New Year Digital Detox & Declutter – Start Fresh in 2022

January 3rd, 2022
Digital Detox

Digital Detox and Declutter

A digital detox and declutter is a great way to kickstart your work life and your personal life in the new year. Organizing your devices (and taking some time away from them) can streamline your workflow and your daily activities, helping you spend less time on distractions and more time on what matters to you.

A digital declutter is a housecleaning of your apps, online accounts, and more, a way to help you clear out distractions and minimize frustrating time-wasters. You’ll organize your files, secure your devices, and emerge with a digital world that serves you instead of holding you back. A digital detox, on the other hand, is a period of time spend away from your digital devices – or at least, setting clear rules about how and when you spend screen time – to step away from screens and focus on other things.

Both of these pursuits can be valuable as you take stock of your past year and start preparing for the challenges of a new one. They can help you tackle your next goals with a clearer head and a more centered perspective.

Start with a digital declutter

Your digital declutter is going to help you sweep away the debris of unused accounts and useless emails.  Everything is constantly vying for your attention, from social media apps to marketing emails. But your digital devices and accounts are here to serve you. So do away with the ones that aren’t making your life better.

Close unused accounts

Every online account that you have but don’t still use can be a drain and a distraction. It can also be a liability if your account gets hacked. Do you really need to be keeping a credit card number on file with your favorite pizza place in a town you moved away from? When was the last time you checked in on your MySpace account? Give yourself permission (and take the time) to close out accounts you aren’t using.

Uninstall unused apps

How many of the apps on your phone do you actually use on a regular basis? Take an honest look.  Maybe you have games you no longer play. Maybe you downloaded Couch-to-5k before realizing that you’re more likely to actually leave the house for Pokémon Go.

If you’re not using it, ditch it! Right now, it’s taking up valuable storage space on your phone, and valuable visual real estate in your menus. You deserve a cleaner phone experience.

Unsubscribe from mailing lists

Marketing emails seem harmless enough in isolation, but they can quickly become overwhelming. Too many of us know the pain of missing an important email because it was buried under sales emails from the store where we bought a mattress five years ago, or from the weirdly zealous mechanic who changed your oil last time. But you have the power to stem the tide of spam. Just unsubscribe.

Declutter your email

Now that you’ve unsubscribed from all that junk mail, it’s time to clean house. Some people maintain inbox zero. Some people have thousands of unread messages. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, cleaning out your email can be an incredible relief. Even if you think you’ve gotten used to that little number of notifications on your mail app, odds are that it’s causing you at least a little stress every time you look at it. That’s stress you don’t need, and don’t deserve. Carve out time to fix your email situation. You’ll feel better once you do.

Backup data and photos to a secure cloud service

How many versions of your photos do you have? Are they in one place? Are they in several? Do you store them all on your phone, or back them up to a hard drive? Are you dumping everything onto social media sites and hoping for the best?

Your information deserves to be protected. Choose a reputable cloud service and keep your files there. Social media companies can ban your account without warning, but a reliable cloud service will protect your data and preserve your access to it.

Clean up your desktop and downloads

When you’re in a hurry, it can be easy to download things to the first available place on your computer. But over time, you wind up with a desktop or a downloads folder that’s completely overwhelming. Sort through the files in these places, deleting what you don’t need and moving what you do to more appropriate places. Your data will be easier to locate when you need it, and your desktop will be free from distracting, anxiety-inducing clutter.

Scan for viruses and malware

A digital declutter is all about turning your electronic devices into a source of joy instead of anxiety. One way to do that is to make sure that they’re protected with reliable cybersecurity. It’s important to be mindful of scams, but it’s just as important to know that if your judgment fails – or if your data leaks somewhere outside of your control – that you’re as protected as possible.

Do a digital detox/phone cleanse

Now it’s time for the digital detox, where you set limits on your digital habits. Find ways to step away from your smartphone and your time spent online – not because it’s inherently bad, but because taking some distance from technology can help you re-evaluate your relationship to it. In a world where so many intense distractions are available to us, reconnecting with other pursuits that are important to you can be difficult. But it can also be critical for your physical health and your mental well-being.

Set a period of time, say, 30 days, during which you set strict limits around your smartphone and computer use. If you find yourself reading news and spiraling into anxiety, try limiting your news intake under 10 minutes at the start of your day. If you have a habit of doom-scrolling through social media apps, stop using your news feed in favor of specific groups that are important to you personally or professionally.

This doesn’t mean you should cut yourself off from technology completely. Especially in a world with COVID-19, many of us use our phones as a constant connection to our friends and family, and that’s important. But it’s also important to create boundaries, to give yourself more control over the time you spend online. If there’s a Facebook group that you use to find freelance jobs, bookmark it and only go there. If you’re a musician keeping up with your musician friends, make a curated feed and only focus on that.  Alternatively, you might also find it helpful to set time limits instead of curating a narrow experience.

Whatever ways you limit your screen time, the important thing is to avoid letting minutes online turn into hours of mindless scrolling. And if you do catch yourself endlessly scrolling, take a minute to ask yourself how it happened, and how you can adjust your life to counter it.

Did you check the time and get distracted? Maybe going retro with a watch could help you get less screen time. Do you check your phone one last time before bed, only to find yourself blearily scrolling Twitter before finally turning out the light? Put some reading material on your nightstand, and get an old-fashioned alarm clock, so that you can sleep further away from your phone. You might even put your phone in a different room entirely. (This gives you the added benefits of reducing blue light in your room, reducing disruption to your sleep cycles.)

In order for this to be successful, it’s important to really use these few days to think sincerely about your online habits. Everyone’s issues—and the solutions to them—will be different. Don’t think of this as a “diet, but for your phone.” In fact, thinking of it as a cleanse might not even be the right approach. You’re not trying to punish yourself - or cut yourself off from technology use. You’re just trying to pay attention to your online habits, so you can restructure them to reduce stress and serve you better.

After your digital detox

By the time you’re done with your declutter and digital detox, you may be surprised by how much better you feel. Your computer and mobile devices will be re-organized in a way that’s less stressful. You’ll have taken time to disconnect, and to think about how your technology and your social media habits factor into your everyday life. You’ll view your digital world with intentionality, freeing yourself from constantly checking your phone or losing yourself to time-consuming scrolling.

Your technology will serve you instead of serving as a focal point for addictive behavior. With time to focus up on the other important parts of your life, you’ll feel lighter and freer. A digital detox won’t solve all of your problems, but it can provide relief from a time sink that most of us aren’t fully aware of until we step back from it.

And even if some of your old habits come back, that’s okay. Just remember that you’re in control of your time, and you can be conscious about how you spend it. Everyone has different needs around their technology. Your digital detox is just about making sure that your needs are met, and that you’re genuinely in control of your digital world.

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