I am largely not on social media. I have a small set of people with whom I interact with on a routine basis. I have uninstalled the mail app from my smartphone. Yet, when the Sunday notification arrives, I find that I average 5-7 hours a day using my phone. Which, if you think about it, is an alarmingly large number. Which is why, when I discovered that I was assigned the exercise of going on a month long digital declutter, I was delighted.
I signed up for Scott Young and Cal Newport’s ‘A Life of Focus’ course in August. I have great admiration for Scott Young’s MIT Challenge and I just finished his book Ultralearning. I love Cal Newport’s thoughts about excellence, productivity, the need of minimizing/removing social media from one’s life, and letting technology serve us, instead of the other way around. In fact, I summarized Newport’s Digital Minimalism (this was also reviewed by Sri Devi Om recently). Summarizing is one thing, implementing the principles is a whole another thing. Therefore, when Scott and Cal said that my challenge for the month of September was to do a digital declutter, I decided to take it seriously and go all in.
The first order of business was to give up all optional online activities. I informed all my contacts that I would be taking a month long break, and would not be communicating with them. The one exception that I decided to retain was email—I had initially intended to schedule email in bunches. This is one area where I failed in the experiment, and used email more than I had wanted to. The other decision I made was to take a break from os.me posts and interactions for a month. Of course— I was to give up optional online activities —reading Swamiji’s posts on the first and third Saturdays was not an optional activity, it is a ritual.
When I read about the Write Challenge in the Wednesday email, I was caught in two minds. This is certainly an optional activity. While participating in the challenge, I might be tempted to go with the flow and engage myself with some optional activities. However, I decided to go ahead and participate nevertheless, deciding that I will defer commenting on the articles until October, believing that the kind members of the community will understand.
While I have been successful in eliminating a lot of channels of distraction, I have not eliminated all channels of distraction, and this is something that I will work on the next ten days. I should report that on days when I strictly abstained from using technology for optional use, I experienced great moments of clarity, and it was a great feeling. I wasn’t planning to write about the declutter until I had calibrated a reasonable schedule, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and report my successes and failures thus far in the experiment. Eventually, I would love to use technology sparingly – and use my energies into productive activities, as against checking my phone compulsively.
Image Credit: Marvin Meyer from Unsplash