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7 Ways to Simplify Your Digital Life

Practice

Tame the digital overwhelm with a few easy tactics.

The recent “delete Facebook” movement has a lot of us rethinking our digital and social media lives in general. We’ve become a bit more suspicious of what is on our devices, and that’s a good thing—being discerning is the key stance for decluttering. Digital clear-outs are interesting, because although apps and inboxes and old PDFs don’t have a physical weight, they still can create a sense of stagnation and overwhelm. For this week’s Healthy Habits, here are some ways to streamline what is weighing you down in your digital life.

  1. Go Zen on your desktop. How many icons are staring at you right now? It should just be what you’re actively working on or constantly use. File everything else where it belongs, and then update the screen saver with a beautiful, soothing image from the natural world.
  2. Defriend MailChimp. Slow and stop the influx of emailed newsletters. Pop into the “preferences” section and change the delivery option to once a week, once a month, or not at all. Remember that you can usually find what you need—a sale, for example—by reaching out and visiting a site. You don’t need the site to be constantly contacting you.
  3. Be realistic. Self-improvement can only go so far. There’s a lot of stuff we want to do, from learning a word a day in a new language via an email, to a history podcast we keep meaning to listen to. And then good intentions meet reality, because there’s only so much bandwidth in your day. Purge anything that is piling up and making you feel guilty.
  4. Bye, Felicia! Remove anyone from your contacts list who makes you feel bad. That boss who fired you. Or that guy, you went on two dates with who then never contacted you again. Why do you still have their info? Delete, delete, delete. The last thing you need is a pop-up reminder that, “Today is So-and-So’s Birthday!”
  5. Label first. When you get a new device, use a label maker to mark what the charger/cables are for. We think we’re going to remember but rarely do. You can also choose to use a product like Cable Buddy, which wraps cords and has a write-on ID label.
  6. Sort your mobile. Create little landing pages on your phone, where all the like apps are with the other like apps. For example, one screen might have all your travel-related apps—SkyScanner and Uber and Packpoint. Another, all your meditation-related apps like Headspace, and healthy food apps. As you’re going, delete any apps you no longer can remember why you even downloaded.
  7. Set limits. For example, Brian Gardner of the blog No Sidebar, suggests this model: No electronics before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m.,  check social media three times a day, and only do so from your laptop, not your phone. Why 10 a.m.? So that you can start your day with something more healthful, such as exercise, contemplation or meaningful work. But experiment with what feels right for you, your family and your career. The key thing is to have boundaries, so your digital life is serving you, rather than you, it.

Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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