of technology adds value to your life.

I think that’s a foundational philosophy any essentialist must adopt. It’s pruning away the use of technology so you become laser-focused. Everything in your phone has a purpose and adds value to you as a person. In shorter terms, it’s less but a better digital lifestyle.

  • Lesser screen time, but a better experience
  • Lesser apps, but better social connections
  • And lesser distractions, but better interactions

What Is Digital Clutter?

Digital clutter is things that you store in digital devices that don’t bring you any kind of value. It’s just there just because. And it’s filling up space in your device that either causes more distraction or slows down your tech. In the end, it eats your time and precious attention.

Although turning lots of our things into digital copies is great, you need to be careful. Those physical notes that you digitize can turn into clutter that gathers digital cobwebs if you’re not careful. Clutter is clutter – whether physical, mental, or digital. The best way to deal with it is by reducing things back to what’s essential.

Now, digital minimalism isn’t for everybody. Some people get value from the interactions they make on Social Media. If you’re one of those, then it’s good for you. Don’t waste your time reading any further because this isn’t for you.

But if you feel like you’re missing out on a lot because you’re wasting too much time on gadgets, then this is for you. Read on, take a simple concept, and apply it to your life. I promise it’s going to change your life for the better.

Benefits Of Digital Minimalism

Of course, digital minimalism isn’t just a fad. Now that we’re living a digital lifestyle, being a digital minimalist is here to stay. Why? Because you’ll get tons of benefits from decluttering your digital workspaces. We’ll talk more about this later, but for now, let’s explore the benefits you’ll get.

More Time To Do Things That Matter

Removing clutter from your devices gives you more time to focus on things that matter most. In late 2017, Cal Newport did a Digital Declutter Experiment. He invited people on his mailing list to join and was expecting about 40 to 50 people who wanted to sign up.

He was overwhelmed by the number of responses he got – more than 1,600 people. It was so big that it even got featured in The New York Times. Anyway, from that experiment, people sent him feedback. Here are some examples:

  • An engineer named James realized that most information he gets from social media is useless. He returned to his old hobby of playing chess. Then he became an enthusiast of architectural Lego kits.
  • An IT professional named Andy noted that he typically reads 3 – 5 books a year. Free from the time sink of social media, he’s on track to finish 50 books in 2018.
  • A Ph.D. candidate named Alma described the experience as “liberating.” Her mind began “working all the time,” but on things that were important to her. It wasn’t taken by news about “celebrities and their diets and workouts.” Among other benefits, she was able to spend more time with her children. And at night, she became more productive by reading research papers.

Now, these are just some of the responses. But from there, you can see a trend in the benefits that digital minimalism offers: more free time. The participants recouped their time and spent it more on things that really matter to them.

If you want to read Cal Newport’s full experiment, click on this article.

Lesser Stress

This is by far, one of the biggest and best benefits of practicing digital minimalism. A lot of people are stressed out to their wits’ end with all that’s happening in the world today. And a big source of that stress is the undisciplined and compulsive use of social media. This stress often leads to more social media addiction.

By deciding to be a digital minimalist (or at least practice it), it can lower feelings of overwhelm and even anxiety. In fact, in 2018, there was a study done by the University of Pennsylvania about the connection between social media and stress. They found out that reducing your use of SNS to 30 minutes a day resulted in significant reduction of:

  • Stress levels
  • Fear of Missing Out
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems

Now, I’m not saying that you should stop using Social Media altogether. That’s not the point. What I’m saying is that you should be mindful of using it and the effects it has on you. If it stresses you out and takes your attention away from what’s essential, then put it down. Try it for a day or a week – then see how it affects your mental health.

Digital minimalism isn’t only applicable to your Social Media consumption. It extends to how you use your devices. Email is a big example of that. Stop checking your email or other messaging apps every now and then, especially if it doesn’t serve you. Remember, you’re not obligated to reply to every single message you receive.

Fewer Distractions

We’ve become a generation that is addicted to distraction. We’re using our phones to “not feel bored” or to kill time whenever we’re doing something. And it’s prevented us from accomplishing things that would’ve given us fulfillment.

Here are some mind-blowing facts about how we use our phones:

  1. The average smartphone user touches their phone 2,617 times in a day. For heavy users, that doubles to 5,427 touches.
  2. Average users spend 145 minutes per day using their smartphones. That’s 2 hours and 25 minutes per day or 882 hours per year. Which is equal to 110 8-hour working days.
  3. For heavy users, that’s 225 minutes per day. That’s 3 hours and 45 minutes per day or approximately 1,369 hours per year. Which is equal to 171 8-hour working days. If you’re earning $30 per hour, you would’ve earned an extra $41,070.
  4. In 2018, an average Gen Z smartphone user unlocks his/her phone 79 times per day. For millennials, it’s 63 times a day. Gen-Xers unlock theirs 43 times per day. And Baby Boomers an average of 30. And this was before TikTok boomed. I’m not surprised if these numbers increased by at least 10%.
  5. There’s an official name for the fear of not having your phone or losing the signal. It’s called “nomophobia.” And did you know that there’s also a name for when you’re with friends and they constantly check on their phone? It’s called “phubbing” which is short for phone snubbing.

Cell Phone Addiction Is A Real Thing

Phone addiction has become a real thing. That’s according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 or DSM 5 – the Bible of every Psychologist. Here are some symptoms of phone addiction:

  • A need to use the cell phone more and more often to achieve the same desired effect.
  • Persistent failed attempts to use cell phones less often.
  • Preoccupation with smartphone use.
  • Turns to cell phones when experiencing unwanted feelings such as anxiety or depression.
  • Excessive use is characterized by loss of sense of time.
  • Has put a relationship or job at risk due to excessive cell phone use.
  • Tolerance.
    • Need for the newest cell phone, more applications, or increased use.
  • Withdrawal, when cell phone or network is unreachable.
    • Anger.
    • Tension.
    • Depression.
    • Irritability.
    • Restlessness.

Now, don’t go ahead and self-diagnose yourself as a phone addict. The reason why I shared this information is so that I can help you become more aware of how you’re using your devices. And how it’s affecting your mental health.

Of course, there are tests you need to undergo to consider yourself an addict. 

How Do You Simplify Your Digital Life?

Here are some steps that you can start doing right now to practice digital minimalism.

Step 1: Realize That Clutter Is Costly

Life is full of tradeoffs. When you decide to say yes to things, you inevitably say no to a thousand other things. That’s true for clutter as it is with everything.

When you decide to keep clutter in your life – whether physical, mental, or digital – you’re trading things off. You’re exchanging time, money, and effort in keeping those clutters in your life.

For example, if you decide to keep using Facebook for hours on end, you’re saying “No” to doing more productive things. The question you should always ask yourself is, “Does using Facebook bring value to your life? And if it is, is the value enough for you to pay it with more of your time and attention?”

I’m not demonizing Social Networking Sites. Heck, I use it to promote my business. So we’re not taking its usefulness to the stand. What we’re trying to cross-examine here, as in everything we do in life, is if it brings you value. If it does and you feel like you’re happy with the return on investment, then by all means use it.

But on the other hand, if you feel like it’s robbing you away from what’s important, then reevaluate its place.

Step 2: Choose A Tech You Want To Start With

Once you understand that clutter costs you something, it’s time to choose a tech you want to start decluttering. Is it your computer, your laptop, your phone, tablet? Focus on decluttering one thing first. The minute you get a hang of it and have your own systems of evaluation in place, that’s when we’ll expand.

I just want to get this out of the way. What I’m sharing with you here is what I found that works for me and for other people I know. But since you have a different set of core values than me, I encourage you to create your own evaluation system. It’s how you reflect on the things that are really important to you.

Anyway, if you have no idea then follow these steps first. It’s going to help you declutter your digital life.

Step 3: Identify The Apps or Digital Assets That Give Value To Your Life

Get your device and ask yourself these questions:

  • What apps are you using most of the time? 
  • Which of them gives you the most pleasure whenever you’re using it leisurely? 
  • What apps do you rarely use but can’t uninstall because you think that you’re going to need it?

When it comes to pictures or images you have, look at each one and evaluate how it makes you feel. Does that picture remind you of something good? Or does it put you in a state of loneliness, frustration, or shame?

Also, if you have duplicate images on your phone, it’s time to delete those. It’s taking up digital space for things that you already have. You can use those spaces to create more meaningful memories and take more pleasing pictures.

If you want to backup your photos, I suggest storing them in Google Photos. It’s free if you already have a Gmail Account and it does a good job of keeping your photos high quality.

Step 4: Organize Your Apps and Files

Once you identify and delete some apps or programs, it’s time to organize your files. You can choose to organize it by type, name, or use.

I keep my files organized by use. For example, I have a folder for things I create for each of my clients. All the assets, strategies, and things I need that are related to what I do with them, I store it there. The same goes for the things I create for my own business. This way, I’m able to find things that I need faster.

One of the things I’ve had a hard time organizing, though, is my ebooks. In every device I have, I save tons of eBooks. In fact, those take the biggest chunk of my digital storage. So what I do is separate the eBooks I’ve read and not read. Then I delete the things eBooks I haven’t read or haven’t touched since I downloaded it.

After doing that, it’s time to organize your wallpaper, desktop, and phone home. I suggest you create an inspiring wallpaper that will remind you of what’s important for you. It doesn’t have to be minimalist like what you see in others. It does, however, have to inspire you to use your device in a purposeful manner.

Step 5: Rinse And Repeat

After you finish decluttering one device, it’s time to go to the next one. Choose another device and go through steps 3 and 4. Basically just rinsing and repeating what you did previously. This helps in building your momentum since over time, you’ll get better at decluttering.

That’s it! Those are the things that will help you be a digital minimalist and keep your digital life checked. I hope you learned something!

Live an inspired life,

Jeric Timbang