You’ve all heard me ramble on before about minimizing clutter in our home. As a lifelong packrat, I must say that I’ve come a long way: over the last few years I have slowly gotten rid of probably half of my clothes (and I still have plenty to wear), I no longer save magazines like I used to (except for Real Simple…I’m sorry, I just can’t…they’re too PRETTY!), and I’ve learned to let go of random little trinkets that were slowly eating up all of my space, to name a few things.
Lately, though, I’ve still felt very buried under clutter. I finally realized that it was no longer physical clutter that was bothering me — it was virtual clutter. A messy desktop on my computer; a million photos saved on my hard drive that meant nothing to me, amidst a very small percentage that I actually care about; a list of Facebook “friends,” probably 80% of whom are people who aren’t really my friends; a Twitter follow list of people I thought I should follow because they could maybe someday tweet about something that may be a business opportunity for me; a Google Reader filled with blogs that I follow because I’m afraid I’ll miss something if I don’t; and a bunch of email inboxes filled with messages I constantly feel obligated to check and/or respond to as soon as they arrive.
I realized it was all sucking the life out of me.
I started feeling like this a few months ago, but I really realized how big of a problem it was when I attended Lara Casey’s Making Things Happen workshop last month (number 81 on my 101 in 1001 list!). When we were asked to make a list of the 10 biggest distractions that hold us back from productivity, the first few I immediately wrote down were Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. When I really thought about those three distractions, I realized that it wasn’t the applications themselves that were the biggest problems, but my need to feel like I know what’s going on with everyone, at all times. While staying in the loop on what everyone else was doing, I was neglecting my own priorities and tasks and constantly feeling like I couldn’t keep up.
The day I returned from MTH, I unfollowed about 100 people on Twitter. Will I miss a business opportunity because I unfollowed someone who could have become a client? I guess I’ll never know. But living simply for the “what ifs” is exhausting, and I can’t do it anymore. I unfriended or hid many people on Facebook who bring me down with their negativity or who simply were never good friends to me. (Sorry, girl from college who was horrible to me: why did you want to be my Facebook friend in the first place when you were never even a friend to me when we were face-to-face?) I deleted a bunch of blogs from my Google Reader that I didn’t actually enjoy reading — I just felt like I should have been reading them for one reason or another, so I let them eat up a few minutes of my time every day. No more.
I also created a new email address where all Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Daily Candy, GoodReads, etc. notifications now go. I take that email address offline while I’m working so I’m not constantly distracted by that little number in the red circle, taunting me and begging me to stop whatever I’m doing to see what just landed in my inbox when it has zero importance compared to emails from real, paying clients.
I still have a ways to go, but thus far my internet detox has allowed me to be more productive with my time and I honestly don’t miss a thing. I am rarely on Twitter anymore, and while I miss chatting with some people who always had interesting things to say, I don’t miss wondering where time went while I was trying to catch up with everything in my Twitter feed. Paring down the virtual clutter has carved out so much more time for work and other things that really matter, like family and friends.
Anyone else up for the challenge of killing the virtual clutter? If so, I want to hear what’s distracting you and how you handle your internet detox!