In the month of March, I did a 30 day digital declutter. No social media. No entertainment apps or websites. My phone and computer were meant to be tools only. The goal of this process was to help me remove my undeniable addiction to opening my phone whenever there was a spare moment, and to help me use my free time doing things that I love, not staring at screens.
So, here are some of my thoughts and observations on the declutter.
First of all, not having anything fun to do on my phone was an absolute breath of fresh air. The phone was a tool for calling and texting, I didn’t even have email. The first few days I would still reach for my phone constantly, but once opened I realized there was nothing to do, and so I locked it pretty quickly. As I have added apps back to my phone, I have missed that simplicity.
That being said, it was difficult to not have the constant entertainment that the phone can provide. It’s a real comfort, and I had to be comfortable with having nothing to do at times. Sometimes I just wanted to zone out with social media, but I had to read a book instead.
What I Learned
-Having no notifications is great
-When your phone has no entertainment value, the addictive checking stops quickly
-Life is better with less screen time
-Your phone is better as a tool
-You still need to be intentional about free time. You can’t blame it all on technology.
-You’ll be okay if you’re less connected. There isn’t that much going on.
-The number of apps you have on your phone is a huge factor in how much you use it. Especially “gateway apps” that get you to open your phone, which then allows you to get distracted by the infinite possibilities the phone provides.
What Went Well
-The first 2 weeks. I was focused and committed to using tech as little as possible.
-The amount of time I was on my phone.
-I was more present.
-Got a lot of reading done
-Mental clarity. I was more focused without constant distraction.
What Didn’t Go Well
-The last 2 weeks. I lost steam and found ways to use phone/computer more. Once I started listening to podcasts/music again, my phone usage went way up just from picking up the phone to press play/pause and then getting distracted.
-Hobbies/Creativity. I had hoped that by spending less time with technology, I would be able to spend more time on hobbies. That didn’t really happen. I did read a lot more, but I barely wrote anything and didn’t spend much more time doing things I enjoy.
I think there is a healthy balance to be found with technology, but you have to be disciplined. The declutter helped me to see what life can be without technology permeating everything I do. Since it ended though, I have mostly fallen back into my old bad habits. So, I need to put some systems in place that determine how I can use technology because if something like Instagram or Reddit is on my phone, I will check it constantly. So, one solution is to only use social media/Reddit on my computer so that I don’t have constant access to it. Where discipline is not enough, remove the problem.
Should you do a declutter? Yes! You owe it yourself to see what life is like without technology having a vise-grip on your time.