Digital Minimalism

Digital Minimalism

Most people are familiar with the principles of minimalism, and you might not think it given I have more personal computing devices than I really need, but I am something of a digital minimalist. Digital minimalism can be pretty easily summarised as the simplification of your digital tools to remove distraction, friction, and noise from their use.

There are, in simplified terms, two aspects of modern technology to consider; that technology is generally beneficial and brings many benefits, but that making the most of those benefits is not generally as easy as simply adopting the technology. It's easy to see the potential benefit in an app or service but less easy to actually realise that benefit, and it's easy to adopt lots of solutions without necessarily applying them in a way that makes your life easier/better.

One way to create an environment that maximises your chances of getting the most benefit from your technology is to reduce the amount of technology competing for your time and attention. This means making some choices that can feel counterintuitive. It may seem that being present on all the major social media platforms maximises your participation and widens the group of people with whom you can interact, but it's not possible to maintain high quality relationships with such a large group of people and you are almost certainly going to build stronger connections if you spent time on just one or two apps. You'll see the greatest benefit if you focus on services that serve your specific interests or that host a majority of your contacts or friends. It really is a quality over quantity situation.

It's more than just reducing "stuff", though. It's also about putting some thought into the best tool for the job you're trying to do. In this case it might be the laptop or phone that best suits your needs and budget, or the right productivity app. If you're buying fewer tools then your budget goes further; and if you can invest in better quality tools then they need replacing less frequently. When it comes to technology with a rapid upgrade cycle getting an additional year's use out of a phone or computer can make a big difference. This doesn't mean you can't have the latest gadget, just that you need to be clear and honest with yourself about the justification (it's also alright to own something just because you like it). The right tool isn't necessarily the tool with the most features, either. Microsoft Word is an exceptionally feature rich application — but you've probably never even explored ninety percent of what it can do. I know I haven't, and having those features compete for a place in the user experience is detrimental compared with a similar app that has fewer features to offer but has everything you need. Opt for something as close as you can find to just what you need and nothing more, that is reputable and thoughtful in it's design. It'll be far more enjoyable to use and you'll get more actual work done.

Don't worry about missing out on something if you don't already have a clear need for it. If you need it, you're already going to prioritise it. It's a natural human tendency to want to try and account for all the problems or experiences in the future that we're currently unaware of because there's a part of us that survived prehistory by being canny opportunists. Be open to great new things but choose them with some consideration and consider whether adopting a new technology supplants something you used before. If you can remove something when you add something then try to do so. Why keep gigabytes of MP3 files and a Spotify account? At the very least you could relegate those old music files to a back up somewhere and move it out of your current setup and into cold storage on a backup disc.

The reason I use a 12" MacBook with a single USB C port and relatively little processing power is because I don't really need anything more. There are a few times I've considered the benefits of having a more powerful machine, and if I had one I might take advantage of some of them, but it's never been enough to make me regret buying this computer. Some of it is just desire for the shiny additional/new features and some of it is latent desire to play computer games I miss, neither of which are really sufficient justification for me. In contrast I have an iPhone X because it's feature set was compelling enough to outweigh pure practicality in making that choice. I got it because I loved the design and the new features and I've been enamoured with it ever since.

When it comes to the use of these devices I am abnormal in the paucity of apps I have installed. I try and get the most out of the software ready-installed and only when I prove that it's insufficient (or I dislike using it) do I go and find a new app with other features. I have also moved all my media consumption to streaming (which mean's I'm only currently using 26.5Gb of my 250Gb SSD.

Be honest and start removing the things you don't need and dedicate more of your attention to the things that help you work and the things that make you happy. You'll find that you appreciate them more, and that you're more productive because the time you spend interacting with your technology is less distracting and less stressful.

Why I Use Apple Products

Why I Use Apple Products

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ARM Macs