Simplify Your Digital Life – On Reducing Complexity

 

Our lives have become too complex. We can hardly survive a day without our smartphones anymore and when we are offline or have low batteries it creates feelings of anxiety and fear of missing out (FOMO).

I have conducted an experiment over the last three months. I would like to summarize the learning for you and you might want to follow me in this experiment.

I intended to find ways to simplify my life. I hoped I would find topics that seem to be more complex in our shared, multifaceted lives today and that I could deconstruct them and make them simple again.

To write this blog post I started a tool list (communication tools, apps, email accounts, sharing platforms and overviews) I am regularly working with. The tool list became very long. I am not even sure I finished it yet. It’s more a toolbox now than a list.

I immediately felt stressed when I looked at my tools. Even though I had already deleted a few apps from my iPhone, I did not feel calm and relaxed. I missed my connection to the world.

To give you an example I use nine different communication tools. One of them is email. I manage about five email accounts. In addition to Facebook and Messenger, I manage four Facebook pages. Most of it is automated but I need to respond to incoming queries.

If I compare my current situation to your situation I imagine that you receive a lot more relevant and actionable emails, messages and information than I do. One of the goodies of having your own business is that no one puts pressure on you, so I only read client emails and blogs I want to read.

I notice though that it is not always easy to focus when I sit on my computer. I have to close a lot of pages and put my iPhone on silent if I want to get work done.

One of the disadvantages of having your own business, especially in certain low times is that you also cannot delegate any work to others. Maybe you will find it amusing that for me booking a ticket from Dijon to Frankfurt is worth writing a blog post about. Issues like this one can become time-consuming.

 

This is why I also wanted to write an accomplishment list of ten tasks that I did not enjoy a lot. I had to get them done in the last few weeks and I noted how much time they took, where I found support and what I learned.

In the last steps, I jotted down my simplification principles. At the end of the post, I share further observations.

Accomplishment List

So after being completely overwhelmed with my tools, I wrote the Accomplishment List of the last three months

  1. Booking a ticket on train from Zurich to Dijon to Frankfurt to Zurich. – This took forever as I worked with three different websites, made a mistake and finally sorted it out on the counter at the Dijon train station (with my rusty French skills). Cost CHF 8.60
  2. Organizing my references and homework for the Global Mobility Master class. – I went through the homework via one platform and another website, printed handbooks because I could not read them well online and downloaded Zotero to organize my bibliography and references. It seems great. I also managed to get access to the ETH Library.
  3. Finding a way to cash a 100 USD cheque from Amazon. – Not possible in Switzerland. Will have to go to Germany to do this. Task is pending.
  4. Deleting a bank account in Germany, that I didn’t even know I still had. – Ongoing since October I think. I also try to explain to them, that I have been a tax resident in Switzerland since 2009 (and that I am not trying to evade German taxes but that this is actually legal.) Very nice person on the phone, helped me a lot. She also told me not to care. Then her colleague called to say that they needed the forms anyway. Email is not possible. I had to send a letter. Received one back because I used the tax file number instead of my AHV-number. Had to send another letter.
  5. Canceling a direct debit authorization for an insurance I pay into in Germany. – Cost CHF 7.50 because the second time I did not rely on email but sent registered mail with a snarky feedback written in handwriting on their letter.
  6. Getting an important corporate contract signed via Docusign. – A few issues in the process. Luckily, I checked with my contact and found out that she never received the final signed version.
  7. Writing and editing a new workbook of about 30’000 words – Fairly straightforward so far as I have decided to let go of perfectionism and pilot the content with a few readers via Mailchimp. I also notice that once I sit down I can draft a whole chapter in one or two hours. One issue I found is that Grammarly does not work with Google Docs. So I can draft in G-Docs but have to edit in Mailchimp.
  8. Moving two Swisscom connections to the new “Glasfasernetz”. – Too long to explain, approximately 10 phone calls, one personal visit and three months to solve. Seems to save me a few bucks. Not sure if my connection is better than before. I experienced more connectivity issues in January and February than over the last nine years. I used to have electronic billing, now I get paper invoices again. Back to the Future with Swisscom.
  9. Cleaning my windows. – I procrastinated on this task because frankly I hate cleaning windows. My approach was to get it done 80% – 90%. The windows don’t look perfect but a lot better than before. Took me about an hour. I can still improve the cleaning when it is warmer outside and when I am going to enjoy the sunshine on my windows. I think, I might owe my cold to this task. I’ve had it for two weeks. In hindsight, very painful and annoying.
  10. Developing a new kind of interactive workshop for the Global Mobility Master class, holding it and following up with the participants. – The preparation took forever. I could have probably used less material but felt it was a great learning and research experience for the students and myself. The technology we used is borderline illegal but there seems to be a new book scanner which is amazing. I also cut open a textbook in the process. All for science and the team.

 

Simplification Principles

Based on my learning I have drafted these simplification principles. It might help you to use them or create your own.

  1. People over Robots!
  2. Move from DIGITAL to ANALOGUE on purpose. My pink notebook is always with me. I use it to write my Morning Pages, Have-Done-Lists and anything else that comes to mind during the day.
  3. Reduce everything and delete unused apps from i-phone. Limit apps to two pages.
  4. My phone is off from 9 PM to 6 AM. It’s not allowed in the bedroom.
  5. Use Post-it for visualization of important stuff. The idea is: One thought, one post-it.
  6. Say “No, thank you…” or “yes, if…” to any proposal for meetings, work and tasks right away. Commit fast and decline fast.
  7. When asked for meetings give two options only.
  8. Always set a deadline by when another person should come back to you.
  9. Try to connect on three or four channels with existing clients, especially if they have booked a paid appointment with you. If they still don’t respond, assume that they have died and let them rest in peace. (#sarcasm).
  10. Reconsider the word “urgent” to mean “please respond within seven days”. (Really, I don’t understand why everyone thinks that a personalized email shall be ignored for at least 48 hours.)
  11. A message on Whatsapp does not require “dear first name” as a greeting and “kind regards angie weinberger” as an ending. Use Whatsapp on desktop only. Saves time for typing.
  12. Wear black most of the time. On Wednesdays add a color.
  13. If you don’t know what to wear because you don’t know if the occasion is formal or not, wear a black suit and say that you are a consultant by wardrobe.
  14. ALWAYS travel the day before an event and leave the day after. Plan enough time to travel but also to prepare and wind down after an event. (Note to self: Don’t think you are 29 and hang out with your fellow students until the bar closes.)
  15. I don’t have to be on Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram just because everybody else is. Facebook is shortly to be blacklisted too.

 

I will share further observation in another post.

PS: If you consider volunteering please read Nadia’s post on LinkedIn on why she volunteers for Capacity Zurich.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some HTML is allowed

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.