Turning off notifications can feel awkward: what if you miss something important? But almost everyone I spoke to said something similar about this concern: the people who need to reach you will know how to do it, be it a text or a phone call. Your mental health and attention will be grateful to you.
Celebrate January Digital Cleanup. If you’re ambitious, grab the page of my colleague Tate Ryan-Mosley, a reporter for digital rights and democracy. She will be celebrating her fourth annual January Digital Cleanup, where she devotes four weeks to cleaning up every part of her digital life: email, files, security, and phone.
This is how it works:
V 1 WeekTate is doing a “bulk cleanup” of her email, unsubscribing from newsletters and other lists that don’t serve her, and massively deleting emails she never reads. She also spends the day connecting with people who may have emailed her, but to whom she has yet to respond. New Year’s is a good time to rekindle those bonds and allow Tate to start new conversations with people she cares about.
2 week is dedicated to organizing files: cleaning files in the cloud, on the desktop and on any drives and placing them where they need to be. “This is my least favorite week,” says Tate. “But in the end you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.” Tate’s advice? Do not organize your files by date, but by general category. And treat the file organization like a real job because it is. “I’ll do it during breaks at work, if I’m looking forward to meeting, or taking an hour to listen to music and really do it,” she says.
3 week Tate’s digital cleaning is dedicated to safety. She reviews each confidential personal account and creates new unique passwords using the LastPass password manager. Tate is also using this week at Google to get rid of sensitive information such as her personal phone number and address that might move around the Internet. Tate swears by The New York Times’ Guide to Self-Affirmation, available herewhich offers clear instructions on how to protect your personal information online.
4 week according to Tate, this is the most interesting. This week, she’s cleaning up her backlog of photos, uninstalling apps that don’t serve her, and reorganizing her home screen. “The nice thing is that I don’t have to be at my desk for this,” she says. “I can wait in line or watch TV.” Tate also takes time this week to turn off her notifications (see above).
For Tate, January Digital Cleanup isn’t necessarily fun. How many permits are there? But when the calendar shifts to February, it hit a ton. “I feel so good for the rest of the year,” she says. “And by December I can’t wait to take care of all this again. I love how I feel after that. ”
Finally, remember that there is a whole world outside of technology. Once upon a time, people did not stretch their necks from behind their phones by practicing this particular thumb movement while scrolling endlessly on social media. Some people read books. Others chatted with others – or simply passed out for a while.
Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University, is a vocal advocate for reforming your relationship with technology, especially when it’s not necessary. “When you use technology to solve important problems, it helps,” he says. “When you use it as a standard distraction from unpleasant thoughts or experiences, it can be a problem.” So hang up and feel these emotions, even if it’s boredom, sadness, or anxiety. Perhaps you will feel more human again.