Attention-grabbing technology holds us back from living a minimal and mindful lifestyle — so how do we combat this digital distraction and focus on the things that matter? A minimalist approach to engaging with the essentials in our lives is key in orchestrating a healthy relationship to technology.
As we discussed in our last blog post, minimalism can lead to greater happiness, health and overall wellbeing. But even though living minimally has huge benefits, many people disregard it because they don’t understand what it can do for them. Particularly for those of us who rely heavily on technology for day-to-day communication or work — minimalism seems impossible. The question for many people stands:
Can you love technology and still be a minimalist?
The Minimalist Lifestyle of Digital Natives
Millennials, or digital natives, are perhaps the most obvious demographic that is interested in adopting a minimalist lifestyle. With over 78% of millennials preferring to pay for experiences over products, it makes sense that they feel the pull towards less stuff for better quality of life. Having grown up in the smartphone era, they also tend to be in the earliest technology adopter group.
These two things appear to be in total contrast. Minimalism is often confused with the idea that you need to count your personal possessions or travel the world with only a backpack. In reality, there are a million different ways to engage with a more minimalist lifestyle — and a lot of ways that technology can help you do it.
In this blog post, we dive into the important role that technology plays in our happiness — and how you can adopt a healthier, more minimalist lifestyle without getting rid of all your tech.
Digital Distraction Holds Us Back
The main reason that technology holds us back from living minimally and more mindfully is that unfortunately most tech products are built with a single goal — to grab your attention and distract you.
This sounds harsh at first, but when you consider the effect of small design decisions — like the automatic playing of the next episode in a series on Netflix — you begin to realize that there are hundreds of examples of technology profiting from grabbing your attention.
These design decisions, coupled with the constant release of products, updates and new versions, are a natural enemy to minimal living. Minimalism is about distilling down the essential and meaningful things in your life — whether those be relationships, possessions, how you spend your time or even what you read.
All non-essentials can be left behind, allowing more time and focus for the things that really bring you value. Much of our most used technology is non-essential.
So how do we combat this digital distraction and protect our attention so that we can focus on things that matter? It’s a tricky question…
Building Technology to Support Well-Being
Spoiler alert: we don’t have the one-size-fits-all answer — because it doesn’t exist. Everyone has different habits and requirements in their lives. However, there are useful steps you can take to be more aware about your technology, while still getting the most important benefits. To get started, we suggest taking these first few steps:
1. Define Your Essentials
Minimalism is about distilling down the essential things that provide value to you. Which items and activities provide the most value in your life, make you feel good and give you energy? If listening to music every day or reading the newspaper improves your life, these are things you should consider essential and pro-actively spend quality time on them.
2. Design Personal and Healthy Habits Around the Essentials
The next step is to consider how you actually engage in those activities. Do you use Spotify, only to be taken down a rabbit hole of notifications, e-mails and social media posts while selecting a song? Perhaps you shouldn’t use the phone to play your music — or turn off app notifications. It is little things like those, that make a huge difference. We just need to be aware of them.
The key is to orchestrate a situation so that it’s easy to make the right decisions and not get sucked in.
3. Don’t Settle for Distraction
Distraction tends to be the default when it comes to using technology — and avoiding distraction is a constant and uphill battle. Even once you have formed better habits, it’s important to constantly check in and revise your approach. Asking yourself regularly if you are using your time and attention effectively is key. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on us as individuals to create a healthier relationship with technology.
As consumers, we have massive power to demand a more humane approach to technology that lets us live minimal lives–but it is up to each of us to monitor our habits and select companies who create products that care about protecting our focus, relationships and time. That’s why we at Senic are so passionate about building products that put the human and their wellbeing at the center. To learn more about this approach, check out our blog post on Designing for Wellbeing.
Curious about where to find more reading on tech and minimalism? We recommend the following resources. If you’d like to add a resource, please let us know in the comments or send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.