Digital Declutter Challenge in Review

Last week my digital declutter challenge was officially over. In this post I will share with you my insights about this experiement and how I spent the new free time I had.

As the challenge progressed a lot changed in my rules, they actually became tougher. By the mid of the month I announced on instagram that I removed Netflix from my phone, and would only watch it on TV in social situations or as quality time with my husband. Those limited 10 minutes of streaming shows on the phone as per my original rule were not worth it anymore. The pain of the interruption of entertainment outweighed its pleasure. Now, when I watch my shows on TV, it feels way more intentional, therefore more enjoyable and truly entertaining. Plus, streaming shows has become more inconvenient because I can’t watch any while the kids are still awake, so it is now a very limited window that is not one click away as it used to. Inconvenience is a secret to getting rid of negative habits and it definitely curbed this tendency of mine.

During this challenge I generally committed to my whatsapp rule of 30 minutes per day and none after 7pm. The evening rule was not easy to apply whenever I had an outing where we confirmed time and locations of meetup so I think that is ok. The rule was easier to apply after I turned off whatsapp notifications, a highly recommended strategy. Funny thing is that I used to have so many unread whatsapp messages before this month, but now I have none as it’s practically the only app left with connection to the outside world. I also recommend using whatsapp web at work which makes the experience quick to the point and less distracting.

In the last week of the challenge, I uninstalled instagram as a last tweak to my rules, thus removing the 10 minutes allowance I enjoyed during the month. To my dislike, It turned out to be too hard in the first couple of days. I still had the compulsive habit of looking for instagram as a quick way to “feel connected” which I thought I got rid of by reducing my scrolling/story checking to 10 minutes. Not true. It turns out that I scattered using those 10 minutes throughout the day so the habit was not vanquished. What I should have done instead is to specify a certain time of day to check instagram during the challenge, not just limit it for 10 minutes to be consumed whenever I wanted. Interesting indeed, no?

I managed to unsubscribe to a lot of noisy commercial emails in my personal email and that way I was able to see the important content I pre-subscribed to and overcome my FOMO by hitting unsubscribe to some other newsletters I kept convincing myself I would get to someday. It’s still a process I have not completely finished.

I noticed I can now read longer articles because they feel fresh to me as I was hardly consuming any text content during the challenge. I also noticed that my online attention span on desktop is increasing versus my previous behavior of switching tabs for checking later.

How did I spend the leisure time I had thanks to my digital declutter during March?

Overall I felt I had more time at hand. This time was spent being more present with my kids and getting more done at work as I had no other choice but to finish what I had to do. I managed to commit to my 10-minute exercise habit right when I got home which is great; creating this habit was on my goals since the beginning of the year.

I applied Cal Newport’s advice of spending more time on real-time conversations with people that matter in my life instead of counting on post likes and quick texts to show we are still in touch. I started telling friends that they can call me anytime between 5pm and 6pm during workdays as I would be driving home in my usual long commute. This indeed made a difference as I specifically managed to contact 2 important friends who live abroad.

A peculiar thing happened too during this month;, I took really long naps every weekend. It has been so unusual for me. I don’t know if it was boredom or I was generally following my body’s rhythm and listening to it. I really wonder if it was some sort of me running away from the quiet. I didn’t think I depended on social media that much during weekends before this challenge, as my usage dropped in general. But I can’t help linking long naps and no phone together. I’m still figuring it out to make sure it’s only about resting and not numbing, all while embracing those feel good mid-day naps.

Your attention is one of the most valuable things you possess, which is why everyone wants to steal it from you. First you must protect it, then you must point it in the right direction

-Austin Kleon, Keep Going 

At the end of the challenge I felt a bit of agitation as an achiever type. I could not show certain work accomplished during this month other than the above mentioned observations.  My analysis is that I have not specified enough the activities I would pursue in the newly found free time as Cal has advised in his book as one of the secrets to succeed in this digital declutter experiment. My new free time was in fact small pockets spread over the day. I was not spending stretches of long time on my phone before but I definitely was a compulsive screen checker. Even though, it would have been much better if I was more specific on the activities I would pursue during the challenge.

As I practiced digital minimalism I also really started to notice the amount of clutter in my physical space and this is driving me to take my decluttering initiative to my home in the 2nd quarter of this year.  Not an easy task I tell you.

In the coming posts I will share with you how my digital life looks like now. As Cal says in his amazing book, it is not a onetime process but a new life you choose for yourself and keep improving to reach your sweet spot.

Adopting digital minimalism is not a onetime process that completes the day after your digital declutter; it instead requires ongoing adjustments. In my experience, the key to sustained success with this philosophy is accepting that it’s not really about technology, but is instead more about the quality of your life. The more you experiment with the ideas and practices on the preceding pages, the more you’ll come to realize that digital minimalism is much more than a set of rules, it’s about cultivating a life worth living in our current age of alluring devices.

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism


Digital Declutter Challenge in Review

Digital Declutter Challenge-10 Days In


Digital declutter during weekends has had a completely different vibe for me compared to work days, where weekends so far have been easier for disconnection versus being at the office in front of a tempting computer screen most of the day.

As the work week started I found myself missing my personal email the most. It turns out I am addicted to the stimulation it provides, even more than Facebook because, surprisingly, I hardly miss the latter.
My personal email is mainly made up of favorite blogs subscriptions, amazon deals and make-up and kids’ clothes deals, in addition to linkedin updates. As a result, my initial rule of checking it during the weekend for 30 minutes only could not stand, so I amended it to checking it daily, only on desktop, for 5 to 10 minutes while the timer is set and running. I also started unsubscribing to many commercial newsletters because they are crowding my email that I can’t find the important communications fast.

I have also modified the Netflix rule where I can now watch 3, not 2, episodes of Netflix a week. I did this because I mostly watch comedy series which usually take 20 minutes per episode and that would have finished my allowance in 4 days only according to my 10 minute rule which was too extreme for me.

As a matter of fact, minimizing streaming entertainment has been the most challenging for me, 10 minutes a day only is not easy, where I mentioned before that I already have this particular habit of enjoying evening meals while watching something, mostly comedy, on Netflix. I used to think of this time as my mental break, so it is going to be interesting to see what will happen in the coming 20 days as I change my relationship to entertainment , not that it is harmful or anything, but I do believe that depending on something this much must be unhealthy for us and a red flag we need to take care of.

During digital declutter I also noticed I’ve been missing local news, because I barely listen to any radio show and never buy newspapers and Facebook and twitter were my sources. Since I’m not using them now I decided I need to stay more tuned to morning radio shows to keep up to speed with local or even international news that are relevant to us and maybe read news online once in a while.

I also happen to love music apps, like anghami, and I didn’t even consider them in my digital declutter challenge. However, I noticed a funny thing about the human brain; we always want a way out. So, skipping songs and looking for the perfect song or playlist has become my new thing while working or while doing house chores. Our brains got so used to entertainment that even music apps could be addictive and time wasting. This is not a totally finding, I experienced this in my reading fasting last year.
Don’t worry though, I have not set rules for those apps during digital declutter. It’s just about mindfulness of the exit strategies we implement to avoid the present moment.

It’s been indeed a very interesting challenge so far, and I wonder what more insights I would enjoy finding out during the remainder of the month.

Stay tuned.

Digital Declutter Challenge-10 Days In

The Gap

the gap
photo credit:

I have my own perfect routines and habits, the great friendships, the right books, the needed amount of food and sleep everyday and life feels good. Then the weekend is here and I feel like a fraud. All I’ve been preaching is exactly that, preaching, while reality begs to differ.

The biggest painful gap I feel is in parenting.

Sometimes I wish my kids would slow down growing up until I close this gap between where I am and where I want to be, but they are not paying attention to my wishes. They are right on track with their own business of growing up and becoming who they need to be regardless of my progress. How dare they? I’m still not ready.

I can’t control my temper all the time, I still lose my patience whenever they say that horrible two-letter word to me. I take their answer personally while I grieve the not so old days when parenting was a one-way street of care-giving and beautiful, almost predictable, routines.

I fear that now they will know me for who I really am. A mess. A work in progress. I fear they would believe the lie that my happiness rests on them well-behaving and restraining from following their spontaneous exploring nature.

It is a lie indeed. My happiness is up to me. They are perfect and it’s time I allow them to really be who they came here to be; my teachers. Yes, my teachers are here to point out to me where I am still an impatient control freak better than anyone could. No one gets to see me up close like them anyway. Their job is to teach me how I am still triggered by the most trivial things like their clothes getting dirty from the whiteboard marker they enjoy using. Then I notice my ill reaction and make amends with them. They get to see how humans make up for their mistakes by apologizing, asking for forgiveness and starting over. And what do you know? I am actually parenting them in the midst of my non-readiness.

Maybe I will never be ready, maybe this mess is what they exactly need too as life is messy. Maybe seeing me start over and improving with time will help them believe they can conquer any character defect they might have if they are present enough and reflect on their own actions to do better next time. It’s in fact possible that feeling how my love for them extends any mistake, big or small, will have them believe in their own worth and lovability just because they are here on earth, beyond any right or wrong actions. It’s the most basic need we have had since we took our first breath. It is my lifetime mission as their parent, so help me God.

The Gap


Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

الكلمة المفضلة حالياّ عندي هي “افتراضات” .

هي طريقة ننظر بها للعالم ولذواتنا ونحسب أنها واقع وحقيقية ونأخذها بعين الاعتبار عند اتخاذ قراراتنا. هي أحياناً تحررنا ولكن على الأغلب تحبسنا و تحدّ من جرأتنا وحركتنا. تبقى كذلك إلى أن نضعها تحت مجهر التساؤل والشك .

لكن ما الفرق بين المعتقدات و الافتراضات؟

Continue reading “افتراضات”


Reading Fasting- Update

Photo credit: Daria Shevtsova

I extended my reading fasting resolution for another month upon my coach’s recommendation since she believes I did not commit 100% in January by reading articles and listening to few podcasts here and there. That’s why I chose in February to push myself by applying it much more strictly and this is how:

  • Not reading Seth Godin‘s daily posts that have been a source of delight and motivation during my working day since 2009. This month, instead, I just enjoy reading the email titles of his posts and imagining what they could be about. I’m playing with idea of acting as if the titles are writing prompts for me where I create my own post with the same title of his.
  • Not opening any facebook or twitter article links (very challenging believe me).
  • Minimun checking of my personal email because the inbox is full of content and awesome articles as I subscribed to many over the years. Turning off notifications of course helped so much.
  • Not shopping for books on amazon nor checking the deal of the day on Kindle and Audible.

I miss reading some of my favorite newsletters like The daily stoic by Ryan Holiday, 5-bullet friday by Tim Ferris and Brainpickings newsletter by Maria Popova. Funny thing I noticed, however, is that I thought I would be deprived of content and new inspiration during this period; the truth is I was not, because I did not quit social media. I was proud to discover I really refined my timeline over the years and the algorithms of Facebook are working to show me posts from my top influencers who in return are doing what I love and follow them for by sharing the most beautiful quotes and pieces of wisdom to which I have very easy access during my usual social media daily meals.

I also noticed that sticking to my morning routine of journaling and spiritual practice is what truly keeps me sharp and self motivated. It turned out my discipline is my secret.

I still have 2 weeks of no books consumption to go and I will optimize my reading fasting even futher as below:

  • Limit my social media consumption using some useful tools like appblock which limits my time on each app I select and blocks it when I reach the maximim time allowed.
  • Control my semi-daily netflix guilty pleasure by enjoying the 20 minutes I give my brains to shut down and be done with it by not clicking the next episode.
  • Be more intentional about the books I will read this year. I would love to read books about stoicism, habits and happiness, customer experience (job related), personal finance, parenting, side business and entrepreneurship. Of course I’ll leave room to immedialty add to my library any new book by my favorite authors like Seth Godin, Gretchen Rubin or Brené Brown.
  • Focus on studing PMP which is another goal I am trying to achieve in the first quarter of this year.

Interested to have more observations on the impact of this temporary project on my life. It has been very exciting time and I now believe it was exactly what I needed; the self-permission to just hit pause.

Reading Fasting- Update