Living minimally online: How to reduce the mental fog

Digital stimulation is all around us. No, not that kind — get your mind out of the gutter.

Every day we are being exposed to an increasing number of online messages. With social media becoming more ingrained into our everyday lives, coupled with a shift to ‘always on’ with mobile technology, we are opening a world where we are constantly bombarded with emails, tweets, pokes and likes. The bad news is, it’s affecting our mental health and ability.

The mental fog that comes about because of this increased constant stimulation has negative effects on the way we work and communicate. Fear not, there are ways you can declutter your online life making way for a happier, more productive digital life.

Here are 6 ways on how to live minimally online to not only reduce the mental fog that we experience online, but to also be more productive and content in our online lives:

1. Say Goodbye to bookmarks

We get so ingrained in our daily internet habits that we can almost do it in our sleep. Bookmarks are a handy way to get quick access to the content you want, but after a while they just act as an easy way to become stimulated.

By removing bookmarks of your ‘must-haves’ you’re building a digital wall so that every action you do online has a purpose. Otherwise, we risk getting lost in the maze of the web, searching for ‘that thing I need to do.’

2. Turn off desktop notifications

It’s no wonder FOMO has been added to the Oxford English dictionary. Websites play on this fear by prompting browsers to ‘never miss an update!’. Understandably, there are ulterior motives, that the healthier the website’s traffic is the more potential revenue they receive from advertisers.

Desktop notifications distract from the task at hand and are one of the major reasons why we are seeing a decrease in workplace productivity. Shut off the emails, Facebook and pings and you’ll find you’re not actually missing anything important. If you’re worried about the effects on your job, here are some tips.

3. “Do I really need to do this?”

Ask yourself the question, “is this adding any purpose?”. There’s no harm in browsing online, but it’s important to understand whether it’s leading to an end goal (research for a new car, finding a new restaurant) or whether it’s just filling a void that needs filling. We often catch ourselves aimlessly browsing with no intent or purpose, suddenly realising its AM hours and we’re in no better state than before. Reddit, I’m looking at you…

If the answer is no, pick up a book or call a friend. You’ll be in a better spot for it.

4. Identify what’s sucking all your time

There are awesome apps and extensions which track how you spend your time online and on your phone. Checky, available on iPhone and Android shows just how obsessed you are with your phone by keeping count of the times you check your phone. It’s a great way to see just how needy we are for a distraction, but a cool way to challenge yourself to resist. Beware, it’s harder than it sounds.

Chrome extension timeStats, tracks website stats and helps you to collects stats of the sites you visit. Better yet, it allows you to set limits on websites so you can only access a certain amount of time during that day. Beyond that set time, timeStats will automatically block it.

5. UNSUBSCRIBE

Over time it’s easy to accumulate clutter, especially in our inbox. Set aside 15 minutes once every couple of months to strip your inbox of all the unnecessary crap; e-newsletters, mailing lists, updates and the like. You’ll soon find that whatever you do receive is of purpose and welcomed.

6. Put it in your Pocket for later

Pocket is an amazing app which lets you saves articles to read later. It’s an easy way to not miss out on the content you’ve discovered, while keeping at the task at hand. Top tip: Save them up for your down time (weekend or daily commute), and try and reading them in a single session, like you would a newspaper. Otherwise, you’ll risk piling up articles that you’ll struggle to get through in a lifetime.

As always, the ideas are easy but the execution is difficult. It’s hard to change our habits as they are so ingrained, but start small and branch out. You’ll soon find the brain fog has subsided, and your focus and memory recall are on the up and up.