Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking - S.J. Scott, Barrie Davenport (2016)

Part IV. DECLUTTERING YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Simplify Your Digital Life

There’s a lot of good that’s come from the explosion of technology and digital communication. It has definitely made our lives easier, faster, and more productive. But there is a diminishing point of return with our devotion to digital devices.

We’ve become obsessed with technology, and it’s impacting every aspect of how we live our lives. We are slaves to the gadgets that were supposed to simplify our lives, and prefer the quick fix of instant information and low-quality entertainment over real-world interactions and experiences.

We spend hours on social media. Our inboxes are flooded. Our desktops are littered. Our laptops are bursting at the seams with more documents, photos, and downloads than we can absorb in a lifetime.

Digital “stuff” has an insidious way of occupying your time with nonessential activities—and just like physical clutter in your home, digital clutter creates feelings of anxiety, agitation, and overwhelm.

In the book 10-Minute Digital Declutter: The Simple Habit to Eliminate Technology Overload , Barrie and Steve remind:

If you add up the time spent on each digital device, every day, then you probably have a closer relationship with the virtual world than you have with your spouse, children, or friends. You know there’s something wrong with this balance, and yet you still find yourself flipping open the lid or gazing at your iPhone whenever you have a moment to spare—or even when you don’t. Is this really how you want to live your life?

From this book, we recommend a few actions to consider to support your mental declutter habits.

How are you spending your digital time?

Take a realistic look at how you spend your time on your devices. Of course there are necessary online activities for your personal and professional life. But then there are the hours you spend plugged in just surfing the net, playing games, and checking in on social media.

Spend a few minutes reviewing your day and add up the non-essential time you spent plugged in. Better yet, document your digital activities throughout the day. You’ll be surprised at how much time you give away to virtual experiences.

All of this digital input creates agitation and has an addictive quality that pulls you away from more meaningful pursuits that energize you rather than depleting you.

Where and how can you begin cutting back?

Start with an hour a day that you hold sacred and free from any digital time. Shut down your computer and put your phone into a drawer. What can you do instead of engaging in digital distractions?

We suggest you…

·                   Read a book

·                   Talk a long walk

·                   Exercise

·                   Talk with a friend

·                   Spend quality time with your spouse and children

·                   Do something creative, like writing or drawing

·                   Learn a new skill

·                   Meditate

·                   Listen to music

·                   Ride your bike

·                   Finish a project

Do something that is real, in-the-moment, and positive so that you avoid both the depletion of digital immersion and the secondary feelings of guilt and anxiety that often accompany too much time plugged in.

How cluttered have your devices become?

Digital clutter sneaks up on you because it’s not as visible as the clutter in your home. Before you know it, your desktop is littered with icons, your email inbox is overflowing, and your files and documents are so disorganized you need a search party to help you find anything.

If you’re like us, your life hinges on the contents of your computer. That may sound dramatic, but if you keep all of your important personal and professional documents and files on your computer, then you know how critical this piece of equipment is to your daily life.

It’s so easy to allow our computer lives to become the digital equivalent of Hoarders . Trying to locate documents and emails wastes your time and causes daily frustration and anxiety.

Your smartphone is just another mini-computer you drag around with you in your pocket or purse. It’s another place for you to horde digital “stuff” that drags you down with excess apps, photos, newsfeeds, and games.

If your devices are bursting at the seams, you feel the weight of that excess whether or not you’re aware of it. If you take 10 minutes a day to begin chipping away at the clutter, you’ll begin to feel increasingly lighter and unfettered.

We suggest you begin where you’ll reap the greatest rewards from decluttering your devices. If you are frustrated daily because you can’t find a document you need, begin there. If you have heart palpitations every time you see thousands of emails in your inbox, that’s the place to start. The key is to just start.

What is your digital mindset?

It’s not news to you that your digital devices (or rather the content on them) cause you mental distress and agitation. None of us like to admit it, but we all know how pervasive the digital world has become in our daily lives.

This is not a passing fad that will extinguish over time. It’s here to stay, and in all likelihood it will become increasingly prevalent with every passing year. It’s up to you to decide how to manage the digital intrusion on your life and the impact on your mental health. It’s important to be proactive in your values and choices related to your digital life.

By developing a digital “value system,” you create personal boundaries that help you manage your time and clutter (both mental and digital).

Here are some questions to ask yourself that can be used to create digital boundaries:

·                   How much time each day is absolutely necessary for me to spend on my devices for my job?

·                   Am I in a job that requires me to spend more time than I want behind my computer?

·                   How could I interact face-to-face with people in my work more often?

·                   How much time do I want to spend on my home computer doing work?

·                   How much time do I want to spend on social media for entertainment?

·                   How much time do I want to spend on my smartphone for entertainment?

·                   In what situations is a phone call or personal meeting more appropriate than a text?

·                   What real-life friendships have I neglected, and how do I want to nurture them?

·                   What family or relationship agreements should we have in place about using our smartphones, iPads, or laptops in each other’s presence?

·                   What traditions or family time (like dinners together) do you want to make sacred and personal, without the presence of digital devices?

·                   What limitations or rules should we have for our children’s use of digital devices?

·                   How should I be a role model to my children related to these rules?

·                   When I have downtime, what are the top five best ways I should use it?

·                   How can I deal with the urges to “surf the net” or engage in social media when I really don’t want to?

·                   How will I commit to managing my digital clutter so it doesn’t get out of hand?

Use your answers to these questions to write down your values and personal commitments related to how you spend your time and energy on and off your devices. You may “fall off the wagon” from time to time, but now you have a wagon to climb back onto!