After a 30-day digital declutter, I became a digital minimalist and it changed my life
Author note: Hunter Kern is senior contributor at the Agenda and works as a sales director by day. His money tips and productivity hacks have been featured on Business Insider, LifeHacker, AOL and Mint.
Hoarding is gross.
And while your apartment may not be covered in cat pee, discolored newspapers or old boxes painted in dust, your life is likely overwhelmed with digital clutter. I’m looking at you, girl with one thousand unread emails and dude who addictively checks his phone at every red light.
Modern technology has made our lives better in so many ways, but it has come with some negative consequences. The key is to extract as much value from these tools as possible while minimizing the distraction and downside risk.
If you’re into the idea of digital minimalism, here’s seven things you should try immediately.
(1) Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails
Being bombarded with so many messages, notifications and content each day absolutely crushes your creativity, focus and productivity.
Daily deals. Weekly updates. They all add up to be an unnecessary time-suck.
Unroll.me will show you every email list you’re subscribed to and allows you to unsubscribe from any of them with one simple click.
When I took this first step, I was amazed to find that I was on 323 email lists! I was able to trim this down to 9.
Said differently, 314 companies have been spamming me with emails trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. At some point, I gave some of these companies my email. Maybe I bought something from them 3 years ago and they emailed me a receipt. I’m looking at you, Bombas. I don’t need to have a relationship with my sock company.
(2) Send unknown callers straight to your voicemail
Robo-calls have gotten out-of-hand. Thankfully, Apple’s iOS 13 update includes new call silencing feature. Calls from unknown numbers will be silenced, sent to voicemail and displayed on the Recents list. Incoming calls will continue to ring from people in your contacts, recent outgoing calls and Siri suggestions.
You can enable it by going to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers.
(3) Limit yourself to one or two social media apps
With new platforms gaining traction every few years (i.e. Tik Tok), it’s tempting to download the latest app while maintaining the old ones. Eventually, though, each platform starts to look alike with overlapping features and you start to waste your time sifting through copy cat content delivered in slightly different ways.
The book, Digital Minimalism, recommends cutting ties with all social media for 30 days and then adding back whatever you miss. It’s important to find the one or two that provides the most value to you and ditch the rest.
For me, I deleted Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat and now only pay attention to Instagram to follow friends and Linkedin professionally.
(4) Unfollow people
Stop following people you don’t know, don’t care about or don’t make you happy.
The interwebz are full of hilarious nonsense and, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to spend hours upon hours of scrolling through memes, political rants, outfit inspirations, Crossfit videos, former Bachelorette contestants promoting skin care products and the like.
Barstool Sports, F Jerry and The Fat Jewish are all good for a laugh, but they had to go.
(5) Organize your passwords
Between work, finances, social media, music and whatever hobbies you have – we’re all having to remember 50 separate accounts and logins. As a couple or a parent, this can quickly double or quadruple.
For $4/month, LastPass or 1Password allows you to easily manage all of your accounts and provides quick access to the confidential information that you need. Kid’s social security numbers, pictures of your birth certificate – it can manage it all.
(6) Upload your photos into the cloud
I don’t know how much of my childhood I actually remember versus I’m just reminded of something because there was a picture of it.
I think it’s awesome that we, as old people, or our kids, as adults, will have near perfect recollection of events that took place decades earlier; but, this is only possible if you have a good system in place for storing photos in an organized way.
My wife and I regularly upload our photos to Shutterfly and then create photo book to recap each year.
(7) Create to do lists
Once you start to minimize all of the distractions in your life, you can start to be intentional with your newly-found free time.
To maximize my productivity and keep myself on track, I create separate To Do lists via Wunderlist. Things to fix around the house. Work stuff. Books to read. Songs you want to remember to download. My favorite list is the joint grocery list where I can alert Bae that I’m running low on ice cream.
Becoming a digital minimalist has change my life. I have more time. I get more value from technology. I feel like I’m finally playing offense instead of defense.
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