Ignoring notifications can be a little uncomfortable: what if you miss something important? But most people I have spoken to have expressed similar views on this concern: People who need to contact you will know how to contact you, whether by text or phone. Your mental health and attention will thank you.
Celebrate the digital cleanup in January. If you are ambitious, please learn from my colleague Tate Ryan-Mosley, a journalist on digital rights and democracy issues. She will celebrate her fourth annual digital cleanup in January, where she spends four weeks cleaning up every part of her digital life: email, files, security, and phone calls.
This is how it works:
exist Week 1, Tate carried out a “massive purge” of her emails, unsubscribed from newsletters and other lists that did not serve her, and deleted a large number of emails that she would never read. She also spent a day contacting people who may have emailed her but she has not yet responded. The new year is a good time to restore these connections and allow Tate to start a new conversation with the people she cares about.
Week 2 Committed to file organization: clean up files in the cloud, desktop, and any drives, and put them where they belong. “This is my least favorite week,” Tate said. “But in the end, you will feel like you really accomplished something.” Tate’s suggestion? Don’t organize files by date, but by general categories. And treat file organization as real work, as it is. “If I was waiting for a meeting, I would do it during work breaks, or set aside an hour to listen to music and actually do it,” she said.
Week 3 Tate’s Digital Cleanup is committed to safety. She checks every sensitive personal account and creates a new unique password with the help of the password manager LastPass. Tate also used this week to perform a Google search on herself to remove sensitive information that may circulate on the Internet, such as her personal phone number and address. Tate vowed in the New York Times guide to conduct human flesh searches on himself, Available here, Which provides clear instructions on how to protect your private information online.
Week 4 According to Tate, it is the most interesting. She spent this week cleaning up the backlog of photos on her phone, deleting apps that didn’t suit her, and refreshing the home screen. “The good news is that I don’t have to do this at my desk,” she said. “I might be waiting in line or watching TV.” Tate also took the time to turn off her notice this week (see above).
For the Tate Gallery, digital cleanup in January is not necessarily fun. What is the resolution? But when the calendar shifted to February, she had already achieved a lot. “I feel good for the rest of this year,” she said. “By December, I can’t wait to deal with it all again. I like how I feel afterwards.”
Finally, remember that there is a whole world beyond technology. Once upon a time, people would not crane their necks on their phones and practice the special thumb flicks that endlessly scroll through social media. Some read books. Others chat with people around—or simply leave temporarily.
Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, strongly advocates reforming your relationship with technology, especially when it is really unnecessary. “When you deploy technology to important things, it can be very helpful,” he said. “When you use it as a default distraction from unpleasant thoughts or experiences, it can become a problem.” So put down the phone and feel these emotions, even if they are bored, sad, or anxious. It may make you feel more human again.