As of today, March 1st, I am starting my own one month digital declutter challenge, based on the recommendation of the book that was recently published: Digital Minimalism by the author Cal Newport.
It is one of those rare books that I want to keep talking about all the time because of how much it resonated with me and with anybody I discuss it with. Digital Minimalism starts by emphasizing that our relationship to our digital apps has been carefully engineered to be sticky and to keep our attention on the screen. The social media apps have been designed to be this addictive. So our willpower to reduce and control our consumption of those apps is fighting a losing battle against giant companies making sure we have our phones glued to our hand palms for the longest time possible.
Cal managed to vividly paint the picture that whenever we check our phones for new notifications we are experiencing the emotions and even the chemical surges that a gambler feels on a slot machine. We don’t know what satisfying likes or comments or updates we would get, and this randomness of notifications flow is like little rewards we receive, generating more Dopamine in our body which as Cal mentions “a key neurotransmitter for regulating our sense of craving”. More Dopamine motivates you to repeat the behavior again to reach the same outcome.
In this book, Cal urges to re-define our relationship to our digital companions and use them with intention. Before we can do that, we need to assess the impact they really have on our life or “how much life we pay for them” what a powerful concept! Experiencing our lives without the social apps and streaming services will be of tremendous help in making long term and lasting changes in our usage behaviors.
Accordingly, I announced I will do this 31-day experiment on Instagram in an IGTV video, and invited others to join me in this challenge. The aim is to get rid of all optional digital tools during this month that will not impact your professional life nor important personal relationships (e.g. family abroad). And to set operating rules for those tools you don’t think you would be able to last a month without checking or you want to have occasional access to.
Without further ado here is my plan of action & operating rules during this challenge:
- Remove facebook and twitter apps from phone and no checking all month.
- Remove linkedin app and I can check it once a week on desktop (every Sunday).
- Remove personal email (gmail) app from phone and check it once a week for 30 minutes on desktop (ideally over the weekend)
- Block WhatsApp after 7pm every night as I usually need it for work purposes and for staying informed about kids. Limit usage for 30 minutes.
- Keep posting my weekly videos on Instagram every Sunday, and I will have 30-min time allowance to check the interactions with the video on Monday. However the rest of the week I will use instagram only for 10 minutes a day using its built-in customizable alert.
- I hardly use snapchat and mainly for very close friends and family so I will turn off its notifications and use one my most favorite android apps (appblock) to prevent access all week and I can check it out for a limited time over the weekend.
- Not read any digital text content this month except for Seth Godin’s blog.
- Read kindle books only on my kindle device not the app.
- I have several online courses that I am subscribed to like Gretchen Rubin’s happiness project experience so I will not mind making progress in these courses on my phone, but ideally I will attempt to use my tablet instead that has almost zero applications, or my laptop which will make the learning experience more intentional.
- Netflix’s rule has been tricky to define as I tried before to cut it out for a week but didn’t succeed. Thanks to an example in the book, however, I got it, which is that I will only watch 2 episodes in total of any show per week, whether I do that in one sitting or 10 minutes a day is up to me. On the other hand I can watch it freely in social settings like friends and family gatherings.
I hope you define your own set of digital declutter rules that you can sustain for a month. Let’s reclaim our most important assets: our attention and our time. Let’s see where this takes us.
I will keep you posted on any insights I experience during this challenge. Your updates are more than welcome too.