When I think of minimalism, my brain immediately jumps to de-cluttering and having less physical “stuff.” It might mean eliminating articles of clothing from your closet (here’s a checklist for that) or going paperless, etc. What I don’t think about as much, but is equally important, is becoming more minimal with technology and the act of being more minimalistic with using our phones and computers.
Here’s why too much technology is bad for you:
It keeps you from being present
It can stress you out. Brain overload!
It disconnects you from the outside world.
Social media shows you a false reality of other people’s lives
I love me some iPhone and computer time as much as the next millennial, but I think it’s important to disconnect, de-stress, and unplug. Most things are okay in moderation. But when you take something, like technology, and use it excessively, it becomes a problem.
Here are some tips that have helped me become more minimal with technology.
Leave your phone somewhere else
The easiest way to avoid being on your phone? Put it somewhere else. I do this constantly, without even meaning to, and it’s kind of nice. The more often you do this, the more you’ll be able to leave your phone without missing it. If you’re used to having your phone in your hand at all times, it might be a little difficult in the beginning. But over time you’ll develop a habit of learning to be okay without your phone for a period of time. It’s nice to be able to focus on something else for a while without the distraction of your phone buzzing from group texts and such.
Ignore your phone when with family/friends
Again, keep your phone in another room/place if you must. Enjoy the time you have with your family and friends. This is where memories happen. I doubt you have amazing memories from text messages you receive in the same way you do when you’re with the people you love. Turn your phone on silent and enjoy the company you have.
One tab open
It’s beyond difficult for me to keep only one tab open on my computer, but I find that when I force myself to do this, I am insanely productive. I’m currently practicing this while I’m writing this article because I tend to wander off into the Internet world at random when I have multiple tabs. Suddenly it’ll hit me that I have been on Pinterest for an hour and I was in the middle of writing a post. It’s not even intentional procrastination, I just tend to get overly distracted with multiple tabs open. It’s a hard one to do 100% of the time. But try it out once or twice and see how it makes you feel. For me, it was one of the best things I ever did for my productivity level.
Here’s what I do when I’m struggling with using only one tab: I separate my windows out sometimes, so that if I need to keep another tab or two open for whatever reason (and it’s unrelated to my current project), I’ll keep it in a different window and minimize it while I’m working on a separate project. Then, when I’m done with that project, I can close it down, and switch to the next window.
And don’t take your phone with you. Nature is one of the best ways to feel connected with yourself and it’s easily the best way to get some much need peace. You definitely don’t need your phone when you’re surrounded by such real life beauty. Make an effort to do this throughout the week. If you never take walks, do it once a week. If you need to have your phone (in case of an emergency), keep it in your pocket.
Sometimes you can’t help it. You’re juggling way too many things at once, so you resort to multitasking. It’s inevitable that you will have multiple projects with urgent deadlines and I’m not saying that we should only focus on one of them. But I find that the way to be the most productive is to take a “one at a time” approach. Even if you switch back and forth between projects, make sure that you’re fully completing tasks before you switch to the next one. It’s way too distracting to switch back and forth and unfortunately, you’re not putting out your best work when you multitask. Whenever you can, remind yourself to be present in each task. And use the one tab approach to help you with this.
Put on airplane mode or “low battery mode”
My favorite thing to do lately is to keep my iPhone on “Low Power Mode.” It’s a feature on the new iPhones and it allows you to save battery by not allowing apps to run in the background and my favorite part is that it stops emails from updating. I personally have an issue with the constant distraction of my email on my phone and computer. I feel like I must read emails as they come in. I’ve realized lately how bad it is for my productivity, so I have kept my phone on “Low Power Mode” even when I don’t have a low battery. Airplane mode is also a good option, especially when it’s close to bedtime and you’d like to be digital-free before bed. It helps with sleep! Airplane mode will make it so you cannot receive calls, texts, or use wifi or data. It’s the ultimate shut down without having to turn your phone off. This is great for ignoring your phone when you’re with family and friends, as suggested above.
I constantly remove unused apps from my phone and it helps me feel like my mind is clear. I also can’t stand notifications lingering on my phone, so decluttering those gives me peace of mind. It can also be useful to eliminate and clean out your emails. When’s the last time you did that? Make some time each month to declutter. I also constantly unsubscribe to email subscriptions that no longer serve me. I like to use the first of each month as my monthly digital declutter time (and that’s when I change out my phone and computer backgrounds.)
I know that I personally will probably never be perfect at being a true technology minimalist, but I think that implementing the above can help tremendously if you’re currently addicted to your phone and laptop. Let us know any tips you have in addition to these in the comments below!