This is a relatively new concept for me and something that I hadn’t thought about till recently when it was pointed out how much time I spent on my phone. It was at that point I decided to pay a little more attention to the screen time notification that popped up once a week (which I usually close straight away). When I first started looking in more detail at how much time I was spending on my phone I was shocked as it didn’t feel like I was on it all that much. It’s amazing how you can get consumed by your phone without realising it, not being present and this is not something I want to be. So I decided that I was going set myself the goal to reduce my screen time to spend more quality time with my daughter and family ( check out my 2021 goals post).
I already had a good idea of the sort of things that I needed to do like cut down my Facebook and Instagram use as I would just sit mindlessly strolling but I wanted to investigate other things I could do. I started looking at YouTube Video about how other people have organised their phones to try and avoid distractions. From those videos there were a few things that I implemented straight away.
- Only have apps that I use on a daily basis on my Home Screen.
- Turned of notifications from my news apps
- Deleted all bar one news app
- Moved all the other app into folders on the second page on my phone
I think out of the four things that I looked at the two that had the biggest effect was turning of notifications and removing news apps. I found that every time a notification came through I would have to check it straight away which ultimately would lead to my scrolling through other stories and onto other apps. If my phone is not binging with notification I was less likely to get distracted. I think that this is something that I am going to do with other notification so going onto do not disturb, I think this would be very beneficial during the day whilst I am working. The only issues that I have with this is that I do need to be contactable in case there is an issue at nursery with my daughter, however I have just found out that you can allow certain contacts to still come through if they are trying to get hold of you. So there really is no excuse for going onto do not disturb for periods of time to allow you to focus on work, social or family time.
Whilst watching several YouTube video I found out about Cal Newport and his book on Digital Minimalism so I decided to download it and give it a read. I found it a very interesting read as it talked about the effect of how we use technology in our life’s and that digital minimalism was not about removing technology like our phones completely but to be more intentional about how we use them. Technology should be something that adds values, its about asking yourself if I didn’t have this app on my phone would it impact me, would I miss it?
The book highlights that in our society today we are always connected and that as soon as we find ourselves not doing something we reach for our phones to fill the void. We have lost the concept of solitude, we don’t give ourselves time alone with our thoughts or to process those thoughts. To let out minds be free of inputs from outside source such as social media or listening to Podcasts. It also provides some techniques for digital decluttering and the different approaches you can take from removing social media apps altogether to time blocking when you access these apps. There was one story where one person replaced their smartphone for a flip phone that only made calls and sent text messages. I am not sure I could go to this extreme but after a well they didn’t miss have access to the internet or all the apps and found their life truly benefited from it. I think it’s about experimenting and working out what works for you.
I certainly took a lot from this book and it made me think more about being more intentional around what apps I have on my phone. This is why I only have a handful of apps on my Home Screen and as mentioned earlier these are key apps such a messaging, notes, and my main banking app. I do have Facebook and Instagram on there as well but this may change as look to review the apps that are on my phone. My second screen I have to say is a mess and I want to start looking at being far more intentional about what I download. I am going to be brutal and if I have used an app for a month or remember when I last did I am going to delete it.
I know that a lot of my screen time is consumed by social media so I like the idea of putting a time block on when to check them. I am also thinking of turning off notification on these apps as I did with my new apps. It may be that you have an hour in the evening when you catch up on the news, social media or blogs that you follow. This can then give you space to fill the time that you would have been spending on your phone with some that Cal Newport refers to as high quality leisure or just allowing yourself to just be bored for a bit. Rather than engaging with your phone you can engage with your family and friends or other activities that you have an interest in that you think you don’t have time for.
The book certainly made me think more about the concept of solitude. Since working from home due to the pandemic I have been walking my dog Derek on my lunch breaks but even then I would be checking my phone, listening to an audiobook or podcast. So now I don’t listen to anything my AirPods stays at home and I only look at my phone if I really need to. I do think that this has been beneficial to me as I find that it allows me to think or go through my thoughts and ideas, or sometimes I just try and listen to silence of the countryside. I always feel better for this time and find that I start the afternoon with a clear head and in more productive place.
One of the other things that I do these days is that I have scheduled my bedtime in the health app under sleep. I set my bedtime for 10:30 and my wind down time for 45 minutes before bedtime, this means that all notification are off which is great as it does mean that I don’t tend to look at my phone from that point till the morning where my wake uptime is set for 07:00. I suppose this is not really digital minimalism but is generally just good digital hygiene and hopefully helps with sleep as I generally don’t have any blue light from an hour before bed.
So what I am going to do next? I have a couple things that I want to try and implement
- Reduce the number of apps on my phone – be brutal and only have apps that add value.
- Time block time for social media apps – try and kept checking these apps to 45min a day.
I don’t see this as something that will happen overnight and although I have managed to reduce the amount of time I spend on my phone its still fairly high. I am hoping that finding more techniques and implementing the above will help me in my journey to digital minimalism.