The Focus Course

Digital Declutter: Reintroducing Tech

Tomorrow marks the end of our 30-day digital declutter. Not a bad start to 2020.

The goal was always more than just refraining from optional tech for 30 days and resuming our same technology use when it’s over. The declutter is meant to be a catalyst for lasting change to our technology cravings — not just taking a break from certain technologies. This process was meant to help us objectively evaluate the role and purpose of the different technologies we choose to use.

This all points back to adopting a philosophy of technology use that will guide our decision making process.

Digital Minimalism
A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.

This is a moment of clarity to align your technology use with guiding values. Now that you’ve done the hard part, let’s talk about the process of re-introducing tech back into your daily life.

Reintroducing Tech

Before plunging back into the muddy waters of tech, I want to suggest filtering out potentially unnecessary or unhelpful tools.

Decluttering gives us a blank canvas to start from. It’s hard to pick and choose which technologies we’ll maintain when starting from an overwhelmed state. Now that we’ve cleared some space, let’s be ultra-selective in the tools we choose to reinstate.

It starts with the minimalist technology screen, which is a filter through which we pass all optional tech we’ve removed over the last 30 days to see if the functionality of that tool is the best way to serve a deeper held value.

For each item on your optional tech list you’ve removed for the last 30 days, ask these three questions.

Minimalist Technology Screen

  1. What is the deeper held value this technology is serving?
  2. Is it the best tool to support this value?
  3. If yes, what standard operating procedures do I need to implement to ensure it does not expand beyond my intended purpose?

If a technology is able to pass the first two questions in the screening, then we implement a standard operating procedure for when and how we will use the tool in the future. That way, we’ve clearly defined our terms of use.

  • This tool supports X value.
  • For the time being, it is the best tool to support this value in my life.
  • I’ll limit the impact of this service by using it at these specific times and for this length of time.

By doing this, we anchor our use of technology to a personal value, and ensure that the impact of a technology is limited to only the benefits of the service without the negative affects.

Digital minimalism isn’t just a trendy slogan, but a guiding frame of reference to protect our mental state. As much as it is about simplifying our digital life, it is equally about what we do outside of our technology use.

Continued Lifestyle Practices

During the 30-day declutter, I encouraged you to pick up hobbies or activities that provide a deeper level of satisfaction and purpose than passive consumption. If refraining from optional tech is one side of the coin, engaging in leisurely activity is the other.

We know that consuming a steady diet of fast food, overly processed foods, and large amounts of sugar is likely to result in deteriorating physical health. Avoiding these types of food is one step in the right direction. But, the logical next step is replacing them with nutrient-rich food.

As much as we need to curate our technology use, we also need to proactively pursue lifestyle practices that fuel clear thinking.

Technology allures us with the promise of fulfilling our interests and desires, but it actually hinders us from engaging in the act of doing the things that we claim to enjoy.

Many services that target our interests can result in an addictive loop in which we believe we are engaging in a high-quality activity. But there is a vast difference between watching a video that showcases nature and wildlife and actually experiencing it firsthand with all of our senses. Just as liking a friend’s photo of their trip to the ocean is not the same as talking with that friend firsthand about their vacation.

We believe the lie that if we can’t live some adventurous adrenaline-filled life, then we might as well settle for the next best thing, which is watching someone else’s epic life. While talking a walk around the neighborhood is not the same as hiking the Grand Canyon, it is more substantive than being glued to a screen while stuck on the couch. Video is an incredible tool that barely existed a hundred years ago, but we must not replace the action of doing something with the idea of doing it.

The point is, we need to engage with our hobbies and interests, not just witness other people doing the things we enjoy. In the same way there are endless possibilities to eating nutrient-rich foods, so too are there endless possibilities of how we can consume high quality leisure activities.

You Should Write a Retrospective

Back in 2014, my wife and I spent close to six months living in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China. It was a gratifying and challenging experience. As it came time to head back to the states, the organization we were working with facilitated a debrief and retrospective. While we were still in Hong Kong, we spent some days reflecting on our experience.

In many ways, the retrospective actually helped us walk away from the experience with clarity regarding what that period of our life was about, and how it would guide the decisions we would make soon after.

All that to say, you should spend some time reflecting on your decluttering experience while it’s still fresh in your mind.

Focus on what you learned, the clarity you gained, the obstacles you overcame, and the allure and pull of certain services that you noticed. What has the last 30-days been like for you?

If possible, do the retrospective on paper before you re-introduce any tech.

I’ll share my thoughts on the declutter soon, but below are some prompts to help get you started.

We’ll talk again soon.

Prompts to help you process your declutter

  • What surprised you most about the declutter?
  • What optional tech did you miss the most?
  • What activities did you find yourself gravitating toward to fill the void of technology?
  • What did you enjoy most about the declutter? Is there a sustainable version you could continue?
  • What leisurely activities did you have more time for?
  • What did you learn?
  • How did you find yourself treating different pieces of tech in your life throughout the 30 days?
  • What would you tell your friend about the declutter process? Would you recommend doing a 30-day declutter?
  • What did you think about the book Digital Minimalism?
  • What ideas or concepts stood out to you?

Hero image by Andreas Haslinger via Unsplash.

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