Why Digital Minimalisation Matters
And how to attain it
While commuting to work every day, I feel the urge to have the coffee (ain’t we all been there?). That’s the first thing where it goes wrong. When something becomes a need, a requirement, it locks us in. We have to have it, which means we start structuring our lives around it. For lots of us, it’s more than just coffee and there’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but soon the requirements for a happy life start piling up. What happens if you can’t have these things — does it make you unhappy or stressed out? What happens when we let go of these needs and just keep them as a “nice-to-have” option? These questions by Leo Babauta awakened me later last year and I am sure, right now, you are thinking about it too.
Minimalization is not about organizing and moving stuff so that you don't see them anymore, the goal is to get rid of them.
That was on our first life. Now, about the second one, the Digital one. How many of you have screens full of icons and notifications? If I am not wrong, almost all of you. And how do you feel about it? You probably have no idea because you haven’t thought about it for even once, right? wrong. You know that feeling. You know your urge to respond to every message or check email every 15 minutes isn’t right. You just don’t know how to deal with it. How do I know? I’ve been there. That’s why Digital Minimalization matters. To set you free from things that no longer serve a purpose in your life or if I may, your digital life.
In this era of smartphone addiction, constant notifications, stupid adverts, and unnecessary information, many people are seeking ways to disengage with gadgets designed to increase our screen time. If you are one of them, you are in for a treat. In this article, I am sharing what I have done to minimalize my digital life. Don’t feel you have to do exactly what I have done. Go at your pace, decluttering things one by one. The only pieces of technology I was obsessed with was my phone and my personal computer. Here is how they look now,
Screen 1 —
I spend minimum time on my phone now. Phone, iBooks (I’m a reader), and settings on the home page. On the second page (where I don’t recall going since forever), there are Apple stock apps that I can’t delete and some basic utility apps like Maps, Finance, and Transport. I don’t have games or social media apps on my phone. They are the ones that distract the most. Delete them. Safari, my default browser, only has two bookmarks and nothing else.
More importantly, I believe in achieving inbox zero. Not just email notifications, but also seeing emails in inbox might cause you anxiety or put you in stress. Inbox zero is deleting or achieving all emails so that you don’t see them in your inbox and you can sit back relaxing and thinking you don’t have anything to do. One other thing I’ve done is disabling all the notifications, except for the calls of course. That’s it.
Screen 2 —
A computer is a necessity these days. Or is it? I don’t know for everyone, but for a majority of people, it is. Talking about me, I nearly spend 5 to 6 hours on my computer every single day. Hence, I don’t want it to be a monster consuming all my time on futile things. Rather, I’d like it to work for me in a way that those 5 hours are the most productive ones.
I am on Ubuntu and this is what my desktop looks like. I don’t like icons/shortcuts on my home screen. I never did. They just don’t fit in. Also having too many applications feels like I have a lot to do. That’s why I only have a browser and an editor/IDE on my home screen. And if you are wondering how I navigate or open folders without icons, I use shortcuts. They are faster than you think (you don’t have to reach out to your trackpad every time), and more importantly, removing icons and using shortcuts creates a distraction-free desktop, which will help you focus on what’s important. For example, I use
ctrl + space shortcut (I’ve set it from the settings) to maximize the window to full-screen mode, for each application. It works pretty well. Look at my Chrome, isn’t it beautiful? This minimal new tab is an extension and is available on the chrome web store.
We, including me, all check emails constantly. Yet no one has changed the world by just checking the emails. So what you should do instead is to treat it as a task for the day. Check one time in the morning and before leaving work or if you are home, in the evening. Another possible solution is saying yourself “No emails before 11:00” or “No emails after 18:00”, that way you are more focused on other things and not just your computer or phone.
Also, a lot of people around me receive dozens of spam emails every day. How do you guys even tolerate that? I couldn’t. This service called unroll.me helped me to unsubscribe unnecessary subscriptions and remove spammers permanently. Now I can die in peace. No, seriously.
But before I go,
This is not a one-time thing. Don’t go “Yeah I am gonna do it, all today, no more distractions”, No, that’s a bad move. It is easy to declutter your digital life in one big swoop and then immediately start collecting digital junk again. Digital Minimalization is not a thing, it is a process. A process, if followed wisely, that will ultimately lead to a happy life. Henry Thoreau once said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” And I think he is damn right. It took me good two months to get there. I hope you too attain it.