My challenge with digital minimalism and how I compromise
You probably heard about the term “digital minimalism”. Cal Newport even wrote a book about it, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.
I ordered Newport’s book as soon as it was available a few months ago out of curiosity. I was very skeptical, though: How can he write a book about digital addiction if he never experienced it?
Cal Newport is not on social media, yet he is a very influential expert and authority in today’s tech-heavy society. This tells you something and it confirms what I think: It’s not your presence on social media that, in the long run, defines you as an authority. It’s not the volume of content you share on social media, but rather the substance, the quality of content, and expertise that you own that count.
You don’t have to feel bad for Cal Newport: As he mentioned in his TedEx talk in 2016, he has friends, he knows what goes on in his world, and he is completely fine. He says he’s happy and he’s successful. Why? Because he focuses on what’s most important.
I enjoyed his book very much; I disagree on some points but he shared excellent advice.
I don’t agree on …
Newport suggests that, instead of spending 10 hours a week on Twitter engaging with our connections, we should select one local talk or event every month and make a goal to chat with at least three people there. That’s certainly a very useful alternative in order to reduce waste of time spent on social media that you could utilize better in your daily life. However, I created many global connections thanks to Twitter (and Instagram), and many of these turned into long-distance friendships that I would have never created if I focused only on my local community. One of my goals on social media is to move those online relationships to offline meetups for expanded benefits
Deleting social media from your phone
I could never do this, especially because I communicate with clients and fellow professionals via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. However, I learned how to stay away from my phone (tempting me with all those beautiful and nicely organized app icons on the screen) during my productive time blocks. I just ignore it. No distractions are allowed. And you can do it, too: it all comes down to being intentional with your available time
I (kind of) agree on …
Newport asks us to do something that seems impossible: a 30-day digital declutter from any new technology that can be considered optional, meaning we can live without it for a month and still go on with our personal and professional life. You don’t have to give up your email, and you don’t have to give up your text messaging if that keeps you in contact with family. But everything else should wait for 30 days.
What I like about digital declutter is the opportunity to get rid of unnecessary tools and tasks in order to introduce new habits for increased clarity, focus, and eventually freedom. To introduce what’s important and fulfilling in life. I am a big proponent of habits and I totally get Newport’s point. When you prioritize yourself and you don’t depend on other people’s agendas (social media updates, that is), everything else has a different meaning.
I love technology and I use it every day to promote my brand and to stay connected to my audience. I could never leave that world, not even for 30 days, but I have learned how to become more selective in my online activities. I think you have to be more aware of using technology to your advantage. I feel blessed to live in an era where technology brings us closer, but I don’t let it run (or distract) me.
I totally agree on …
This can provide us with extraordinary moments to unleash our creativity and best work. Solitude is not to be confused with loneliness. It’s a conscious decision to spend time with ourselves, to find ourselves, to know ourselves better, whatever that might be. Technology today is pushing us to become more lonely than in a state of solitude, unfortunately. We’re constantly connected on the Internet without really being connected with our minds. We’re constantly distracted from our greatness and from the life around us.
I can confirm that solitude is what allows me to create my best work, when I’m most concentrated and when I can focus on one project at a time without distractions. This makes me think: Is multi-tasking a product of “solitude deprivation”? The fact that the new technology, as Newport suggests, leaves us with almost no time to spend with ourselves, “alone with our thoughts,” we find ourselves pressed for time when we have to deliver. We spend longer times on our phone, googling, or watching videos, and our work suffers. Therefore, we have to make up the time by engaging in multiple activities at once in order to meet our deadlines. Unfortunately, results won’t be as expected…
What Newport also suggests (alternating “between regular time alone with your thoughts and regular connection” with the outside world) is something that I find introverts – including me – do on a daily basis. I wonder if introverts can master digital minimalism better than extroverts …
I’m all for scheduling leisure plans, as these will leave more time to ourselves. If you think that your free time will just happen after a long day of work, think again. This is what most of my clients struggle with. There will be other things coming in the way, and sometimes (as Newport notes) they will be “low-quality activities”, like losing yourself in social media notifications or binge-watching your favorite TV shows.
I always suggest my clients that they schedule everything on their agenda every week, including exercise, time with family and friends, reading, hobbies, etc. Once you become consistent with your habits and you set aside time seriously (as you do with your work meetings), you will be more motivated to stick to them and to defend them. I have my personal time blocked in my calendar which is connected to my online scheduling tool. That way, prospects can’t set up meetings with me during my personal time. That’s non-negotiable.
Approaching social media from a professional point of view
This is exactly what I do. I give priority to my business activity and less to “entertainment purposes” when I’m on different platforms
How I Digitally Decluttered
As of March 2018, I was very active on multiple live streaming and social media platforms. I was following every connection, influencer or guru, I was watching every Periscope broadcast that would appear live in my feed, I was checking social media notifications on all platforms multiple times a day in order not to miss anything, and I was downloading every new app just because “I might need it one day”. But I realized that all the time I was spending checking my notifications and watching other people’s live broadcasts was only providing a small ROI for my brand.
I could see the results from the connections I was creating, but other than that it was poorly invested time. Sometimes, I would even wonder how those people that I was following were so active and productive on different social media channels all day long. When were they working? When were they dedicating time to their business? And to themselves? Did they have a profitable business after all? Or, were they just producing content because they didn’t have a profitable business and they were desperately looking for clients?
I finally decided it was time to reduce my social presence online. And I made it happen during my move on the following month (April). During that time, I performed my own digital declutter. It was a busy time between packing, moving, unpacking, furnishing, settling in the new place (it’s very cozy, welcoming, and inspiring!), decorating, and enjoying the new neighborhood. During that busy time, I had to slow down my social media posting schedule. No more every day. I probably posted two-three times in April, and they were all personal posts. I discovered a new life. That new routine gave me more time to appreciate what was around me. It made me feel more relaxed, more present, more connected, more mindful, more creative. I had more time for myself. I had more time to bake in my new fabulous kitchen. I was making better use of my time.
Once everything was back to its normal pace, I decided to keep that new routine. I decided I would be more respectful of myself and of my audience. No more posting just for the sake of it, just posts that could bring value. Less became more. Quality over quantity. Surprisingly, I started to see more engagement in my posts. Apparently, my audience had more time to respond and interact with my less frequent posts. Not only that, but I had more time to think about ways to serve my clients better, and at the end of the year, I even found the time to write a book 🙂
My coaching practice is all about a better quality of life and improved well-being. And I finally started living it myself.
You too can be more in control of your online presence. Whether you reduce the amount of time or you reduce the number of “distractions” you can make it. You just need to be intentional with your purpose.
Bottom line …
Is social media really a good thing in our already stressed lives? And, can we keep our sanity on social media?
My answer is YES, but only if you are intentional about it and you use it in moderation. It also depends on how you use social media:
A – For personal reasons, keeping the ties with your family and friends scattered all over the world, and exchanging pictures and accomplishments with them
B – For business purposes, promoting your brand across platforms and making sure you stay connected, engaging and keeping the conversation going with your audience, offering the latest and greatest of your products and services to solve their problems
I’m one of those B users, and I realize it’s definitely harder to use social media for business purposes because you have to come up with unique and appealing content all the time. If you use it for personal reasons you can just upload your kids’ pictures and you’re good to go. But if you use it for business purposes it gets stressful to be always top of mind and to be seen as an authority in your industry by creating posts, graphics, videos, polls, and so on without investing too much of your time.
My Tips To Enjoy Social Media (Without Being A Slave Of It)
- Start with YOU when you wake up in the morning. Many people check their phones as soon as they wake up. Some of them say it helps them to get energized, but very often this can lead to anxiety and stress, and you don’t want it first thing in the morning. We already have enough stressors during the day! Let your body and mind wake up gently. Scan your body and make sure you are feeling great. Think of something positive that you would like to focus on during the day. Whatever you do for the first 5-10-15-30 minutes as soon as you wake up (maybe still in bed), make it a time for you. Not for everyone else on social media or in your inbox. Remember: when you take care of yourself first you can then take care of others better
- Use technology wisely but don’t let it run you. This applies to your daily life and to your mental and physical health. Besides eye strain (and maybe a sedentary life if you’re sitting in front of your computer all day), our brain simply can’t perform for long periods. Take breaks of at least 20 minutes every 60-90 minutes to renew energy and increase creativity and productivity. Don’t check social media updates during those breaks, though – that’s not a break from work because you’re still forcing your brain to function, and you’re still engaging with technology. Use that break for yourself, for your well-being. Go for a walk, play with your dog, read, paint, listen to music. You get the idea. Another recommendation is to stay away from your phone and your electronic devices as much as possible to avoid EMFs (electromagnetic fields), especially at night (I mentioned EMFs in a post about sleep HERE). The goal here is to reduce stress, overwhelm, and really use technology to your advantage. You are in charge and you decide how to run your life
- Set a daily timer for each social media platform. Also, be very strategic: Which one brings you the most traffic or exposure? Which one allows you to create content without a huge time investment? Where is your audience? That particular platform should be the one you spend more time on
- If possible, assign specific days to your social media presence and be consistent with your schedule. Do your clients usually hang out on Instagram on Saturdays? Spend some time there and leave comments with valuable advice, or go live interacting with your audience. Then take a break during the week and focus on offline activities
- Don’t be fooled by the appearance. If someone is delivering content every day it doesn’t mean he or she is more successful than you. You are successful in your own way, and maybe your clients love you more for not bombarding them with posts every single day. They have a life too, you know …
- Repeat to yourself: “Social Media is just an extra layer of my persona, but my essence is here with me offline”. Sell yourself in person, nurture local connections, give more value to the real-life you than the online you. Facebook may go away one day but you and your brand will still be here serving your clients
- Live with JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) instead of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Don’t panic if you can’t check your notifications tonight, spend precious time with your family during dinner instead. Don’t feel bad for not joining your best friend’s broadcast live, enjoy a beautiful day outside in nature instead. You can always watch the replay when you get home… You can’t be in every place at the same time, and that is okay! Prioritize you. Rotate your most important happenings on social media. For example, do you love Twitter chats as much as I do? It can become a job if you participate in all the chats you love. But you have a life and you have a job, so you can alternate the chats of your interest (one chat on Monday, one chat on Tuesday, and so on. The following week, you will join a different chat on Monday, a different chat on Tuesday, etc.). If you really feel guilty for not being consistent, let the chat host know in a direct message. Be honest about your plan to cut down on time spent on social media in order to be more strategic with your daily schedule, and let them know you’ll be there to support as often as you can. They will understand and they will appreciate you reaching out showing you care for their chat!
Cal Newport is famous and influential, but he’s not on social media. And neither should you when you don’t feel like. Don’t waste your precious talent and energy where they shouldn’t be. Use your sphere of influence to shine and stand out in your world, offline or online. Or both. Your choice.
As a Holistic Precision Life Coach and creator of the Life-Work Balance System, I empower ambitious professionals and high achievers like you to optimize themselves and unlock their full potential, fostering enhanced well-being and productivity in their lives and careers. I combine innovative methodologies (epigenetics, neuroscience, chronobiology, and positive psychology) to facilitate profound lifestyle transformations.