Check out today’s guide to learn what is digital minimalism, why it is important and how it can help you live a happier, healthier and more successful life. Audio version available here.
I have a feeling that you know about minimalism. You know what it is, or at the very least you have a pretty good idea about it. When you think about minimalism, you think about decluttering and having less things at your home – and that is the general idea. It’s about having less. Lately minimalism has become very popular, quite trendy even, because of its many advantages, including reducing stress and promoting peace of mind.
And that’s where digital minimalism comes in.
What is digital minimalism
Here’s the thing – minimalism does not just apply to the things you own, to the material things. the principles of minimalism can also be useful for virtual things, like the number of apps you use on your phone.
Basically, it’s minimalism for the digital things (thus “digital” minimalism). That’s what digital minimalism is all about, it’s about cutting down on your digital things.
Why digital minimalism is important
You’re probably wondering at this point why you should adopt digital minimalism, what’s the point.
Digital information is abundant nowadays thanks to our technical advances. That’s not a bad thing, because the technical advances have brought us lots of benefits. A result of that also is the abundance of information: there’s a huge amount of information now at our fingertips, and there are lots of diff ways to access and use all that digital information – the main device of course being our smartphones.
But our smartphones are not the only way for accessing information – we have laptops, tablets, desktop computers, ebook readers, smart TVs, smart watches, and even smart cars.
Then there is the more recent entry, smart home devices like Alexa and Google Home. They all, each and every one of them, add to the amount of digital information you get, and use. When you really take count, you’ll see that there’s a huge amount of information that you’re exposed to every day.
From a variety of different sources.
And they all take up your attention, and energy.
Sometimes it can even (and does) become an addiction – digital addiction.
The more devices and apps and information sources you add to your life, the more demands you have on your attention and energy. It’s a simple equation: the more devices and apps you have, the more information you will need to pay attention to, and the more demand there will be on your energy and your focus.
Are you running on a full tank, or empty?
I’m going to use an analogy to help you better understand the impact all the information has on you. Think of your mental energy reserve like a car’s fuel tank. Let’s say you had a good night’s sleep – you are well rested and feel great when you wake up. You wake up in the morning with a full tank. But then as soon as you wake up maybe you check the news on your phone or TV, maybe you browse through your social media, maybe you check your emails and spend some time there.
All these activities, they all use your mental energy, so your full tank is not full any more after these seemingly small and insignificant things that you did – and that’s what happens in just the first half an hour or hour of your day, all that happens before you even start your day.
Then after that maybe you watch the news or something else or read something while getting ready for work. Maybe you spend more time absorbing information from your devices and apps while you have your coffee.
This cycle goes on and on and on until you fall asleep.
This vicious cycle, at the end of the, is a key reason why we experience information overload.
Do you need to shut off all digital information?
That’s not the issue.
It becomes an issue when the barrage of information is non stop. It becomes a problem when there’s constantly some app or some other form of digital information vying for your attention and using your mental energy.
It becomes an issue when you have to spend a lot of time sorting through things that actually are avoidable, and by and large unimportant and insignificant.
You see, everything that needs your focus uses your mental energy, your fuel if you will – and when you use that too much your metaphorical car will stop running, because you’ll run out of gas. You’ve experienced this yourself – you know those days when you felt drained half way through the day?
That’s what happened, you used up your fuel reserve in some way, and the digital information diet of yours very, very likely had a big role to play in that.
The irony of our digital information diet
The irony is, most of these information that we often get swept away by and use up our valuable energy and time on, the lion’s share of it isn’t actually important.
You don’t need a lot of apps on your phone.
You don’t need to use multiple devices at the same time.
They are not essential, and they are certainly not important.
Most of all, they have an adverse impact on your mental energy level. But that’s not where it stops, because they have a major impact on another important part of your life – your mental health.
Impact on mental health and physical energy
Your mental health and wellbeing is important for you functioning well, and it massively much dependent on your mental energy reserve.
This is why it’s challenging to feel happy when you feel drained. And vice versa.
So your mental energy reserve has a huge impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
But that’s not all – your physical energy is also directly connected to your mental energy, which is why you struggle to work when you are feel mentally drained, or stressed, or have pressing things on your mind, or have a lot of things to focus on.
Having too many things to spend your mental energy on is just not a good thing for you. It really is not, and I hope by now that point is clear to you.
So do yourself a favour – adopt digital minimalism.
Do it for your mental health.
Do it to be happier.
Do it to have more peace of mind, not to mention to have more time to focus on the important things.
How to get started with digital minimalism
So how can you adopt digital minimalism?
Here are four things you can do today to get started:
Get rid of the apps you don’t really use or need. Research has found that the average person has around 60 to 90 apps on their phone, but the majority only use between 3-10 apps. So it is in your best interest to figure out the apps that you really need (or want), and then get rid of the rest.
Cut down on your time on social media. It’s been proven that social media exposure can negatively impact your happiness levels, and can even cause higher levels of stress and anxiety. That’s completely unnecessary. It’s like you are volunteering to spend your valuable time and energy doing something that makes you unhappy! So reduce the amount of time you spend browsing through social media.
If you want to be a bit tough on yourself, you can limit yourself to checking your Facebook and others once a month or so. I roughly check mine about once every 3 months or so, and I know people who don’t have any social media accounts at all, so cutting down is very doable.
That said, I’m not expecting you to go cold turkey, and certainly not expecting you to go completely off the grid.
You don’t need to do anything drastic, take baby steps. Cut down the amount of time you spend gradually, so that over time you won’t spend more than 5 to 10 minutes a day browsing through your social media.
To make this easier on yourself, you can get an app to help you restrict the amount of time you spend on your social media and other sites. There are several apps that track and even restrict the time you spend on social media and other sites based on your preferences, so give them a shot.
Cut down on your email subscriptions. Our mental focus has limits, and multitasking is a myth. So the less emails you have to check, the less demands you have on your focus, and the more you can use your energy to focus on the things that truly matter.
Stop being glued to your phone all the time. Research in the USA has found that the average person checks their phone every 12 minutes.
But that’s not the worst because about 10% of the people check their phones once every four minutes.
Yes you heard me right, every 4 minutes!
I really hope you are not one of those 10%. But even if you are, or if you notice that you do tend to check your phone several times in an hour, work to limit that. Remember, whatever is going on will be there even after an hour, and more. The world will not end if you don’t check your phone for half a day, or even longer.
Give it a try, limit yourself to checking your phone only once an hour, and then work to gradually increase the amount of time you go between checking your phone.
Not only is limiting your phone usage good for your mental energy levels, it will also help improve your productivity and happiness, and will even a positive impact on your mental health and happiness. That certainly makes it worth cutting down on how much you check your phone won’t you say?
At the end of the day here is what you need to realise – your mental energy has limits. So it is smart to conserve your mental energy for the important things in life, including looking after yourself. You don’t want to find yourself with an empty tank half way through the day while you haven’t even gotten through the important things.
Become aware of what is using up your mental energy, and use it wisely.
Less is more not just for the things you own physically, but digitally too. Maybe more so. So cut down on the apps and social media and all the other sources of information that take up your mental energy.
Practice digital minimalism.
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