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By Stephanie Thurrott
You’re following all the advice on simplifying your digital life. You turned off notifications. You bought an old-school alarm clock and banished your phone from your bedroom. You programmed your do-not-disturb hours so only your closest contacts get through after hours.
And yet, that shiny little box grabs your attention, again and again and again. Did anyone like your Instagram photo? Are we supposed to get snow this week? Who’s in for Friday night happy hour?
Cal Newport, author of “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World”, argues that small, gradual changes aren’t powerful enough to break the hold our devices have on us.
“You need something much stronger. You need a philosophy of technology use based on the values you believe in,” he says. “You need a consistent way of dealing with technology.”
His solution? A 30-day digital declutter.
STEP 1: FOR 30 DAYS, USE ONLY THE TECHNOLOGY YOU TRULY NEED
Set aside 30 days where you cut your technology use to only what you need to maintain your personal life and professional success.
That use will look different for everyone, but with a little introspection and honesty you should be able to identify what can stay and what needs to go.
That Facebook group where you learn what your book club is reading next, and where you’re meeting? Probably OK. Scrolling through Facebook mindlessly because you’re in line at the grocery store? Nope.
The text that your son needs a ride home? Of course. The group text that spun out of control after someone shared the AOC dancing meme? Mute it.
STEP 2: RECONNECT WITH ACTIVITIES YOU USED TO ENJOY
When Newport tested his digital declutter with 1,600 volunteers, many of them got back into reading, knitting, sports leagues like ultimate Frisbee and basketball, community groups, woodworking, writing poetry, and creating art.
“A lot of people were surprised to discover how much digital technology had pushed analog activities out. They were really excited to rediscover how much they enjoyed going to the library and coming home with a stack of books,” he says. “High-quality leisure is a really big upgrade over low-quality digital streams.”