An achievable digital cutback plan to save time, money and sanity

Marc Cocchio
3 min readNov 16, 2020


So enticing!

So many of us are seemingly in a constant search for some semblance of balance with our own relationships to technology such as our smartphones and the apps we use.

And by now, you’ve probably seen or at least heard of The Social Dilemma; it clearly outlines the addictive qualities of these devices.

What are we to do? Quit cold-turkey and go back to pen and paper? Attempt fully-anonymous digital existence? Buy a flip phone?

Below is a simple outline of my own recommendations for a first step into the world of loosening the shackles your phone or such connected devices may have on you. After these steps, you’ll have more slack to maneuver yourself free.

Step 1: No devices in the bedroom. You use it for an alarm? Cute! Go and buy a little alarm clock; you’ll be glad you did! Pick a fun color, neat-o-features like temperature and humidity displays, battery or plug-in. This step alone is so effective that the result is near revolutionary. Close friends have shared with me that after keeping to this for just one month, it became a permanent house rule.

Step 2: One amazon order per month. Sure put items in your cart throughout the month; you will absolutely find yourself taking them out days later. Pick a specific date, be it the fifteenth, the last day of the month, or a number which has meaning to you. Side affects may include saving money on frivolous and impulsive purchases, less time mindlessly browsing the aisles of amazon, lowering your overall consumption (the ocean’s thank you), and hopefully increasing your support and perhaps discovery of local businesses.

Step 3: Turn all your notifications off. Ruthlessly evaluate the necessity of each app’s various notifications. Non-work and off-the-clock email? Off. Instagram messages? Off. Directly in your phone settings you may find that you can turn off notifications en masse per app. Check inside the app to tailor specific notifications. Be ruthless!

Step 4: Spam email. Seriously, it’s 2020. Unsubscribe to every single newsletter, discount special and otherwise unread email that touches your inbox as they come in. Automatically mark as read and archive important yet never read emails such as credit card statements. Clear out your inbox until only the truly-important-at-this-time emails are there. Within a week or three, you’ll own your inbox again as opposed to the other way around.

Step 5: Delete unwanted apps. This one is simple: often we forget that we installed an app for that one occasion or perhaps just out of curiosity. We also have some apps that are best anywhere but installed on our phones. You know the ones. Go for it, I bet you’ll find at least ten apps that you would not even miss one bit.

Step 5: Use a tool such as forest to “stay focused.” This particular one is simple: select a virtual tree and the time you’d like to “grow” it. The app will not let you use any other apps, beside chosen exceptions, lest you kill your tree mid-growth. As you collect points, you can get new customizations or even plant a tree in real life. I personally love this tool, though I am aware that there are other similar tools, either apps or built in to the device’s operating system.

Step 6: Appreciate that nobody is infallible, and the goal is not a complete disconnect. Examine what is truly best for you. Do you have some small goals for your leisure time? These can be to read more books, play that guitar sitting in the corner of your room, do some sketches, reorganize your kitchen cupboards, the list goes on.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. A studio apartment may mean the phone is always somewhat in the bedroom. Special circumstances may mean that one’s best option is ordering quite often from amazon. Working in the online media world may mean that turning notifications off directly affects your income.

Take the above steps, take some deep breaths, and live just a little bit more intentionally with a little bit more control over your phone.



Marc Cocchio

Both a creative and critical thinker, I am a Python programmer, UX designer, and woodworker, based in Japan.