the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

The Digital Declutter II

So what did my digital declutter entail?

I gave up on pretty much all web browsing and internetting that wasn't looking something up when I needed to (as in, really needed to for work or the like. Not just "hmm, I'm curious about Central European climates, what does Wikipedia have to say on the subject?") Blogs and news sites were specifically off limits for the duration.

I decided to avoid social media completely. Easy enough on my PC, and I uninstalled/logged out of all social media apps on my phone. I wasn't that worried about the temptation because I wasn't spending much time on social media anyway, but I figured I may as well do it. I learned that some of these apps simply couldn't be uninstalled from my phone - they're "system software" (my foot). All you can do is factory reset them, so they're right there if the urge to sign in again gets the better of you. That annoyed me enough to reinforce my view that nixing them all was worth doing.

I didn't ban learning apps I have, like Anki or Duolingo, since the whole point of this for me was about devoting more time to valuable things. And I had Real Life things to do on the computer, but they weren't about the web or social media, and so I kept doing them.

In fact, that was the general theme of the declutter. I knew that I wasn't doing this to escape the clutches of Facebook, it was just to get rid of the distractions and be more productive.

For the most part, it went well. I still fell over occasionally with web browsing and going down rabbit holes. This was where the "operating procedures" thing came in. I complained about the term in my review, but the point of an operating procedure is to set yourself clear rules about when and how you're going to use an app or do something online. It sounds a bit extreme, but it helps. For me, my rule was to be specific about what I was browsing for, try to be as focused as possible on what I needed to do and then close everything once done. Doesn't sound like much but doing this mostly worked, even if just by making me more aware of what I was doing when online.

I'd also decided (bravely) that I wouldn't ban listening to music on YouTube while working, but my rule was to choose something long enough and leave it playing. No hunting or exploring (a common way for me to lose an evening). I had exactly one YouTube fail. One night I had the "I really feel like listening to song X from my youth" urge, found myself having fired up YouTube and listening to the song I wanted to hear, and then thinking of another. This time around though, instead of it turning into 2 hours of me being my own personal DJ, I quickly realised what was happening, said "that's quite enough Colin, quite enough," and then closed down the tab and went back to whatever it was I'd been doing.

What else is there to say about my experience? A few things, and I'll just list them here and perhaps write more about them separately:

  • avoiding the news was a huge change for me, and if I had to choose, I'd say this has been the most positive outcome from the declutter.

  • the book has a chapter on solitude, and as I mentioned in the review it caused me to see some of my own habits and attitudes in a different way.

  • I wasn't screen-free for the duration, but I devoted some thought to the whole idea of being more analog. It's still an open issue for me, but it did result in a few changed habits, which I'm glad I made.

To be continued.

{2019.09.29 11:57}

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