Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It's the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives....

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Title:Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
Author:Cal Newport
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Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World Reviews

  • K.J. Dell'Antonia

    I've been thinking a lot these days about making more deliberate tech choices. No one human--not even Steve Jobs--ever expected technology to invade our lives the way it has. Instead, keeping us tethered to our tech and pulling that lever became the most popular and obvious way to monetize the Internet, and we individuals became, not the consumers, but the product being sold. And instead of cutting ourselves some slack--billions of dollars have been spent in the name of making the screens around

    I've been thinking a lot these days about making more deliberate tech choices. No one human--not even Steve Jobs--ever expected technology to invade our lives the way it has. Instead, keeping us tethered to our tech and pulling that lever became the most popular and obvious way to monetize the Internet, and we individuals became, not the consumers, but the product being sold. And instead of cutting ourselves some slack--billions of dollars have been spent in the name of making the screens around us stickier and sticker, is it any wonder we're drawn in?—we feel guilty, as I did the other night, about being too weak to just shut it off and look away. 

    The perfect antidote to that guilt is Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism. Newport skips the guilt (noting that we didn't ask for this and really could not have been prepared for it) and challenges to ask ourselves: what am I trying to do when I use this technology—and is this the best way to serve that goal?

    Build a philosophy around your tech use and you’ll use your tech more wisely. I'm trying, and this book is helping.

  • Kate ☀️ Olson

    If you are ready to make radical changes in your approach to tech in your life, this book is for you. It has been life altering in the best possible ways for me. I’m noticing that the people who aren’t ready to make changes tend to get defensive and call Newport a Luddite 🤷🏼♀

    However, if you almost never use your phone except for making phone calls or don’t use social media, you can probably skip it. Or if you’ve already read other books on the topic, maybe this covers the same ground? I haven’t

    If you are ready to make radical changes in your approach to tech in your life, this book is for you. It has been life altering in the best possible ways for me. I’m noticing that the people who aren’t ready to make changes tend to get defensive and call Newport a Luddite 🤷🏼‍♀️

    However, if you almost never use your phone except for making phone calls or don’t use social media, you can probably skip it. Or if you’ve already read other books on the topic, maybe this covers the same ground? I haven’t read some of the other popular titles so I’m not sure about that.

  • Meredith B.  (readingwithmere)

    Have you ever told someone in your life you just didn't have enough time in the day to get everything done? Have you thought about why that is? Maybe look down and see what you've been doing for the last 5, 10 or even 60 minutes. Probably scrolling through your phone. Sometimes with intention but sadly a lot of the time we are on our phones becaus/>

    Have you ever told someone in your life you just didn't have enough time in the day to get everything done? Have you thought about why that is? Maybe look down and see what you've been doing for the last 5, 10 or even 60 minutes. Probably scrolling through your phone. Sometimes with intention but sadly a lot of the time we are on our phones because of we are boredom or we are addicted and fear FOMO.

    A little background before I get into this book and why it's

    . I've always been into tech. I started at a young age, went to college and got a Web Dev/Interactive Media degree and I've had jobs in Digital Marketing, Email Marketing and now Cyber Security. I use tech each and everyday so you may be asking why I think this book is so important and questioning why I agree there is a problem? Well because I started to notice it in my own life and around me. I'd go meet a friend and they'd sit there scrolling through their phone while i'm trying to talk to them. I've watched family members sit on their phones while we're supposed to be "spending time" together. I looked around my train car the last couple days at 95% of people sat there scrolling through their phones and most of it was social media, not work. I watch families of 4 go out to eat and all 4 (parents and kids) are on their phones. Why bother going out? I know you may thinking well that's their choice and I agree but I personally don't want to lose human interaction to my phone or my time to my phone/other tech. Mindless scrolling because I'm bored or that I'm afraid I'm going to miss out just isn't worth my mental health or relationships.

    I also started to recently feel depressive and sad feelings while being on social media. It made me feel sad watching others thrive in their life and I felt insignificant in a way. The "Facebook effect" is real and I firsthand have felt it. Just remember there was once a time when we didn't have all this tech or phones and we were more connected, less anxious and we still survived. I realize I'm typing this on a digital site and it has to be read here but just hear me out...

    DIGITAL MINIMALISM takes us through different steps that you can go through to become a digital minimalist. What is one you ask? "They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them with meaning and satisfaction."

    Newport takes us through almost "detoxing" yourself from doing tech activities without intention. So if you spend 2 hours a day on facebook, try taking it off your phone so you can get over the urge of automatically opening it and then set aside

    time to go on it and try to use it with high intention so that you really get something out of it. Technology is not good or bad and Cal is actually a Computer Scientist, it's moreso about how we use it and how we can change that to be more healthy.

    I personally made a few changes - my husband and I do not look at our phones during dinner or any meal together. In fact, I try to leave my phone in the car or at home as much as I can. I put on night mode at night. I put my phone farther away at night. I turned off almost all phone notifications. The next step is to delete some low intention (social media) apps.

    If you are ready to take back control of your time and not feel like you need your phone attached to you every second then definitely read this book. It's simple but powerful and it has a lot of interesting studies/background on technology as a whole. I personally love technology (it is my job after all!) but I'm ready to use it more intentionally then mindlessly and strengthen my human face-to-face connections rather than hoovering behind a screen. I think my neck, thumbs and hands will probably thank me too!

  • Laura Noggle

    Deleted Facebook and Facebook messenger off my phone thanks to this book!

    Hard not to feel guilty over phone use after reading, probably because I know I waste too much time on it.

    Would read this one again to help ingrain the importance of living the minimally digital life.

    “The

    Deleted Facebook and Facebook messenger off my phone thanks to this book!

    Hard not to feel guilty over phone use after reading, probably because I know I waste too much time on it.

    Would read this one again to help ingrain the importance of living the minimally digital life.

    It's been almost 2 months since I deleted FB and FB Messenger off my phone. Still loving it, and checking it less and less in general.

    This book has remained top of mind since I read it, and keeps popping up in my life. If you're interested in a good discussion around Newport's books and ideas, Rich Roll interviewed Cal on his podcast and its an excellent episode.

    (

    )

    Newport is the Marie Kondo of digital tidiness.

    Solitude is essential for creating new ideas, solitude as in the

    — Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism

    Newport doesn't have to convince me, I'm a big fan of my personal time. Cal's call to

    makes me think of Virginia Wolf's

    .

    Really, I'll accept any theories that justify my proclivity for reading ... alone.

  • Robert Chang

    Cal Newport provided practical advice on how to embrace the philosophy of Digital Minimalism:

    - Spend time alone to gain solitude

    - Leave your phone at home

    - Take long walks

    - Write letters to yourself (journaling)

    - Don't click "likes"

    - Avoid falling into the slot machine feedback loop of likes

    - Consolidate texting

    - hold conversation office hours

    - Reclaiming conversations

    - Reclaim Leisure

    - prioritize demandi

    Cal Newport provided practical advice on how to embrace the philosophy of Digital Minimalism:

    - Spend time alone to gain solitude

    - Leave your phone at home

    - Take long walks

    - Write letters to yourself (journaling)

    - Don't click "likes"

    - Avoid falling into the slot machine feedback loop of likes

    - Consolidate texting

    - hold conversation office hours

    - Reclaiming conversations

    - Reclaim Leisure

    - prioritize demanding leisure activity over pass consumption

    - use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world

    - seek leisure activities with real world, structured social interactions

    - fix, or build something every week

    - schedule low quality leisure

    - join something (e.g. a community)

    - follow leisure plan

    - Join the attention resistance

    - delete social media from your phone

    - turn your device into single-purpose computers

    - embrace slow media

    - dumb down your smart phone

  • Carl Rannaberg

    I badly wanted to like this book. I really did. Because I have very much enjoyed other books by Cal Newport: So Good That They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work. Both have inspired me a lot and I have recommended these to others in many occasions.

    This book was way below my expectations. I'm afraid it’s not the book, it’s me. The practical value for me was minimal as I have already implemented a lot of things he proposes in the book.

    As Cal Newport mentions that he sees the di

    I badly wanted to like this book. I really did. Because I have very much enjoyed other books by Cal Newport: So Good That They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work. Both have inspired me a lot and I have recommended these to others in many occasions.

    This book was way below my expectations. I'm afraid it’s not the book, it’s me. The practical value for me was minimal as I have already implemented a lot of things he proposes in the book.

    As Cal Newport mentions that he sees the digital minimalism trend gaining momentum I thought this book has the potential to be the bible for this movement. But I don’t believe that happens because the message in this book is not clear enough. There are really no core underlying principles for this digital minimalism philosophy that Cal Newport tries to communicate in this book or he just did a poor job at it. I would have expected that he would lay out the laws or principles of digital minimalist at the start of the book and reinforce them through anecdotes in the rest of the book. For me there were only loosely related anecdotes where sometimes I scratched my head and thought: “how is that relevant to this topic?”

    This book seems to have identity crisis. As Cal himself mentioned at the start of the book he usually doesn’t write practical books. And this book is neither theoretically coherent nor is it well-structured practical book. It’s somewhere between and it’s a shame. His research in this topic is very thorough and the examples and tips he offers are actually useful.

    One thing that irritated me a little was his dismissive attitude towards blog posts with tips to turn off notifications on your smartphone and then he goes on in the book and does exactly the same thing. Of course he also talked about that you need a more deeper philosophy to actually make these changes in your life but for me he failed at communicating it clearly enough.

    One of the biggest grievances for me was lack of authors understanding of how habits work. This book would have been sooo much better when he would have actually connected our harmful digital behaviours with fundamental habit changing theory.

    If you would like to get pretty much the same content in a much clearer and practical form I would highly recommend you read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear and “Make Time” by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. Former gives a very solid understanding of the psychology behind habit change and the latter gives over 80 highly practical tactics to find better focus and more energy in this distracting world.

  • Mehrsa

    I like the idea in here--less is more. We do not need all the apps and the social platforms. He's definitely talking to someone like me here. I am not a huge consumer of these platforms (mostly this is age-related). However, I listened to his book using audible and some apps have really helped me expand my mind (meditation apps and audible are two). There is no room in Newport's framework for using smartphones in a good way. He's sort of an intellectual luddite. I get this and sometimes I think

    I like the idea in here--less is more. We do not need all the apps and the social platforms. He's definitely talking to someone like me here. I am not a huge consumer of these platforms (mostly this is age-related). However, I listened to his book using audible and some apps have really helped me expand my mind (meditation apps and audible are two). There is no room in Newport's framework for using smartphones in a good way. He's sort of an intellectual luddite. I get this and sometimes I think it's easier to draw crisp and bright lines and never walk over them lest you get sucked in, but perhaps we need to think more about our relationship with our app-filled phones before we just swear them off. I think the better plan would be to practice radical consciousness when dealing with tech. To not walk numbly and dumbly into each platform and let it take our free will.

  • Cindy Pham

    3.5 stars. I appreciate the thesis that by choosing to minimize technology in our day-to-day lives, we're choosing to be more deliberate with how we spend our time. I liked some of the advice to consolidate texting, hold conversation office hours, and in general, choose to be more purposeful with what energy we give to reacting to others. I think this book would have been stronger if he provided research to this points rather than random anecdotes about people who decide to step away from techno

    3.5 stars. I appreciate the thesis that by choosing to minimize technology in our day-to-day lives, we're choosing to be more deliberate with how we spend our time. I liked some of the advice to consolidate texting, hold conversation office hours, and in general, choose to be more purposeful with what energy we give to reacting to others. I think this book would have been stronger if he provided research to this points rather than random anecdotes about people who decide to step away from technology. A few pieces throughout the middle also felt like fluff to fill up the book (i.e. the rock-paper-scissors championship, the fantasy board game groups, and anecdotes about old white dudes like Henry David Thoreau). It would have served better to take more stories of the modern-day person who has to be ingrained in technology, like someone working in Silicon Valley, and solutions for how to balance professional requirements with self-preservation and mindfulness.

  • verysadturtle

    The author of this book is a prime example of how one can be very successful, and at the same time incredibly unimaginative.

    When the title caught my attention at a bookstore, I had been feeling for a long time that my own consumption of digital content has gotten out of hand. “This looks like something you should read,” said one of the better angels of my nature (brace for many Abraham Lincoln stories if you decide to read the book). With unintended irony, I impulsively Google search

    The author of this book is a prime example of how one can be very successful, and at the same time incredibly unimaginative.

    When the title caught my attention at a bookstore, I had been feeling for a long time that my own consumption of digital content has gotten out of hand. “This looks like something you should read,” said one of the better angels of my nature (brace for many Abraham Lincoln stories if you decide to read the book). With unintended irony, I impulsively Google searched the book on my phone right there in the bookstore - probably blocking an aisle in the process - and I discovered that the author had previously written a couple of "how to ace all your exams" self-help guides. That immediately raised an orange flag for me. But I thought that a whole book on how I should put away my phone from time to time could serve as a good reminder. I might finally make some long due changes. If not by good argumentation, then by sheer ad nauseam nagging.

    I tend to think that’s the whole point of self-help; to hammer home the idea that some change is needed, not to teach you anything new per se. No one that ever needed to lose weight, make friends, or “clean their room” was ever oblivious to those realities. But purchasing a paperback where someone tells you exactly that, page after page, could actually push you towards that change, while endowing your pursuit with a guise of intellectuality.

    I may have reaped that benefit from the book, at least temporarily. Only time will tell if the effect will be long-lasting. After all, I did agree with the overall message. But the point I’d like to make is that I could not have picked a more mundane, uninspiring, vanilla flavoured reminder to modify my digital habits. Had one of the bookstore clerks yelled at me to put down my phone and start living my life in that moment, it could have had a similar effect to what Cal Newport, a professor and best-selling author, had to say in 240 pages. And it would have been 16 Euros cheaper.

    The book seemed to me poorly written and structured. But I’ll leave it at that, as I’m sure more competent critics of prose covered that in other reviews. Interestingly, if Cal Newport believed even slightly in leaving matters of expertises to their rightful experts, he wouldn’t have written this book.

    One crucial aspect which he left out of the book was any insight whatsoever into why many of us feel the need to fill our waking hours with distractions, digital or otherwise. Why, Calvin, why?! It was just taken for granted that some people in Silicon Valley had hacked into your brains and that’s that. Maybe a lack of understanding of human psychology, its complexity, and its relevance to such discussions could explain this omission. Or maybe he was in a hurry, eh?

    In several places, he refers to “the research” he had to do for writing this book, but as I kept reading, nothing indicated that he has done any concrete research. I found it curious, for example, that many of the anecdotes he used to convince the reader of embracing offline activities seemed like the kind of things you discover accidentally on youtube or reddit. I’m thinking here of the rock-paper-scissors championship, Mr. money moustache, and fantasy board game groups among others. Nothing was drawn from any convincing personal experience, short of telling us that he likes to take long walks. One of his few attempts to use more substantial sources was the book Walden, by Henry David Thoreau; a 19th century Ted Kaczynski of sorts. That seemed interesting, if only slightly out of place and pretentious. His attempt to draw examples from US presidents was in turn cringe-worthy. Perhaps because what lies beneath it is an attempt to appeal to a mass patriotic readership. Perhaps. But it’s not all in vain. Now I know Theodore Roosevelt practiced Jiu Jitsu. Wait til I throw this gem into a conversation.

    Contrary to what I would have loved to find out (to reinforce my obvious bias), the author is not a hack academic who writes self-help to compensate for his otherwise mediocre research career. In fact, he seems to do reputable, fundamental, and dry research in a niche area. But that makes me feel his whole endeavour is even more inexplicable, if not purely cynical. A guy who has so much going on professionally and intellectually still feels the need to write unscholarly, catchy titled books for.. what? Money, perhaps.

    In all sincerity though, the book might help some people. I’ll ship you my copy if you like. I think I benefited from it. But who knows? Maybe it’s telling that the first thing that occurred to me to do after finishing the book was to go online and write this piece of crap review, which by the way is only long-winded and annoying to mimic the book it's describing (did I blow your mind just now?). Perhaps I'm subconsciously yearning for the likes, angry comments, notifications, and all the vices that the book forbade. Perhaps.

  • Kelly

    Although at times it made me annoyed for how into only citing dudes or dude-centric work it is (hi, the Craft movement has been in the women's spheres for forever, but it didn't become "cool" to do crafts -- whatever craft you prefer -- until dudes "reclaimed" it over the last few decades), this is a really smart, thoughtful, and practical book about how to make sure that social media works for you, rather than you becoming a tool of the social media. I've been doing some of these things in my o

    Although at times it made me annoyed for how into only citing dudes or dude-centric work it is (hi, the Craft movement has been in the women's spheres for forever, but it didn't become "cool" to do crafts -- whatever craft you prefer -- until dudes "reclaimed" it over the last few decades), this is a really smart, thoughtful, and practical book about how to make sure that social media works for you, rather than you becoming a tool of the social media. I've been doing some of these things in my own life and it's neat to see what some others have done. Newport's big suggestion is scheduling when you'll be mindless on social media and spend time creating ways to let the tools do the work you want them to do in the other time. Likewise, the suggestions for a digital detox are easy enough and some of the other ideas, including don't put apps on your phone, are things I've been doing and finding to be valuable, for sure.

    More on this one soon. It doesn't necessarily tread new ground, as (

    and others like it do this...but I guess since they're by women, y'know.

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