I am trying to remember what my adult life was like before cell phones and the internet, when staying connected simply meant phoning or visiting people and I gathered information by visiting a library or purchasing a newspaper.
In my first career as an actor, I recall phoning my apartment to collect messages left by my agent. I had headshots and resumes printed and I handed them across the casting table at each audition. Socially, friends and family would call to chat and we’d set dates to visit. If they didn’t show up, you’d go home and find out later what happened.
Eventually I got a computer for efficient document creation and, with the advent of basic internet, I started to use email and I published my first webpage. Somewhere in there I got a pager (which required finding a pay phone to call back the number on the readout) and then quickly graduated to a flip phone. Years later, the smartphone exponentially increased my productivity and the two-way flow of connectivity.
Fast forward to now. Technology has a steady presence in my life and I make use of various apps and gadgets. But if you have read my posts and articles over the past six years, you know I go through phases of access overload. I have written about “no gadget nights”, digital detoxing and withdrawing from Facebook. These themes illuminate my minimalist mindset and the essential message in my coaching practice: simplify your life so you can get to what matters most.
We all can think of good uses for the internet, social media and smart phones. My invitation to readers is simply to mindfully inquire about their digital life. A useful way to go about this is to do a total assessment, an exercise I have done with my coaching clients. Here are some questions to help you determine what you really want and need.
Chart your digital connectivity
- Start with the ‘what’. Write down all the ways you interact with the internet and social media and list what technology you use. Separate job activities from personal.
- How often are you engaged? (Time spent)
- The next layer is the ‘why’. Explore the reasons for these interactions. Are they timely (texting you’ll be late for dinner) vs not required (killing time)
Design a Strategy
What have you noticed about your online involvement? How would you ideally like to be connected? Assess your desire and tolerance. For example, if you are feeling blue, you may opt for more positive interactions. If texting and messaging is interrupting what you are doing, or it is taking up too much time, reduce notifications or call someone to complete a conversation.
Name your values and purpose
Understanding your overall objective of how you wish to live your life becomes an easy buffer for your strategy. Between wanting to keep updated on family activities and being aware that you value privacy, you can find a satisfactory balance. If it is important to you to make a difference in your community, then your strategy can prioritize that objective.
Share your plan with others
We all have different experiences with connectivity and various related assumptions and expectations. Communicate clearly your preferences so it is not a surprise to others. And look for advocates to support your position so that you are not being swayed in a direction that does not serve you well.
To demonstrate this assessment, I will share a little of what I recently discovered about myself. I notice that I spend too much time checking and reading the news, usually on Twitter. It used to be my way of getting up to speed on headlines, with its short nature not taking up time. Now I’m going down rabbit holes of analysis, which quickly leads to characters lacking civility. My strategy is to remove the app from my phone. I’ll go back to reading the headlines on my desktop in the morning, when I have little time to indulge with a lineup of work ahead of me. I will look to individuals and organizations that reflect my value of integrity and my purpose of evoking possibility.
A larger issue is how information overload threatens to paralyze me. Rather than turning the news off, I am giving myself permission to channel my energy into one world issue and I think this focus will be engaging and inspire me to take action.
This may seem like too much thought over something so tangible as digital connectivity, but as a minimalist, I know decluttering all areas in my life provides clarity and peace. Perhaps start by simply noticing how you are feeling after each interaction and contemplate what changes you may want to make that contribute to your wellbeing.
Are you looking to pare down and slow down in various areas of your life? I can help with that! Contact me and set up a consultation and inquire about how coaching can assist you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org