The computers and phones we keep on our desks and in our pockets are more powerful than ever before – and, unsurprisingly, they’ve become intricately interwoven into our daily lives.
In some ways, our phones and computers are like our new digital office spaces.
We use them to pay bills, communicate with co-workers, and network on social media. Our laptops are capable of powering small businesses. We rely on these devices, along with the applications we download onto them, for just about everything we do.
But here’s another truth: the pieces of digital technology we use every day are only as valuable as we make them.
If we don’t use them intelligently, they can detract value. And many of us don’t use digital technology intelligently. We clutter our devices with apps we don’t need, pictures we don’t look at, and group messages we don’t care about.
When we allow this to happen, our devices become too disorganized to use effectively.
With this in mind, it’s critical that we keep those spaces organized. Offices or cubicles that are disheveled and strewn with loose memos, stacked with manilla folders, and overflowing with displaced documents are essentially unusable. They also cause stress and make completing tasks more difficult, since simply finding the things you need to start a project is a project in and of itself.
The only way to ensure our devices don’t become so cluttered is to practice digital minimalism.
Just as being disorganized decreases productivity, maintaining a clean and purposefully organized digital workspace increases your effectiveness, in addition to happiness and overall well-being.
Void of clutter, our phones and computers are able to achieve their original promise: they simplify and improve our lives.
The easiest way to ensure your digital devices remain so organized is practicing digital minimalism.
How can you practice digital minimalism?
Every two to three months, scour your devices and get rid of every app, game, and file you haven’t used recently. Scroll through your phone or click through your computer and ask yourself: do I really need this application? This tool? This subscription? This game? If not, trash it.
This can be difficult, yes, but just because you bought an app, or it has some kind of emotional significance, doesn’t mean it still provides value. If you don’t use it, it likely doesn’t—just like the gifts you receive from friends that collect dust in the corner of your bedroom, or the broken heirloom that takes up space in your closet. You may think you need these things, but you really don’t.
The only applications, tools, or features that you really need are the ones that you use regularly and that provide real value. And by removing superfluous apps from your device, you in the process open yourself up to new ideas and to using more valuable tools. You’ll also be able to focus more easily on the apps and documents that you really do need.
Remember: we are not slaves to the applications we download or buy.
All of this is doubly important if you’re running a business.
At the end of the day, digital minimalism is something everyone should practice. But it’s especially critical for business owners.
Entrepreneurs generally use different kinds of applications than most folks. We rely on applications for conference calls. We use tools that help us prioritize our tasks and action items. And we depend on apps that allow us to communicate with our teammates regularly and quickly.
If we lose the ability to use those tools effectively––and when we need them––we ourselves become less effective.
I’ve witnessed this in my personal life. I use both my smartphone and my computer to conduct business every day. And as soon as I adopted digital minimalism more purposefully––deleting that application for composing music that I hadn’t used for a year, for example––I saw the change immediately. I became more productive, lost focus less often, and completed critical tasks more quickly––mostly because I knew exactly where each tool I needed was located.
Adopting digital minimalism not only made me more productive, however––it made me more focused.
Look, our digital lives today are just as real and as important as our physical lives. And just as in real life, the more purposefully we maintain our digital lives, the more productive, valuable, and healthy they will become.
And that, at its core, is what digital minimalism is about: helping people lead better, more organized digital lives.
Still unsure how to practice digital minimalism? Try these next steps:
- Trash all apps that you haven’t used at least once in the last 3 months. Remember you can always re-download them. Do this on mobile and desktop
- Trash all old documents that do not add any value.
- Remove all old or temporary files. Keep only really important ones in the backup.
- If it’s old and you have no idea what it’s about, just trash it. If a document is important, you will know.