The digital declutter has been a real struggle in the Davis house this year. With jobs that seem to demand constant connection and three sons ages 14, 13 and 7 years old, my husband and I have been searching for ways to simplify our lives. We long to be more present in a world that is full of so much pseudo-connection. As I read through the posts of my cohort-mates this week, it seems I am not alone. Many of us seem to be struggling to find peace in the chaos. Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism seems like a clarion call at just the right time.
As I read through his suggested practices toward living a minimalist lifestyle, I am convicted by the hubris my digital life has displayed. Why do I feel that I am so important that people would need constant access to me? Why do I feel compelled to respond to everyone immediately, as if my input is so necessary? I wonder if I have made it easy for the teams I lead to depend on me for solutions they would naturally find themselves if I wasn’t so easily accessible. Perhaps my immediate relationships would be richer if I stopped trying to maintain thousands of them from far away.
Newport gave me permission I didn’t know I needed. He offered the life raft when I didn’t even realize I was drowning. As I read, I reflected on the things I did before I became email-obsessed. I found I have been neglecting the high-quality leisure activities that offered me space to think and create. I have unknowingly developed a Pavlovian response to boredom that involves mindless scroll-and-swipe rather than leaning into deep connections. I have allowed my days to be fragmented rather than full and focused.
I accept Newport’s 30-day digital declutter challenge. So far, on day 3, I am ashamed by my level of mobile addiction but amazed by the hours I have found. Though I may add in a few applications, I have a feeling I will not miss most of them. I already feel less anxiety since I am not ruled by the little red notification dot on my phone. I wonder what I will be able to produce in the hours I have gained…what will I learn about my family…what will I see with my eyes up that I couldn’t see before?
Thanks, Newport. I owe you.
Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019).