One reason people succumb to digital clutter like clogged inboxes and excessive browser tabs is that they’re being too clingy with digital content.
There’s an overwhelm of digital content, and you may feel the need to capture and save lots of it, hopefully to be digested later.
Having an intelligent capture system can help, but it’s also wise to reduce the flow if you’re frequently overflowing your inboxes with new ideas.
Here are some tips to help you overcome digital clinginess.
- Test being 100% caffeine-free for at least a month. Regular caffeine consumption can make it harder to prioritize by making trivial items seem more important than they are. Caffeine is also addictive, and any addiction tends to encourage other addictive patterns, thereby weakening your self-discipline.
- Use the OHIO rule: Only handle it once. Make each decision about what to do with digital content as soon as it comes up.
- Make no your default. Each piece of digital content is an invitation that must be justified. Unless you can say “hell yes” to it, let it go and close it.
- Favor immersive learning instead of chaotic learning. If a topic really interests you, do a focused deep dive into it. Read several books. Seek and out read worthwhile articles. Take a course. Then let it go completely when you feel you’ve digested enough info to satisfy you for now. When you realize that there’s something meaningful and new to explore in that same field, plan another focused deep dive. Consume content from a full glass, not a sippy cup.
- Ignore suggestions except when you’re actively asking for them. What would you read next if you had no “to read” list? Could you invite suggestions, pick and buy several new books, and then read them till done? When you have your stack, you can ignore all other suggestions till you actually need more.
- Consider a now or never framing when faced with a quick suggestion. Handle it now, or let it go forever. If you decline it once and it’s important enough, it will be raised again.
- Don’t look. You can use social media without ever looking at other people’s feeds. Just interact in your own space regarding the ideas you share. Don’t subject yourself to a flurry of random ideas from other people that will clutter your mind multiple times per day.
- Look at your goals and projects more than at other people’s input and suggestions. If your goals aren’t as interesting, set more interesting goals. If you keep turning your attention away from your goals, your goals are probably too boring.
- Ask anti-FOMO questions. You may have a tendency to over-focus on questions like “What if I need this?” when considering whether to keep something. Develop a counter-voice that pushes back with objections like “Could this be clutter?” and “What difference will this make to my life 10 years from now?” and “Shouldn’t I be working on my goals instead?”
- Limit subscriptions. Set a limit for how many email lists you can subscribe to, like a max of five. When you add one, drop an old one. Follow no more than 10 YouTube channels. For each subscription, ask how it’s helping you achieve your goals.
- Practice digital minimalism. Delete apps you don’t love. Clear your desktop of clutter. Reduce your bookmarks by 80%. Remove distracting visual reminders that your brain must constantly process. If it’s on the screen in front of you, some part of your brain is processing it.
- Delete accumulated digital clutter. Would you feel lighter if you deleted your least relevant terabyte of saved data? Of all the data you’ve piled up, what will you actually need to keep during the next decade or two of your life? Is any of that anchoring you to the past? Would you discover some extra freedom by letting much of it go? If you only kept 50 gigs, what would you keep?
Be careful with digital FOMO because this mindset can really clutter up your life if you don’t stay on top of it. When you notice that some part of your digital life is becoming bloated and unwieldy, reset your approach. Demolish the bloat and restore a sense of ease and lightness.
Receive Steve's new articles by email.