This is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Last year, after my book was published, I had a bit of a crash. I hit the wall. I’d been going pretty hard for about a year, pouring everything into my book and my work, and I got to the end of my rope.
To balance that, I’m in what I like to refer to as a “cocoon phase.” I’m taking some time, not hustling so hard, saying no to things, and basically resting and preparing for what I’m sure is going to be something awesome coming down the pike real soon.
I was super stoked to get a copy of my friend Angela Crocker’s new book, Declutter Your Data in the mail a couple weeks ago. I was stoked because Angela is my friend, and I obviously am excited to see her succeed, but also because, you guys, I need to declutter my data. For real.
But when I opened her book and started reading, one of the first things she talks about is self care. Decluttering as self care.
And honestly, I’d never thought of it like that before, but boy howdy, is it true.
I live in a fantastic apartment in downtown Vancouver, and part of what makes it fantastic is the fact that I have a 4” x 8” storage room in my suite. It’s great. We store our bikes in there, I have a chest freezer, the cat litter box and all of my Costco toilet paper.
But after 5 years of living in my place, it had become overrun with junk. And every time I opened the door to that room, I felt stressed and overwhemeled. In January, I finally set out to purge it. It was stressful and challenging, but I feel amazing now that it’s done. I feel lighter. I can find and access my stuff. My life is better—there’s less swearing and less wasting of time.
Deculttering your data is going to have the same effect. It will save time, and you’ll feel lighter and less stressed out. Your productivity will soar. Yeah, it’s self-care, all right.
According to Declutter Your Data, the average household has 41.5 TB of data, spread across 14 digital devices! Yikes. Add to that your 4 email addresses, the 20 or so social networks you belong to, podcasts, cloud storage, gaming accounts, points/loyalty memberships, Netflix subscription… digital overwhelm is pretty easily reached.
But here’s the thing: you’re in control. I know sometimes it may not feel that way, but you are. You have to not look at the overwhelming whole, but focus on smaller, snackable tasks, and chip away at your digital decluttering, a little at a time. Angela suggests starting with hardware in your home; physically getting rid of old hard drives, computers, even hand-held devices (my recent purge turned up a few of those!). She then suggests taking an inventory of your digital footprint, and figuring out what’s needed and what’s not. Finally, there’s advice on how to manage your inbox (one of the biggest sources of stress there is) and your digital photographs (this is one I have still not dived into, but need to), as well as your apps.
Some other takeaways I got from Angela’s book:
It’s okay to say no. Not joining a new, hot social network (hello, Vero), is okay. You don’t have to be an early adopter. You can wait. It’s okay to not join the rewards program that will flood your inbox, or to not sign up for that e-newsletter. Saying no, I am learning, is a form of self-care, because it opens up space for the things you really want.
You control notifications. I’m a big fan of this, and have been practicing it for a while. My phone only makes a noise when someone is directly trying to contact me either through text or phone. You can also schedule things like email or checking Facebook. One big cause of overwhelm in today’s world is that, because of smart phones, we’re expected to be available 24/7, and that should not be true. We need time for ourselves, to go for a walk, to have dinner with family, to hit a yoga class. The world will likely not end if you don’t respond to your FB notifications for an hour.
Planning for the inevitable. A couple years ago, I made a will. It was a weird experience, but I’m glad I did it. I feel a sense of security, knowing that my kid is taken care of. One thing I haven’t thought about or planned for is what happens to my digital footprint when I die. Reading this chapter was both uncomfortable and eye-opening at the same time.
What I love the most about Angela’s book was how practical it is, in terms of solutions for the real world. We read doom-and-gloom fear-mongering stuff on the interwebz all the time. I regularly get press releases from folks talking about social media or video game addiction (there is actually a fair bit of research that video games can be good for you). I don’t really believe in those things. I do believe in moderation, and I believe in living in this world, the world right now. We can’t live in a digitally-free bubble. But we also don’t need to be slaves to our technology. There’s a happy medium in there somewhere for all of us, and it’s likely different for all of us as well. The key is really mindfulness. Angela recognizes this and puts forward solutions that reflect that.
Declutter Your Data is a quick and easy read with lots of practical advice for reclaiming your digital life from the chaos of digital clutter.