Turning off notifications can be a bit annoying: What if you miss something important? But most of everyone I’ve talked to has said something similar about this concern: the people who need to reach out to you will know how, either by text message or phone call. Your mental health and attention will be appreciated.
Celebrate digital cleaning in January. If you’re feeling ambitious, check out a page from my colleague Tate Ryan-Mosley, a reporter on digital rights and democracy. She will celebrate her fourth annual Digital Cleanup January, where she dedicates four weeks to cleaning up every part of her digital life: email, files, security and phones.
Here’s how it works:
U Week 1, Tate does a “mass cleaning” of her emails, subscribing to newsletters and other lists that don’t serve her, and mass-deleting emails she’ll never read. She also spends the day in contact with people who may have emailed her and who have yet to respond. New Year is a nice time to revive those relationships and allow Tate to start new conversations with people she cares about.
Week 2 is dedicated to organizing files: cleaning files in the cloud, on the desktop and on all disks and putting them where they belong. “This is my least favorite week,” says Tate. “But in the end, you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.” Dad’s advice? Do not organize files by date, but by general category. And treat the organization of files as a real job, because it is. “I will do it during breaks at work if I wait for a meeting, or I take an hour and listen to music and I really do,” she says.
Week 3 Tate’s digital cleaning is dedicated to security. It goes through every sensitive personal account and creates new unique passwords with the help of the LastPass password manager. Tate is also using this week on Google to get rid of sensitive information, such as her personal phone number and address, that could float online. Tate swears by a New York Times guide for doxxing himself, available here, which offers clear instructions on how to protect your private data online.
Week 4 is the most fun, according to Tate. She set aside this week to clean up leftover photos on her phone, delete apps that don’t serve her and reorganize the home screen. “The good thing is that I don’t have to be at my desk to do this,” she says. “Maybe I’m waiting in line or watching TV.” Tate is also taking time this week to turn off his notifications (see above).
For Tate, January’s digital cleaning is not necessarily fun. What is the resolution? But when the calendar turns to February, it has reached a ton. “I feel so good by the end of the year,” she says. “And by December, I can’t wait to take care of all this again. I love how I feel afterwards. ”
Lastly, remember that there is a whole world outside of technology. Once upon a time, people didn’t twist their necks over the phone, practicing that particular movement with the thumb of endlessly scrolling social media. Some read books. Others chatted with those around them – or simply rested briefly.
Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, is strongly committed to reforming your relationship with technology, especially when it really isn’t necessary. “When you apply technology to things that matter, it’s helpful,” he says. “When you use it as a default distraction from unpleasant thoughts or experiences, it can become a problem.” So hang up the phone and feel those emotions, even if they are boredom, sadness or anxiety. You may feel a little more human again.