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Prioritizing Self-Care with Digital Minimalism: A Guide to Simplify Your Life

Written by: Liz Craig

Published: September 1st, 2023

Example of digital minimalism with email

I've been on a journey, you might say a minimalist journey, but I see it more as a journey to designing my life so that it has all of what I want in it, and nothing that I don't want. It is possible, especially with all the tech advances that exist today. But with all these tech tools, it's easy to get super overwhelmed and unhappy - and in fact that is what they want from you. If you delete a lot, constantly say no, and choose what's most important to you, life gets a whole lot more fun and satisfying. Not sure what I mean? Read on for more practical tips and things I've done to enrich my limited life here on Earth.

Inbox zero everyday.

One of the secrets to my success is that I get to inbox zero every morning. My routine has become to wake up to my cat meowing (another secret is no alarm clock), feeding her, making some black coffee in my awesome Yeti mug and then going upstairs, turning on my PC and opening my email. There are usually maybe 10-40 emails there. I go methodically one by one through them either deleting or unsubscribing if not important, responding if it needs and filing the important ones into folders like "wedding business", "teaching" etc. I get to zero usually in about 10 minutes. Then I check my spam filter and delete all of those after a cursory glance at the titles. The rest of my day, I don't check it unless I'm waiting for a specific email to come through.

Do things immediately or schedule or don't do them.

When I do have an action item, I will do it immediately. I would say 95% of my action items can be done right away. If not, I'll put it on my calendar at a day and time when I know I have time to do it and will want to do it (this is the most important part). If when it comes to that day and time and I don't feel like it, I just delete it and move on.

Don't make or hold on to lists.

This habit took me a while to shed. I like a list so much that sometimes I would look up pictures of to do lists on google images - probably not healthy! I've realized now that a list is just a concrete way of holding on to ideas instead of executing them. If I don't want to do this new idea immediately or schedule it, then there is no need for a third place to hold the list. I also find that when I write down something that I want to do, it actually takes a bit of the joy out of it.

Have your resources easily accessible at all times.

I like Google drive because everything I could ever need when I'm out and about is there. All my sheet music. All my records/contracts for gigs. Everything I need is a click away at all times. Makes life much easier and stress free.

We are on a spinning rock - have fun with your life!

I have a bit of a hedonistic philosophy - above all seek pleasure, fun and joy. I don't want to waste hours of my precious life sifting through emails or paperwork. I spend as little time as possible on things that I don't enjoy so that I can maximize the enjoyment I have. I absolutely love my job so working also fits into this category. I honestly can't think of anything I don't like to do that is part of my everyday. If you are finding that most of your life isn't fun, it's time to make some changes. This morning, I felt like writing this blog post just because I was inspired and riding that inspiration is joyful.

Put ideas in their proper place.

If you are quite creative and always have ideas - make sure you put them in a proper place where you will see and be reminded of them at the proper juncture. For this blog, I have a drafts section which I will casually type into and then later when I feel like polishing, all the work is already there. I tend to use Google keep for other ideas when I'm out on the go and then I look through them after my inbox zero. I also want my keep notes to be zero, so I will either delete the information (I have lots of bad ideas) or put it into my calendar for a future date or do it right away. Those are the only options.

Turn off all notifications.

When someone sees my phone, they sometimes wonder about it. It's google pixel with no apps on the home screen and it's silent! I only use it to navigate when I'm out, listening to audio books, podcasts or music in the car. Also calling and texting. I try to take photos when I'm out at gigs. That is it, no social media, no notifications, no alarms. It's a brick that never really dies since I'm out with it plugged into the car all the time. I rarely have to manually charge it and it never bugs me. Since I only use it in the car/when I'm out, most of the time at home it is just sitting in my bag.

Use your computer with an ad-blocker.

I love my computer. It's a PC that my husband built for gaming back in maybe 2014 or so. It has and old version of windows with no updates and only software that I've downloaded purposefully. I have a strong ad blocker on my browser that blocks all ads and social media feeds. Yes social media feeds. I did have to program it a little bit to do that. Here's my Facebook home page, isn't it beautiful? I may check what those notifications are maybe once a week, but 9 times out of 10, they are just click bait garbage. If I do post to social media, I use the Facebook business manager to create and schedule the posts so that I don't ever have to see the feeds.

Digital minimalism with facebook and ad blocker

Avoid ads at all costs.

Ads are designed to tell you that you aren't enough and that what you have isn't enough. If you want to feel whole always, just avoid the ads at all costs. Using an ad blocker on your computer and taking social media off your phone is a great first step. The only ads I ever see are billboards as I drive and they always look so silly.

Practice saying no to everyone and everything, especially your closest friends and family.

Don't want to do the dishes? Don't do them. Don't want to go to a family wedding, don't. Want to spend the whole day at the mall by yourself? Do it! You know what will make you happy - that's not usually the mystery. It's having the courage to stand up for yourself and make it happen they way you might try to make someone else happy. The more you say no and stand up for yourself, the easier it gets. It may start by deleting a lot of emails in the morning - that really gets me in a decisive mood.

Practice being rejected by applying to a lot of things. Don't care about any of them.

When I use to look at YouTube suggested videos, I remember seeing an interview with Stephen King where he said that the secret to his success was to collect rejections on a nail on the wall. When he had so many, he had to put a new nail in. Collecting rejections has also been a key mission in my life. When I hear about a new opportunity that might suit me, I apply for it without thinking. I also don't really care about the results since I've applied to so many things. My first big rejection was to the Masters of Music program at U of T, but I have it to thank for bringing me to Toronto which was a major boost to my performing and teaching businesses. I've submitted poetry to so many journals and been rejected there, I've applied to so many conferences to speak, grant programs where I didn't get the money, etc. I love collecting rejections and you should too!

Let your gut dictate what's truly important to you.

Our bodies, minds, souls and hearts know what is good for us. Enlightenment is eating when you are hungry, going to bed when you are tired and drinking when you are thirsty. Letting your body tell you what to do instead of a device is very liberating. If you are constantly tired, hungry, overwhelmed, etc. start deleting things. Get rid of those commitments you made out of guilt, stop doing the things you don't enjoy, maybe take a day to just sleep in and listen to what your body wants. You are extremely intelligent and you have all you need to succeed and thrive. First and last, get rid of all that excess that is in your way.

"Minimalism is a reminder of our ultimate autonomy, that the next second is an unforseeable future in which we might do anything, or anything might happen to us." - The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism by Kyle Chayka


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