This article was written by Andrew Rocha and was given to Minimalism Co to publish. Read Andrew’s bio at the end of the article.
“The human spirit must prevail over technology.” — Albert Einstein
I love technology as much as the next person. I’m sitting at my desk, typing on a laptop, with a smartwatch on my wrist. I have my phone and tablet within arm’s reach.
Technology is all around us, and in many ways, it has made our lives immeasurably better. We’re able to see and communicate with loved ones from overseas in real-time. We can order whatever we want with two-day shipping and have millions of answers at a moment’s notice. We can even type up posts and allow the world to see them in an instant.
Every decision in life has a trade-off, and technology is no exception. Technology is abundant; it sits on our wrists, in our ears, and most frequently, in our palms. We’re staring at it constantly: a recent RescueTime study found the average person spends 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phone alone. These numbers are baffling, and yet people are still at loss for words on why they don’t have enough time on any given day. We’re in a twisted paradox that snuck up on us before we realized it was there.
Control Your Tech, Don’t Let it Control You
We’re in a controlling relationship with technology and it’s time to take action.
You don’t need any more stats about how much of your real-life you’re giving up to pursue a digital one; you need to take action. I need to take action. We all do.
This isn’t another digital detox where you spend a month offline to get slowly pulled back in. This is about changing your relationship with technology in a transformational way. This is about getting your precious life back so you can reclaim the time you’ve been missing.
Time to spend with loved ones.
Time to enjoy hobbies that make the hours feel like minutes.
Time to wake up and enjoy the simple things in life, like a walk in the park or the dogs around the block.
Most of us have spent years in this technology void. While we won’t be able to make a complete pivot overnight, here are some guidelines to bring us closer to the change we need.
Remember Why You Want Digital Transformation
Excitement is great, but it dies fast. You know what else is fast? Excuses. When you start this digital transformation, you’ll come up with plenty of excuses to pull you back to your old ways. What if I miss something important? What if someone needs me? These were a couple of my biggest excuses.
We’re not excluding digital devices from our life, but rather to hack away at the clutter. Most things in life can wait. That tempting tweet? It’ll still be there tomorrow. That email you’ve been waiting for? It’ll still be in your inbox the next time you check.
If we spend all our time checking digital inboxes, we won’t have time to spend on the things that matter. Remember this when you’re tempted by a useless notification.
Get Rid of the Temptations of Technology
Willpower is great, but why use it if you don’t need it? Make it as easy as possible to cut out temptations before they arrive. As James Clear writes in his book Atomic Habits:
“Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.”
You don’t have to be a designer at Apple to make radical changes to your smartphone. Dive into your phone settings and make these changes:
- Revert your phone to grayscale and use a neutral wallpaper; it’ll remove the colors and make your phone less tempting to look at.
- Turn off the notifications, they only steal your attention.
- Set app limits to wake you up when you’re in a digital dark hole.
- Log out of applications; make yourself spend the extra 10 seconds typing your login credentials whenever you want to log back in.
The more friction it takes to use your phone, the less you’ll want to use it. This is a good thing because you’ll be more interested in life itself.
Use a Computer Instead of Your Phone
Smartphones are irresistible because we can take them anywhere to look up anything at any time. Do we need to check the stock market while in the checkout line? Do we need to refresh the news while waiting for a doctor’s appointment?
People used to use these moments to think about their life and reflect; now people have traded in this precious time for shallow clickbait. What would life be like if we only checked these addictive sites on our computers?
You still have access to your favorite sites, but you’ll use it less because you can’t carry your laptop everywhere. You can’t put it in your pocket. You can’t casually scroll through your laptop while on a walk.
This subtle shift makes it much more intentional and frees up a ton of your time. Delete the news, stock market, email, and any other apps that are consuming all your time. Opt to check the web version of these sites on your computer instead. When you do check the web version, you’ll be much more intentional along the way.
Use Physical Products Where Necessary
Our phones are great because they do so many different things. This is also why they’re one of our greatest distractions. How many times have you checked your phone to look up a fact, only to find yourself two hours later on an unrelated Youtube video? It’s easy to go down the digital rabbit hole, and the easiest way to avoid it is to avoid using your phone. Figure out the physical substitute for your most useful phone applications.
Use a physical journal instead of a journaling app.
Tempted to check your phone in bed?
Use a real alarm clock instead of the app on your phone.
Yes, these items take up space. Yes, these items cost money. Yes, this seems counterintuitive. But each of these physical products serves their sole function, nothing more and nothing less. They are perfect for getting us out of our digital habits and making room for better ones.
Define Your Own Rules
While some would find it nice to ditch electronics and find a peaceful cabin in the forest, many people have digital ties to their responsibilities. People receive paperless billing, which requires internet access. People have family overseas and need technology to maintain regular communication. These are where rules come in.
Stuck checking the news app constantly?
Check the news for 20 minutes every morning.
Addicted to email?
Schedule 30 minutes every day to deal with email.
Find what works for you and hold yourself accountable to your new rules.
The Digital Transformation Journey
At the end of the day, I finish writing on my computer and lay down on my bed to read a physical book. Once in a while, I’ll check my phone, on grayscale with a neutral wallpaper, to see if I have any text messages.
While I’m tempted to check emails, I realize my excuses are trying to pull me back to my old ways. Besides, I made a rule with myself that I’ll only be checking email every other day. Anything that is in my inbox can wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy life’s greatest pleasures, none of which are through a screen.