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

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