intentional living, social media, technology

5 Steps to Streamline Your Digital Life

Hey friends! Welcome back for part two of my digital hiatus recap!

I want to start by giving y’all a huge “THANK YOU!” Starting this lifestyle blog has been on my heart for years and (as my husband so perfectly pointed out to me a few months ago) I have absolutely been avoiding it. After hearing from so many of you last week when I published my first post, I am humbled and grateful to say the least. 

Over the past week, the single most common question I’ve received is, “But Christine! Which apps did you decide to keep?? Which ones got the boot?!” I’ve thought long and hard about whether I wanted to share all the details about which apps I kept and which got left behind. And here’s what I’ve decided–I firmly believe that which apps I use and which ones I don’t use is totally based on my personal values; therefore, the apps I use/don’t use is irrelevant information for anyone other than me. HOWEVER, I do think that it’s super helpful to understand HOW I arrived at my decisions. So, that is what this post is all about: How to determine your own set of digital boundaries.

So without further ado, here are my 5 Steps to Streamlining Your Digital Life:

STEP ONE: Determine your values

This is absolutely the most important FIRST step to take. For real, don’t even think about skipping ahead to any of the other steps because this is the ONE that everything else hinges off of. I’ll be digging into the whole idea of defining your values in another exciting series this Spring, but for now, I’ll hit ya with the cliff notes version. 

Each of us have distinct personal values. We might share some common values with others (faith or time with family are good examples), but the values of each individual person are as unique as the individual themselves. Most people don’t grow up learning about values, so many of us enter adulthood completely unaware of the impact that they have on our lives. For example, I am someone who has always deeply valued honesty. I can distinctly recall dozens of times throughout my childhood and adult life when someone has asked me a question, I’ve given an honest answer and then been left absolutely confused when the person gets angry with me. It turns out that when someone asks you, “Do you like my outfit?” they don’t necessarily want to know what you think… sometimes they just want to be reassured. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way a time or two (all three of my siblings will attest to this fact). 

For someone who values honesty, it still confuses me why someone would ask an open ended question and not want to receive an honest answer. BUT, as several of my closest friends have explained to me, some people highly value gentleness and wouldn’t dream of saying anything less than supportive (even if they weren’t a fan of the outfit in question). Obviously this example is a little ridiculous, but I hope that it paints a picture of just how different our values can be. To be clear–I don’t think that your “values” should be used to justify bad habits or poor behavior; I’ve just learned that each of us are different, so we naturally have a unique mix of values. These values shape our experiences and priorities.

If you’ve never taken the time to reflect on what your personal values are, I encourage you to do that now. The sooner you can identify them, the sooner you can be aware of them and can then align your decisions accordingly. If you are having trouble determining your values, here are some questions you might ask yourself:

  • What brings me the most joy?
    • Some examples might include: God, family, nature, helping others, animals, running, reading, soccer, time with my kids, my job, cooking, etc.
  • What kind of behavior irritates me the most in others?
    • This is actually an important question to ask yourself because you will often find that the things that irritate you most about others are often things that violate a personal value that you have. For example, if it bothers you when people are late, you likely value being on time. Or, if it frustrates you when people complain, you might place a high value on gratitude. Maybe you can’t stand it when people are always serious, in which case you might really value laughter or light-heartedness.
  • Where do I spend most of my money and time (apart from basic needs)?
    • I’ve heard it said, “If you want to show me your priorities, just open your checkbook or show me your planner”. Sometimes we want to believe that we place a high value on certain things, but our time and money tell a different story.
  • What are some of the things that I’m really passionate about and I’m surprised that everyone else in the world isn’t?
    • Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a highly passionate individual, there are likely things that you really care about. Maybe you’re a triathlete and can’t imagine why everyone doesn’t want to do a triathlon. Maybe you have rescued 12 fur babies and can’t even comprehend how someone wouldn’t want to save the life of a homeless pet. There are loads of things that might tug at your heartstrings or make you wake up at ungodly hours of the day or night and you do it with joy… meanwhile other people look at you and scratch their heads. These are things that YOU value. 

As you answer these questions, you’ll likely start to get an idea of what your core values are. You also might realize that you have been prioritizing things that aren’t actually high on your list of values and that’s great! Those are things that you may choose to limit or even eliminate entirely from your life (and no, doing laundry doesn’t qualify… I’ve already checked that out).

STEP TWO: Get clear about what your digital device actually is

Now that you have your list of core values, you can use it as an anchor as you streamline your digital life. You might be thinking about some digital tools you’ve been using that don’t actually align with your values (which is definitely something to dig into). Or you might have identified some needs that could be met with digital tools that you haven’t even discovered yet, which is awesome too!

Before my hiatus, I had been led to believe that my smartphone (and social media in particular) was a necessity to stay connected in the 21st Century. I had lost sight of the truth about what it really is– a TOOL. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a requirement to survive. It’s not the only way to have friends. It’s just one of many wonderful tools that we have the option of utilizing. 

This shift in perspective was paramount for me. It took away the emotional baggage of deciding which apps I wanted in my life and it gave me the clarity to see how I could better align my “digital life” with my values.

Take a few minutes to reflect on the values you identified in Step One. Then, based on those values, make a list of all the specific things that you want to use your smartphone (or other digital devices) for. Be specific. Maybe there are specific things you want to use to support your job or business. Maybe you want to use it to take and store photos. Maybe you want to use it to connect with others. There are literally thousands of things that you can use your device for and it’s up to you to decide what they will be. 

Consider this your invitation to throw out every single preconceived idea that you have about what you “should” be using your devices for. If you need to write them down, go for it. The reality is that many of us just got a smartphone one day and it has slowly invaded more and more of our lives. Very few people have the foresight to give themselves “digital boundaries” from the get go, especially for those of us that have watched our communication go from email to AIM to texting to social media all within a few years while we were in highschool/college. 

The reality is that if you don’t clearly define what role your device is going to play in your life, it’s going to be a struggle to not be overrun or overwhelmed by it. But it’s never too late to change and today is a great day for a fresh start.

STEP THREE: Make a list of every single app that you have on your device  (yes, ALL of them)

Ideally, everyone would take a digital break to detox, gain some clarity and THEN decide which apps they are going to keep… But, this is the 21st Century and most people wouldn’t dream of deleting all the apps on their phone for one day, let alone thirty days. Whether you decide to do a full on detox or not, I think that you can still make positive changes in your digital habits. Once you have a list of all your digital apps AND websites that you frequent (just because there isn’t an app for it yet, doesn’t mean it’s not something you’re plugged into), move onto step 4.

STEP FOUR: Ask yourself some tough questions

Once you have your list of apps/websites ready, I recommend taking time to pause and ask yourself the below questions about every single app. The more honest you can be with yourself, the more you’re going to get out of this exercise:

  1. Do I have this app because I think I’m “supposed to have it” or because I actually enjoy using it? 
  2. What specific purpose does this app serve in my life? 
  3. Is it possible that there is another app/tool that would better serve this purpose?
  4. Does this app and the purposes that it serves align with my values?

This last question is super important. You could answer questions A, B & C and find no real reason to stop using the app; but, if it doesn’t align with your values then it’s got to go (or at least get some serious boundaries put in place). These four questions are just a few examples. If you find that you come up with other questions/criteria for the apps you’re going to use, then run with that!

STEP FIVE: Take Action

If there are apps that you really can’t justify using, delete them. You don’t have to tell your friends. You don’t have to wait to see if you feel like it later. Just get rid of them.

If there are apps that you do want to keep, but you want to be more intentional with them and/or spend less time on them, here are some tips:

  • For social media apps like Facebook and Instagram, consider uninstalling them from your device and then scheduling a certain time to check them one a week from your laptop or internet browser on your phone. 
  • If you have an iPhone you can set time limits on individual apps. Use this feature to your advantage and don’t compromise! If you don’t see a reason to spend more than 20 minutes per day (just for an example) on social media/games/etc, then set the time limit and hold yourself accountable. 
  • Write down a list of the specific reasons that you want to keep an app (this is especially helpful with time sucks like YouTube and all social media). Don’t allow yourself to use the app for anything outside of the purposes you decided on. For example, if you want to keep the YouTube app for when you need to look up how to do something in the new home you’re renovating, then set that boundary with yourself.  If you want to use Facebook for staying in touch with family on the other side of the world, then be intentional about logging on and going directly to their pages to check in/comment/etc. Once you’re done with your intended purpose for that session, then LOG OFF. Hold yourself accountable and tell someone close to you that will help hold you accountable too.  

Wrapping up…

There you have it. My 5 biggest tips for streamlining your digital life and creating healthy boundaries. These steps might seem simple or they might seem daunting, but I know that our whole world will benefit by individuals choosing to be more intentional with how they use their digital devices. We’ve each been given this one, precious life. We aren’t promised tomorrow. I for one, don’t want to waste a moment doing anything that isn’t valuable… and scrolling mindlessly through a newsfeed or getting lost for hours in a rabbit hole of recommended videos just isn’t high on the list of things that actually improve my life or the lives of others. 

TTYS,

Christine

4 thoughts on “5 Steps to Streamline Your Digital Life”

  1. Great content! It’s been on my heart to delete my Facebook account indefinitely. My obstacle has been the difficulty of downloading old videos that I don’t want to lose. For me, Facebook and all the madness surrounding it doesn’t align with my values and who I want to be. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    Like

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