7 Ways to Simplify Your Digital Life

Thursday, February 16, 2017

As most of you know by now, Mike and I have hopped on the minimalism train and we're working to simplify our lives in 2017. Hence, my word of the year. Each month, we're choosing a new area of our lives to simplify and then posting about the progress and what we've learned for those who may be interesting in trying it too.

In January, we focused entirely on simplifying our social media and screen time. As sort of a summary of our progress, I thought I'd post 7 ways to simplify your digital life in case anyone out there was looking for a way to get started!

1. Turn off notifications. 
This has actually had the biggest impact for me so far. The first thing I did on New Years Day was go through all the settings on my phone to turn off all notifications that weren't absolutely necessary. No alerts, no dings, no buzzing, no badge app icons, nothing. The only time I get a notification now is when I've gotten a text message, phone call, or I need to update my phone's software. AND IT'S BEEN SO LIBERATING. For me, the goal behind this was to eliminate distractions and to stop feeling like I needed to constantly be in the loop. I check the apps to get updates when I want to and only retrieve new information when I need it. It's not really important for me to know the exact moment that someone emails me or likes my photo on Facebook or pins something I might like on Pinterest. If that ever becomes necessary, I can turn the notifications back on, but for now I absolutely love having a screen devoid of little red bubbles. Not having the constant flow of data in my face 24/7 has been completely refreshing.

2. Create some device distance.
The second thing we did was purchase a device docking station and set it up in our kitchen area. When we get home after work, we've been trying to get in the habit of putting our phones and tablets on the chargers in the dock and leaving them there for the evening. So far, it's really improved the time we spend together. It's almost embarrassing to think how many nights we would come home and lay on the couch for hours with our phones in hand, barely even speaking to one another. Creating some space between you and your device is not just good for you, it's good for those around you. You'll feel more connected, more engaged, more productive, and if you struggle getting sleep at night, you may notice a difference there too. It's helped immensely with my insomnia. Keeping technology out of the bedroom and eliminating screens at bedtime (and purchasing a real alarm clock to wake us in the morning) has made a huge difference in my quality of sleep.

3. Unsubscribe.
Raise your hand if you get more than fifty emails a day that you never open, about useless things that you'll probably never use or buy? Me too. The sheer volume of ads and offers and junk flowing into my inbox every day was overwhelming. I got so sick and tired of feeling like I had no control over my inbox that I decided to finally tackle the mess that lived there. In one afternoon, I went through and unsubscribed from just about everything. If you use Mail on iOS10, you may have noticed a handy "Unsubscribe" feature at the top of some of your emails. Mail actually scans your inbox for any email that's part of a mailing list and all you have to do is click the unsubscribe button at the top and the work is done for you!

4. Clean up your apps.
One of my biggest goals for this first month was to get rid of any apps that were no longer purposeful. In this day and age where so many details about our lives are posted online, I wanted to try and take back the reigns on what info I was sharing and where it was being shared. I deleted Snapchat, Twitter, Periscope, Google+, and even my old Myspace! I had to do a little troubleshooting to get into my account and it made me super nostalgic when I finally got in, but I'm glad to know that none of those accounts are still floating around the interweb. For the sites I decided to keep, I narrowed it down to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. These are the apps that I use frequently and they all have a specific purpose. While I was at it, I decided to clean them up a bit too. I deleted old pictures, unfollowed people I was no longer in touch with, got rid of old groups and page likes that were no longer relevant, went through tons of messages (it's almost scary how much Facebook archives!), adjusted privacy settings, and more. It took me a while, but I felt like I had much more control over my social media presence when I was done.

5. Cut cable.
This was the toughest of them all. I've seen many of my friends moving away from the big cable companies for simpler setups and after much consideration, we jumped ship too. We wavered for a while on this one since Mike and I have quite the habit of binging shows when we get home from work after a long day, and Mike wasn't sure how he would get past not having the ability to watch sports at home, but in the end we decided to cut the cord and we're so glad we did. We have long been happy Verizon customers, but when I called to try and remove my cable service from our plan, I was met with much resistance. The lady on the phone was incredibly rude and aggressive (as I'm sure they're told to be, to make it difficult to cancel), so much so that I hung up on her. I did learn a trick though - if you go online and cancel via the online chat tool, the reps are much nicer and don't hassle you! I had everything canceled in about 10 minutes. Now we've got Chromecast, Netflix, HBO, Showtime, and all the network apps ready to cast at a moments notice. It's nice not having the hefty cable bill every month for a ton of channels we don't watch and also feeling like we've got more time on our hands. We still get to watch the news with dinner and stream our favorite shows from time-to-time, but we don't get sucked into hours of lazy, mindless TV every night on the couch. Win-win!

6. Release the pressure.
This one was for me only. I often put a lot of unreal pressures on myself to keep up with what's going on in the blogosphere. I don't monetize my blog, or promote it at all really, but over the last year or so, I've felt immense pressure to do so. I see so many other amazing, mega-successful bloggers out there absolutely killing it and it's hard not to compare followers, likes, and shares. It's made me feel so behind and so inadequate for not posting more or sharing more or getting more comments or more likes or followers. So last month, in an effort to eliminate those pressures, I officially took myself out of the race. For now, TLWI will remain a space for me and the handful of incredibly dedicated readers I have. Truthfully, I don't think I have the time or energy to dedicate to making my blog anything else - and that's okay. Please don't misunderstand me though. I'm not saying that using your blog as a source of income is a bad thing at all. In fact it's a GREAT thing and I deeply admire those that do! I completely understand how much effort it takes to make a blog successful and I know that it's no cake walk. It's just for me, I don't ever want this space to feel like a job. I started this thing to document our lives and also as a creative outlet, because I enjoy writing. I don't ever want that to change. So for now, I've stopped stressing about blog stats and the frequency of my posts and I'm trying to focus on generating fewer more thoughtful posts and fostering the few relationships I've formed here. It's like they say about friendships, "I'd rather have four quarters than one hundred pennies."

7. Just turn it off. 
Try setting limits for how and when you use your devices. Our goal has been to try and reduce our screen time by putting down our phones more often and focusing on reconnecting with everyone and everything around us. Sometimes it's harder than expected. Regardless of where I am or what I'm doing, I still feel the need to pick up my phone and look at it every few minutes, even when I'm trying hard to focus on a conversation at dinner or analyzing some data at work. It's become an unconscious reflex. To help with this, I've found that turning off my phone entirely works best. I may still pick it up, but I'm less tempted to start flipping through my usual pages if it's powered down entirely. Of course, it's always easier said than done, but even if it's just for one day or an afternoon a week, you'll notice how much of a difference it makes.

Have you cut cable or tried simplifying your social media accounts? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Girlfriend. I am so proud of you for doing because.... I don't know if I could. Especially not the notifications part. Chris doesn't have his social media notifications turned on and it drives me crazy when I interact with him on social and he has no idea. But turning those off is the first step to stepping away. I totally get it. You've encouraged me to delete old apps and clean up my accounts at the very least and then maybe I can start becoming a more sane person by limiting time... xoxo

    1. It was the strangest feeling at first! I kept picking up my phone thinking something was there when there wasn't! It made me realize how much of a blind habit I had gotten into and how breaking that habit was really what I needed to stop being so dependent on my devices. And I'm glad you're taking something away from this too! You'll love having more space on your phone after cleaning things up a bit! :)

  2. I did the same with my social media. About once per year I go through and delete people I don't talk to and it makes a world of difference. We were also going to cut our cable but since it only reduces our overall bill by $10 and we only watch 2 shows, we decided just to keep it.

    1. You're so right! It makes such a huge difference! We thought the same thing too at first, but we ended up finding a deal for high speed wifi only that cut our bill in half. I think they should run more of those promotions!

  3. Wow thank you for sharing!! I have dipped one little toe in the minimalism waters and have a long ways to go still, but I love this advice!

    1. Thanks so much Gentel! I'm glad you found it useful! I plan to keep sharing posts like this as we journey down this path. We'll see how it goes! haha :)

  4. Turning off notifications is huge! I have had them turned off since summer time and it has helped me step back in big ways. I can't imagine ever turning them back on. Sometimes I wish I could even turn off phone notifications, but that just wouldn't be good. We keep going back and forth about cutting cable, we might give it a try once our contract with Verizon ends at the end of the year. Device distance sounds like it really helps, we may need to look into something like that! I have realized that my blog isn't what I was trying to make it last year. Granted I made a great about of money for it being a "side-hustle" but it wasn't worth the stress and aggravation anymore. I have stopped inquiring about sponsored posts because I don't want to be forced into something just for the money, that isn't the point of this anymore. I love you guys for doing each of these things!

    1. We had the toughest time deciding to cut cable. We've been talking about it for more than a year and Verizon made it difficult because we had a home phone, TV, and internet package and if we only dropped cable, our bill somehow got MORE EXPENSIVE. So in the end we found a promotion where we could just get wifi only and our bill is less than half what we were paying before. I know they make it more difficult so that you won't cut cable, but man, it was annoying. In the end though I think it's the decision that has affected both of us the most - in a good way! We find so many other ways to spend our time but we still get to watch all our favorite shows.

      Also, girl, YOU ROCKED THE BLOGGING WORLD last year! I can't even begin to imagine what it was like juggling two jobs and full-time blogging. I kept talking to Mike about how you were literally superwoman. I'm glad though that you've taken a little step back to find some calm again because I just remember how busy you were. What's even better is that the caliber of your posts hasn't changed and if anything they've gotten better!

      Okay I'm officially done my novel now LOL. I'm sure we will have much to discuss the next time I see you! :)