Like millions of people worldwide, I have completely fallen for Marie Kondo's cult of "keeping things that spark joy". The central philosophy around The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has had a significant impact my life, and not just because my closet looks much tidier and there is more "CHI" flowing in my home. It's a simple rule, a mantra or philosophy that has transcended into ever aspect of my life, but most of all: my work and my digital life. As co-founder of a digital marketing company and owner of the CheerConditioning.Academy - grouping together my digital assets and activities can give anyone a headache. On a day-to-day I am producing content and communicating with collaborators, members and clients through:
Content Management Systems
Project Management software
Google Sheets & Docs
Without counting the 3rd party apps that help you run all of these platforms, and the amount of communications and people you are managing on each platform, it becomes unbearable. Decluttering my home was not the challenge: it was a starting point. The firestarter that would be the catalyst for my journey to digital minimalism, despite having a job that requires to be connected on every level. The process is still going on after 2 years, but here are some of the best digital-minimising steps I have taken to re-gain balance and control over my digital devices:
FACEBOOK: Discovering the "unfollow" button was a true EUREKA moment. Without un-friending anyone, I just spent a whole Sunday (while watching TV re-runs) unfollowing anyone who's feed didn't "spark joy". I am only following about 80 people on Facebook out of the thousands of contacts I have as part of my community network. Unfollowing someone / a group / a page doesn't mean you no longer want them in your lives, but what it does is reduce your news-feed to only the things that truly spark your interest. You can always go and check in with someone by visiting their profiles, or keep up with a certain topic by joining and taking part of a group you love.
TWITTER: If you follow thousands of people, the likelihood is that you will miss conversations and topics you're really interested in, and instead feel completely overwhelmed with. Instead of having an active Twitter account (like me) you start dreading Twitter because of the avalanche of the feed you're confronted with and you would rather avoid it all-together. Twitter has become enjoyable again since I unfollowed 90% of the people I was following to focus on the feeds that really interest me, and instead moved everyone else onto a private or public lists. This way I can still check in with certain topics and communities without them overwhelming my day-to-day.
INSTAGRAM: Similarly to Twitter, my feed was overwhelmed with people I wanted to follow so that we could "listen in" and get stuck into content and conversations. It's a shame that Instagram doesn't have the same functions as Facebook in regards to lists or contacts that you don't have to follow, so cleaning up the Instagram feed was the hardest one of all to let go. However once I only kept the feed that truly inspired me, Instagram has also become much more enjoyable.
APPS: Here is where I went completely "Kon-Mari" and started going power-happy on the DELETE button. On my phone, laptop, pr bookmarks I used the same concept of looking at everything all together and only keeping those apps that I really need on a day-today basis and decided on 20 apps that I need or love. For anything else, I also adopted the "one in, one out" method: if I want a new app, I first need to toss one out that I don't need or love.
MEDIA: Thankfully, now we no longer have to carry our data on our devices, they can all live on the cloud. I have my "icloud" switched on on my phone meaning that I have minimal files living on my device. Instead, when I have good wifi I'll scroll back in time to see the memories and items I have accumulated. Once a month or so I'll scroll back in time and happily delete any photo or video memories that are not as valuable as I thought they were.
EMAILS: This was the first step I took into minimalism, 3 years before I even came accross Kon-mari, and it's probably the most significant one of all. I don't have emails on my phone. Not one. This was the best decision I have ever taken and let me tell you that it's never had a negative impact on my work. In fact, quite the opposite: I can bring my phone with me when I'm out without being interrupted or distracted and I never have to feel guilty. Email time is for laptop time only, and it's taken a long time but I've found a really good groove for my email management. The goal is to always have: Inbox ZERO whenever the inbox is open. It's a real ZEN feeling and achievable, even if you are employed. The interesting thing about emails is that your inbox starts to behave in the way you treat it: ie if you send a lot of emails, you receive a lot of emails too. Here is how I learned to tame the wild beast that was my inbox:
Emails are processed first thing in the morning. Urgent emails get immediate responses, important emails get flagged for later response or action, irrelevant emails get deleted.
The process is repeated at the end of the day (usually before dinner) when I officially close shop for the day.
If I'm in during the day, I only make sure emails come in every 30min or so so that I don't interrupt my workflow, and use the same system.
If you're expecting some urgent information from a colleague or client during the day, I let them know in advance I'll be out so in case of emergency they can reach me on my mobile.
Unless we are forwarding an external query, we no longer use email as a method of communication in our company. Instead, we use a project management system for ALL communication which has had a transformative impact on our business (we in fact call the time before we used Basecamp "The Dark Ages").
Use the phone. I refuse to have ping-pong email matches with anyone, including clients. If the topic requires a conversation then I book a skype meeting or pick up the phone, and then always follow up with an email to outline any outcome.
Unless something is urgent and time-sensitive (a client needing a file / responding to a booking / meeting request etc) then I only process emails once a week. This might seem shocking to most people in a time where everything is "now-now-now" but it's a huge blessing because avoiding ping-pong emails. I dedicate an entire morning to processing my flagged emails, and everything gets processed in one swift go: like a project in itself.
FILES: Ideally, you file everything as you go along, neatly and tidily. In reality, I have found that the tidying can sometimes get in the way of working, especially if files are scattered around in different locations and folders. Instead, this is a much more realistic and useful way to manage files and folders (at least for me).
The "filing closet" does not live on my laptop. After having had laptops crash and die on me, I learned my lesson. Everything lived on a cloud storage facility that is linked to an external hard drive (unless you have a power PC/MAC with a monster drive that won't slow your computer down).
Have MASTER-TIDY session, KonMari style. Instead of tidying as I go along, I spent an entire week creating a solid foundation and filing system for all our files. It was a project with a life of its own, and just like tidying your home, left me feeling fresh and energetic. Nothing was deleted or recycled, instead 80% of my files were moved to the ARCHIVES folder, where the files are neatly resting in peace, like a digital cemetery, except that they can be resuscitated in a moment of desperate need.
Nothing lives on the desktop (or you will slow down your computer significantly) - instead I have a "DUMP" folder where I keep everything I am working on during that week or need to keep handy. When the work week is over, I move anything I no longer need from the DUMP folder into the archives or neatly put it away in my filing closet.
Once a quarter, I have another master tidy session usually when I'm on a long flight or in a place with no internet, when there are no distractions from the internet.
Before I leave you to revolutionize your digital world, let me leave you with one thought. You don't have to forcefully buy into the mimimalist lifestyle to get your life in order. It's not an all-or nothing concept. It's about where you find your happiness. I know I will never be an extreme minimalist nor will I will never be one of those people that can "disconnect" from the world for a whole week, and I have made my peace with that. I know that even on holiday I am much more relaxed if I can have one hour of laptop time before my day starts, rather than worrying about the aftermath I know will happen when I'm back at work. It's like trying to take time off parenting (so I've been told!) - you can't really take time off. Even if you go away, you want to check in with your kids to make sure they're ok. So my parting advice, to anyone who feels like a bit of digital decluttering would have a positive impact on their lives is to :
Reduce to what brings you satisfaction and progress
Feel in control of when you're "ON" or off digital mode
Find the balance that suits YOU: rather than someone else's ideals
by Jessica Zoo Christensen, Co-founder of Mavericks Active Workspace