My Digital Minimalism Experiment Part 1: Why

I’m becoming a digital minimalist. Simply put, I’m doing this experiment because as a business owner my goal is to maximize my return on time invested. I want to get the maximum possible value out of the media and tech I use, while using the minimum possible amount of intentionally-spent time to achieve that. In my personal life, which is tied to my blog and my Real Life Vegan Wife social media accounts, I want to do the same thing, but with the goal of becoming more effective. I believe that when we step away from the constant distractions, deep, introspective thinking occurs and original work can be created. Better quality, thoughtful work.

Up front it’s an experiment but overall, it’s a lifestyle change.

I’ve been struggling with media and technology use since I opened my business, and to be honest, I hate it. My business inbox always has thousands of emails; my personal email is a joke, filled with junk I have yet to delete. I have messages on Instagram and Facebook that need to be returned, and when I look at my phone I get anxiety looking at the steady stream of texts coming in from clients, family, and friends. I leave messages unread so that I will remember to return them, and the little red numbers just add stress to my already full schedule. I am extremely grateful to have steady clientele, but the feeling of looming dread is a cloud hovering over me. The stress and anxiety caused by this constant state of needing to get back to someone is counterproductive to living a positive and effective life. The time I spend attending to this open stream of communication and NOT being an esthetician, makeup artist, or writer is astonishing and clearly not an efficient use of my time. And because the distractions are constant, flowing, and always accessible, it is almost impossible to sit quietly with my own thoughts for a time period long enough to produce something meaningful. There is a reason why I write at 5am.

But we feel trapped, right? At least I do. I know that many of us who grew up without social media and smart phones long for simpler times – quieter times. Nostalgia for the days spent in the college library doing research because that was the only access to the internet I had. Going on a weekend away and only thinking of responsibility after checking your answering machine when you return. Emailing someone for fun. Working during business hours. Using technology for it’s intended purpose, without being tied to communication 24/7.

But the thought of stepping away is terrifying, especially if you’re running any type of small business. You’ll miss important emails, client texts, forget to pay something – your opportunities for social networking will be diminished. You’ll be less visible, and therefore less successful because clients can’t find you, or talk to you as easily (so they’ll go with a different option), and other professionals can’t collaborate with you. And this simple assessment doesn’t even take into account how potential clients perceive you based on your social media presence, or lack thereof. As a small business owner we are very aware of the real implications of not being available. Losing potential clients, and missing out on opportunities that could help grow our careers are very real possibilities with huge life-altering consequences for our reputations and bank accounts. Without clients we don’t stay open.

I’ve lived in this stressful limbo for about three years now. Wearing all the hats of small-business-owner while also maintaining all my communication streams, website updates, and social media accounts. It’s exhausting, and takes up way too much time. I constantly feel like I’m failing at it. Maintaining and growing my blog and corresponding social media is currently enjoyable, but I want to keep it that way and be efficient with time spent. And I’m guilty of scrolling during the “free” moments. But for me it’s not as simple as quitting cold turkey, and I can’t maintain this lifestyle much longer. So what’s the solution? If we acknowledge that technology is neither inherently good or bad, but how we choose to use it is what matters, then how do we learn to exercise autonomy over our own attention?

Recently I listened to “Cal Newport on Digital Minimalism: Why Focus is the New Superpower” on the Rich Roll Podcast. And then I did more research, and listened to him on other podcasts, and ordered his books Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, which I will read for part two of this series. I am completely hooked on his ideas – he’s a computer scientist explaining that we spend too much time with tech, and I can respect that. He posits that for the first time in history humans have completely eliminated solitude from our lives and that this state of constant communication and never-ending cognitive demands is impacting our work quality and creativity, but also our physical and mental health. I agree completely. We’re walking, talking balls of anxiety and stress who fill every moment we used to spend in our own heads coming up with our own ideas, with someone else’s thoughts instead. We’re constantly interrupted or distracted. We’ve banished solitude, and with it our peace, our time, and our potential to produce our best original work. We’re also using tech as an escape from reality, which doesn’t remedy any of our real problems, but instead distracts us from them.

Cal Newport’s solution is a “Digital Declutter,” which he likens to the idea of “Marie Kondo-ing your digital life.” A thirty-day time period in which you only use technology and media if absolutely necessary. Obviously this is a broad term with a lot of gray area for interpretation, so this is where his books come in, and I will report back with more information and my personal action plan. During those thirty days it is absolutely essential to the success of this project to do some real “soul searching” to determine your “why.” Without a set of guiding principles or a framework for self discovery or improvement, most people will either struggle to finish the thirty days at all, or will revert back to all their previous habits as soon as the declutter is over. Think of it as a lifestyle change instead of a crash diet. He argues that we should be spending this time getting back to those “analog activities” that make us happy. Do what our grandparents used to do for fun. Go on a hike. Build something. Read a book. Sit in the sun. Do a craft. Enjoy a dinner with friends. You get the idea. Find yourself in a world where your phone or computer is no longer a crutch – find solitude. Realize what truly makes you happy. Rediscover your own powerful and influential thoughts.

After the thirty days are up, decide what technology and media actually works for you, improves your life, and gives you value. Then add it back in if you want to. If you’re happier without it and have determined it’s value was perceived and not actually real, then don’t. Don’t keep anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”

My next step in this process is to read his books, and then report back to you about my own detailed thirty day digital declutter. And then in January, I’ll disappear.

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Headshot Photo: The Studio by Kimberly Ann

http://www.photosbykimberlyann.com/contact.html

320 2nd Street, Eureka CA

@thestudiobykimberlyann

Women In Business Series: AEHMartistry

1) Explain what your business is and your qualifications in the beauty industry.

I’m a Content Creator and run a Cruelty-Free Beauty Channel on YouTube called AEHMartistry. This means I create tutorials and review videos using only cruelty-free beauty products. However, my goal is much bigger than putting makeup on my face without intention and telling you my opinion about it. My goal with my channel is to create a community centered around positivity where I can connect with people on a deeper level through our shared love of beauty products. My hope is to give people an escape from their day-to-day demands and inspire people to take a moment for themselves and pursue what they’re passionate about, just as I did. I also aim to be a resource for people transitioning into becoming a cruelty-free consumer by showing them how accessible it is.

I got my start in the beauty industry in 2007 when I graduated from Paul Mitchell The School and became a licensed cosmetologist. While working in salons as a hairstylist I continued my education and harnessed my craft as a freelance makeup artist specializing in weddings. Eventually I took a job as a store manager for a popular beauty boutique in Southern California where I learned a lot about running a business and received even more education on makeup, haircare, and skincare brands.

After having a baby I returned to work for about a year before my husband and I decided that me staying home would be the best fit for our family. However, I still wanted to be a part of the beauty industry in some capacity. So I turned my love for all things beauty into my online business as a content creator for my YouTube Channel, Instagram, and social media outlets called AEHMartistry.

2) Why did you decide to transition into being a cruelty-free beauty channel?

I had my channel for about a year before I fully transitioned into becoming a cruelty-free consumer and social media influencer. It was something that was in the back of my mind as I became a more aware consumer. I didn’t like that animals were suffering for our vanity. I spent that year researching as much as possible and I soon discovered that testing cosmetics on animals is completely unnecessary and actually not at all accurate or reliable in testing for the safety of humans. The best way I can describe it is to think of all the things we can eat, but that our dogs can’t. Like chocolate, for example. We can eat a whole candy bar and be fine, but our dogs could go into toxic shock after eating it. So why are we injecting a rabbit with cosmetic ingredients to test their reaction if, as a different species, we’d react differently? I learned that there are far more effective and ethical ways to test cosmetic safety rather than harming animals in the name of beauty.

Once I decided that I didn’t want animals to suffer for vanity purposes I discovered how many brands were already cruelty-free. So many more companies are making the transition now, which made the switch even easier for me.

For more information on animal-free cosmetic testing:

https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/why-we-do-it/alternatives-animal-testing

3) What has been the biggest challenge about going cruelty-free?

The only thing that was difficult was replacing a certain not cruelty-free makeup brand that was in my freelance makeup kit. I had stocked the full range of my go-to foundation and it took a few months to find something that could replace it. I’m happy to report that I like the cruelty-free brand of foundation even more than the previous brand that I stocked in my professional kit.

4) Do you get any resistance from the mainstream beauty community since going cruelty-free? Or is it mostly supportive?

The only resistance I experienced was from a couple people that were concerned about the safety of using cosmetics NOT tested on animals. Which I totally understand because I had those same questions. With a quick explanation of alternative testing procedures and why animal testing is outdated and unnecessary, they were fully accepting! Of course, I’ve had some brands reach out to me for collaboration and when I ask what their cruelty-free status is and don’t get a response back, that tells me they still test on animals. Overall everyone has been very supportive and I see more people being inspired to becoming cruelty-free which is very exciting!

5) Can you achieve the same results as a pro MUA and hairstylist using only cruelty-free products?

100% yes! The quality of products that are not tested on animals does not differ from their non-cruelty-free competitors! I see literally no difference when it come to quality for makeup, hair care, skincare, and even body care products! We are very fortunate to live in a time where people are becoming conscious consumers and companies can no longer turn a blind eye. Every month a brand is announcing their cruelty-free status and pulling out of countries that require animal testing. A big win for the animals and a big win for us makeup junkies!

6) Do you feel that cruelty-free beauty is now accessible enough for anyone to transition to using all cruelty-free products?

Absolutely! There are several brands available in all price points. From drugstore brands like: Wet n Wild, Covergirl and Milani to high end brands like Charlotte Tilbury, Too Faced, and Tarte Cosmetics. Usually a quick google search can help you discover whether or not a brand is considered cruelty-free.

My main resource is Tashina over at Logical Harmony:

https://logicalharmony.net/cruelty-free-brand-list/

7) What is your biggest piece of advice for people looking to transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle?

A common misconception is that you need to throw away everything that is not considered cruelty-free. I don’t feel like that is necessary at all! The way I did it, and what I recommend, is to just replace the products you run out of with a cruelty-free product alternative and eventually your collection will be entirely transitioned. This is not only cost effective but also environmentally friendly. You’ve already spent the money, it’s best to use the products and then replace them as needed.

Lastly, seek out cruelty-free bloggers to get ideas and reliable information from. Other than myself, here are my favorites:

https://www.logicalharmony.net

https://www.ethicalbunny.com

https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com

if you can’t find any information on a brand’s status I recommend emailing or reaching out to the brand on social media to ask them about their testing policies. This is common with smaller companies.

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General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Never stop learning. I’m all about growth and evolving and I feel like if you aren’t learning something new, you’re stagnant. And for me personally, being stagnant makes me feel very unsettled.

9) What has been the biggest challenge / biggest reward from owning your own business?

My biggest challenge has been balancing my personal and family life with my desire to fully invest time into myself and my channel. I have millions of ideas constantly circling my creative brain but I only have a specified amount of time per week to accomplish them. My number one priority is being a stay at home mom, so that means I have to really prioritize the content I am able to put out. However, this challenge can actually be a blessing because it pushes me to have a better “work life balance.” It forces me to disconnect, which is what I need because I can be a little obsessive about things I’m passionate about. Soon my daughter will start school full-time so I will be able to apply some of the ideas and goals I have, but I know that will bring on a new set of challenges. I’ll need to force myself to continue to have a healthy balance.

My biggest reward is the daily communication from my YouTube community that I’ve lovingly dubbed my “Fam Bam”. I have a very active community and I look forward to my chats with them when I upload new content. One of my favorite things is when people tell me they were nervous to try bold makeup looks but always wanted to. After we talk about some tips on how to rock a bold lip or bright eyeshadow with confidence, I’ve had them report back to me that they tried it and loved it!

I have also had some members of my community reach out to me and thank me for showing them how easy it is to transition into becoming a cruelty-free consumer. I love that I can be a resource for people going cruelty-free and also be an outlet for people to talk and dish about their favorite beauty things right along with me!

10) What is one book that changed your life? Briefly describe why.

I had a hard time with this question because even though I do love to read, I rarely carve out time in my life to enjoy a good book. And when I do they tend to be psychological thrillers or easy read fluff books (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison). However, I do have one quote that comes to mind from a book I read a long time ago. I wish I still had it so I could quote it verbatim, but I always tend to lend out my favorite books and never see them again! It’s a quote from Dr. Drew Pinsky’s book Cracked. He states something along the lines of: “It is through our relationships with others that we can really learn and grow as individuals.” The chapter is roughly about how we learn a lot about ourselves through our experiences interacting with other people and how that can help us evolve. At least that’s how I took it. I was at a transitional point in my life where I was a bit of a recluse and not very open to new relationships and people for fear of getting hurt. But I was getting sick of that isolating mentality and felt stunted. When I read that I realized that I was ready to grow, ready to move forward with my life, and ready to be open to new relationships. Roughly three months later I met my husband. So yeah, I guess I could say that book changed my life.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjMIaMz2gF70O0YiYLSl9hw