How Subtraction Adds More To Your Life
Just over a month ago, I decided to uninstall or disable all browsers, news apps, and games from my phone.
I didn’t consider myself a “phone addict”. But I felt I spent more time than I needed on it.
Despite my perceived lack of addiction, I went through withdrawals.
For the first week, I had to relearn how to function. Who walks all the way over to a laptop to do an internet search? For that matter, how did we ever survive before the internet?
I found myself habitually reaching for my phone. Often picking it up and staring at it for a moment. Waiting for it to do something for me.
The first week was hard. But I soon began to feel different. I hadn’t been aware of feeling bad before. But now I knew I felt good.
It was as if I had gone from a fast-food diet to eating whole foods. I somehow felt “fresher.” Whatever that means.
By the end of the second week, I noticed something else. I had gone two weeks with almost no exposure to the news or social media. I had also gone without something to “fill the gaps” while waiting — in lines, for coffee, pots to boil, etc. I relearned to take breaks that didn’t include my phone.
And I felt great. Emotionally, I felt clearer. I was more upbeat. Mentally, I felt more focused. It was easier to concentrate.
After a while, I briefly checked in on a news site on my laptop — just to see what the world had gotten up to in my absence.
It was awful. It was like walking in on a family fight. Everyone yelling, no one listening, lots of hysterics.
That was just the news. Our self-and-often-proclaimed pinnacles of journalistic credibility. I don’t want to know what they are doing on social media.
I realized something: I didn’t need to know anything they were talking about:
- No one knew anything — almost all the “news” stories were speculation.
- What people did know, and was a fact, almost never impacted me.
Taking those apps off my phone was intended to be a short-term exercise. Maybe for a week or two.
But now, a month in, I’ve read more books. Spent more time with my kids. Gardened a bit outside. Caught up on a few projects. Reconnected with some of my inner life.
I’m not sure I want those apps back. It’s hard to see the benefit. I can see, now, what I’ll lose.
2022: A Year of Subtraction
I theme my years. It provides focus.
2021 was a year of Traction. I focused on only doing things that produced real and meaningful results. I worked to quickly recognize and stop activities that didn’t.
I found so much benefit from that focus, I thought I’d repeat it for 2022. But, soon, I realized that traction wasn’t what I needed most.
What I really needed was sub-traction. I needed to cut things out of my life.
The phone browser, news, and games were my most recent cut.
I’ve also gotten rid of stuff. I have more stuff to get rid of than I thought.
Tonight, I plan on going home and subtracting some more. Before I had kids, I had an equipment intense hobby. For 10 years, it’s been stored, and unused. It takes up a fifth of my garage space.
I look forward to subtracting that.
After that, I might make my wife happy and clear out some of my college t-shirts.
(Well, maybe that’s taking things too far…)
You Should Subtract Too
Take a look at things in your life that steal your energy, joy, peace, time, focus, or value. Get rid of as much as you can.
I get it. Life has responsibilities. There are times when discomfort or distractions are just part of the deal. I do get it. But still…my guess is that you can safely subtract a lot of that without damaging actual responsibilities.
7-Day Elimination Challenge
As I wrote this article, I received a newsletter from a friend, mentor, and WSJ Best Selling Author, Craig Ballantyne.
Turns out he’s been thinking about subtraction as well. In his newsletter, he introduced a 7-Day Elimination Challenge. I thought he worded it well — so I got permission to borrow it. Give it a shot:
Day 1 — Eliminate a food or drink temptation from the house… cookies, booze, pizza, last night’s Door Dash leftovers… toss the trash… it’s called Junk Food for a reason.
Day 2 — Clear your workspace… Eliminate all the temptations within arm’s reach where you work each day… that means clearing the clutter of books, phones, magazines, TV remotes, etc.
Day 3 — Remove all notifications from your phone.
Day 4 — Delete 10 apps from your phone.
Day 5 — Never hit snooze again… you can even buy the “Sonic Bomb” alarm clock on Amazon if needed, lol.
Day 6 — Block 10 people from contacting you on IG, FB, or text… you know, the ones who waste your precious time.
Day 7 — Build a “Phone Bed” and pick a cut-off time to put the phone in the bed each night (your kids will love this ritual!).
These 7 simple steps from Craig Ballantyne will instantly upgrade your focus and shift you into a high-performance mindset.
Take good care,
Originally published at https://www.christianmuntean.com on July 12, 2022.