Do a digital declutter

I just finished reading Cal Newport’s latest book, Digital Minimalism. The book focuses on the art of knowing how much is just enough when it comes to our use of personal technologies. The book provides pointers on how to remain focused in an increasingly noisy world.

Newport suggests that simple resolutions to whittle down the time we spend online isn’t enough. Instead, he recommends a 30 day digital declutter, suggesting that “to reestablish control, we need to move beyond tweaks and instead rebuild our relationship with technology from scratch.”

A month-long “digital declutter” includes a break from “optional technologies” and an embrace of activities and behaviors that we find meaningful. When the challenge is complete, technologies should be introduced intentionally by asking how they support our values and whether they’re the best way to do so.

Learn more about digital clutter in this interview with Newport on The Minimalists podcast.

Getting started

In the style of Marie Kondo, Newport suggests that decluttering can be a powerful activity:

To undergo the 30-day digital declutter, start by removing all optional apps from your phone. This means uninstalling all social media apps (i.e. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat), and not seeking entertainment online (Netflix, YouTube). This also means no “zombie scrolling” or mindless hopping from site to site. This may trigger episodes of FOMO (fear of missing out) and a need to embrace JOMO (joy of missing out).

Much like decluttering your house, this lifestyle experiment provides a reset for your digital life by clearing away distracting tools and compulsive habits that may have accumulated haphazardly over time and replacing them with a much more intentional set of behaviors, optimized, in proper minimalist fashion, to support your values instead of subverting them.

If your job involves being online, and using technologies isn’t optional, you can still complete a digital declutter by removing or avoiding these technologies after-hours and on weekends.

In his book (Digital Minimalism), Newport suggests you will found time to discover new things or rediscover former passions. Perhaps you’ll identify opportunities to become a better version of you. A better parent, better spouse, better artist, and just a better person.

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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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