We live in an era where we have instant access to as much information as we want. Some would argue that it's too much information. Our brains are not evolved enough or equipped to deal with the daily battering we put ourselves through as we scroll from feed to feed, searching for something 'new' or something 'more' to absorb and fill the brief fleeting interim moments that exist in-between our daily ritualistic tasks.
There's too much noise. Too much static. Meaningful knowledge and important detail become lost amongst a sea of turbulent non-sensical waves as we try to navigate a positive course to our intended destination, only to lose sight and forget where we intended to actually go in the process.
And what lies at the heart of it all?
The source of this misguided information seeps from the slabs of glass that nestle in our pockets or rest upon our work surfaces, their pulsing notification beacons persistently alerting us that something elsewhere of importance is going on that we need to be aware of, a phenomenon has occurred and we need to involve ourselves in the situation, or at the very least, observe and comment upon it.
The key is to focus on one device per category
Day after day we lift our devices from their resting places, flipping, turning and unlocking their chasms without any consideration, their sequences and procedures burned into cognitive thought so that the friction that lies between notification and absorption is squeezed to the absolute bare minimum.
But it doesn't stop there.
Most of us do not own one single device. Most of us hoard multiple gadgets in all manner of shapes and sizes, each one vying for our attention as they compete against one another for the coveted short-lived moment in the spotlight, our spotlight.
And not all devices look the same. On the contrary, some have purposefully been designed to adequately disguise themselves so that by the time you realise their true intent, the point of no return has long come and gone, your mind and attention bled of all of it's nutrients in the process.
Surrounded by so many devices, our focus disappears. The simplicity of life becomes a distant memory as each gadget screams for a moment of your time but there is not enough to go around.
Time is a finite source that should be safeguarded and maximised but with so many devices screaming for recognition, we inevitably succumb to their demands, losing those precious moments in the process as we bounce from one gadget to the next, never spending a sufficient amount of time on each one in the process.
Whilst all of this is going on, marketing pulls at us from every angle. A new device is announced and as soon as it has been released out into the wild, we are told that our existing possessions are no longer any good.
Remember to purchase good quality products with a view to keeping them for as long as possible
Like a game of professional chess where the company's are the Grand Masters and we are the novice players, we are forced into upgrading and side grading our gadgets through a consistent and obvious cycle as we mindlessly agree to their propositions and terms, handing over our hard earned money in the process as we reach for the shiny and nod our heads in agreement at the enticing taglines that are etched across their physical and digital surfaces.
We buy and we buy and we buy, we hoard and we hoard and we hoard and each time we add a new device to our ever growing arsenal, we attach an additional thick layer of complexity to our lives, another beacon of distraction to tear us away from the present.
And when we inevitably stop using these devices we start to feel guilty. But the guilt does not propel us to start using them again. The guilt that is now attached to our misspent finances and misused time only serves to push us deeper into a rut and vicious cycle of continued unstable and misguided commerce transactions as we try to purchase our way towards vindicated happiness.
I have too many devices
As I sit here composing this very blog post a conglomerate of electronics lay just over the horizon of my laptop's screen, their reflective surfaces and chamfered edges beckoning me to stop what I am doing and resume my place within their repetitive world's.
Surrounded by so many devices, our focus disappears
For you see, this isn't a blog post that contains all of the answers written by an individual that has crossed over into 'enlightenment'. Instead, as I write this piece of content I have in fact, realized a true path to simplicity and whilst I have not reached the intended destination, I have started the journey and I would like for you all to come along for the ride.
So, what do my devices look like?
A PlayStation 5, an Xbox One X and two Nintendo Switches flank both sides of my living room television. Not too far away rests my MacBook Pro laptop and my iPhone with a Steam Deck nestled on my bedside table and older phones buried in the cemetery I call my bedside drawer.
Each one craves my attention but I am unable to give it and with each waking moment, their pleas for acknowledgment fall on deaf ears as I valiantly struggle but ultimately fail to drown out the noise and focus on the one.
But I have found the solution
The key to electronic minimalism is to own one electronic device.
Now let's get something straight. I don't mean one device in total. You don't want to starve yourself. The key is to focus on one device per category. There would be nothing worse than to try and shoehorn your entire life into one device just so you can say you did it. That's like trying to squeeze yourself into last years bathing suit when you know you haven't been working out and you've let yourself go. It's not a pretty sight.
You need to figure out your passions and invest in those areas so that you have a device that excels at the task you are trying to complete.
You don't want a Jack of all trades and master of none scenario. But it also doesn't mean owning every device and owning the latest version of said device either.
Your existing devices won't spontaneously combust the second their iterative brothers have been released out into the world
For example, whilst it might be technically possible to create and maintain excel sheets on an iPhone, nobody in their right mind would ever think of doing such a thing. The screen is too small, you would need to use your fingers as the primary input and don't even get me started on the equations. It just wouldn't work and you would end of spending/wasting ten fold the amount of time as opposed to managing that task on a device more suited to it's capability.
You want a device that was solely created to solve a specific need or situation. And if done correctly, if we choose to own and interact with devices that were borne out of intent, those devices will never overlap.
Let's take my situation as an example.
In a perfect scenario, my laptop and iPhone would be used during work hours, one complimenting the other as I perform tasks and complete projects on my laptop and respond and answer telephone calls to customers on my iPhone.
Then, in the evening these devices would be put away or placed into silent or focused modes as the mantel is passed to my television for a brief hour or two, allowing me to progress in a show I had previously been watching.
And when it is nearly time to go to bed, my 'one' gaming device would be switched on for a short period of exploration and fantasy.
Simple right? 😂
You feel lighter as there is less to focus on and everything surrounding you has been purposefully placed to compliment the next
So, what do I need to do...
For me, the problem lies with my gaming devices. I need to choose and rid myself of the unwanted, dust laden monstrosities and focus on the small, light and portable. I think I want to keep the Steam Deck but I still need to think about it a little bit more.
And that's ok too.
This is a marathon and not a sprint.
There would be nothing worse than making a hastily ill-conceived decision only to seriously regret it all later, wishing you had trodden down a different path instead. Your mental health and your wallet won't thank you for the scenic route.
And when you do make your decision, remember to purchase good quality products with a view to keeping them for as long as possible. No matter what companies will try and tell you, your existing devices won't spontaneously combust the second their iterative brothers have been released out into the world.
When you have less, you get more done
You feel lighter as there is less to focus on and everything surrounding you has been purposefully placed to compliment the next. Moreover, the devices you own are used to their full potential and their feature overlap dissipates as one connects to the next, assisting you throughout your day as you weave in and out of the formal and the casual.
We haven't spoken about notifications but I think that's a topic that needs it's own separate story. Owning a set of focused devices is meaningless if they have not been safeguarded and setup to repel the noise and filter through the important and meaningful.
So why not subscribe to my newsletter and you'll be the first to know when I publish that important piece.
Above all, remember that it's a journey. I'm still figuring it out so let's go on this journey together. Let me know in the comments below where you're at, what your predicament is and let's solve it as a community.