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.Digital minimalists are...

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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.

  • Luke Bacich

    Deep work (Cal's previous book) is my favourite book; it overhauled how I stay focused during the work day in an age of distraction. Digital Minimalism is the perfect sequel. Digital Minimalism removes low impact distractions from your personal life in search of meaningful high quality analogue activities. Between the two books your work and personal life are covered. You come away a far more present and content with your life.

  • 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.

  • Madeleine (Top Shelf Text)

    Such an important work of non-fiction for anyone who would like to evaluate their relationship with social media. I loved this book -- it spurred me to take a 30-day break from Instagram, and I look forward to re-reading it in the future to keep me thinking about the role of social media and general technology in my life!

  • 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 demanding leisure activity over pass consumption

    - use skills to produce valuable things in

    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

  • Tanja Berg

    I picked this book up on a whim at Helsinki airport a week ago. For a few months, I've been trying unsuccessfully to reduce the amount of time I spend browsing social media on my phone. The screen time report has been dismal reading. I also realize that when I am tired after a long day at the office, my capacity to resist is next to nil.

    I am now going to make a serious attempt at decluttering my digital life. Tonight I will delete all social media on my phone and take a 30 day break. I feel horr

    I picked this book up on a whim at Helsinki airport a week ago. For a few months, I've been trying unsuccessfully to reduce the amount of time I spend browsing social media on my phone. The screen time report has been dismal reading. I also realize that when I am tired after a long day at the office, my capacity to resist is next to nil.

    I am now going to make a serious attempt at decluttering my digital life. Tonight I will delete all social media on my phone and take a 30 day break. I feel horrible. I absolutely don't want to do it. However, after months of failed attempts to curtail my use , I do see that a sabbatical is the only way. After 30 days I presume I will go back to using Facebook at least, and absolutely Goodreads. Goodreads is the only one I am considering not blocking completely. Maybe I'll log in on PC once a week on Saturday? But no. I can do it. I can be strong. For 30 days I will only review with paper and pen and I'll write up my reviews in May.

    "Your monthlong break from optional technologies resest your digital life. You can now rebuild it from stratch in a much more intentional and minimalist manner. To do so, apply a three-step technology screen to each optional technology you're thinking about reintroducing."

    "To allow an optional technology back into your life at the end of the digital declutter it must:

    1. Serve something you deeply value (offering some benefit is not enough.)

    2. Be the best way to use technology to serve this value (if it's not, replace it with something better).

    3. Have a role in your life that is constrained with a standard operating procedure that specifies when and how you use it."

    So my friends - good bye! I will be back on May 1. There is no doubt in my mind that Goodreads will be on my re-introduction list. I love books and this community, that has let me discover so many great stories I might otherwise have overlooked.

  • Kate

    Cal Newport’s

    is Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy applied to technology: technology isn’t inherently bad or good, but it should be judiciously curated to fit your pre-existing values of what constitutes a good life. Rather than going to Facebook or Instagram or a news feed of breaking news to find human connection and entertainment, pre-decide what you value in the spheres of entertainment and connection and then tailor the tools of social media to achieve those pre-defined ob

    Cal Newport’s

    is Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy applied to technology: technology isn’t inherently bad or good, but it should be judiciously curated to fit your pre-existing values of what constitutes a good life. Rather than going to Facebook or Instagram or a news feed of breaking news to find human connection and entertainment, pre-decide what you value in the spheres of entertainment and connection and then tailor the tools of social media to achieve those pre-defined objectives.

    The structure of Newport’s arguments: social media tools like Facebook and Twitter have been ruthlessly engineered to take up as much of our time as possible; the human brain is built in such a way that we become anxious and stressed seeking these notifications, yet their arrival fails to meet our need for real social communication; eliminating the things we’ve come to take for granted – constant access to a mobile phone, social media, and the internet – is much more possible than it sounds and is likely to result in significant long-term benefits. This last point forms the crux of much of what this book is based on, an experiment Newport ran with 1,600 of his e-mail list subscribers who already agreed to a 30-day “digital detox” and then shared their experiences with him. Many of Newport’s insights come from what his readers discovered, and throughout the book, he lays out various ways to try this detox in your own life.

    I suspect it will be difficult to fully appreciate this book unless you implement the recommended intervention. Without trying it, this book borders being viewed as one of the many get-rid-of-your-smartphone writings that have begun to appear over the last few years (I’ve read most of Newport’s previous books, and this was the first time I felt he published in the middle of a trend, rather than being at the forefront, or even being the catalyst for, a trend). Part of this is the fault of the book itself: unlike

    or

    , it’s poorly structured. The guide to follow the digital detox is all over the place, with some steps in the first few chapters and some in the last few; Newport introduces it before he’s had you buy in to the idea with background information on why digital addiction is bad, etc. That also means even readers who do try to implement the detox might not do so the way Newport intended, and fall off the wagon before they achieve the end goal.

    Due to being a longtime reader of Newport, I actually participated in his initial digital detox experiment and can say: it works, and it can significantly change your life. It’s why I gave this book 3 starts instead of 2 (in addition to the structural issue, Newport’s examples are often superficial and mainstream and unlikely to be new to many readers).

    Newport also offers three key points that might be lost if you’re not paying attention closely. First, he is not advocating for the elimination of all social tools. He is advocating instead for an intentional approach to your life: understanding your values, understanding what you need, and then crafting how you approach social media in response to that. With the recent “disconnect” trend, his work risks being labeled as a “get rid of everything” – when instead he’s only advocating “get rid of everything for 30 days as a way to gather data about what’s truly important to you.” Second, and possibly even more important: you will not succeed at removing social media and other distracting digital agents from your life unless you have something substantive to fill them with. Great, you stopped bingewatching Netflix for 3 hours each night – but if you haven’t cultivated something intentional to fill that three hours with (rock climbing, in-person dinner with friends, mastering the art of cooking, whatever), you’ll feel restless and empty and slide back into your previous habits. Finally, there is a difference between “connecting” with your network (passively liking someone’s new baby photos) and truly cultivating a relationship with them (going over to friend’s house to meet said new baby). We are being pushed more and more to connect, but connections are meaningless without those deeper underpinnings.

    Up until now, we’ve tended to talk about technology as “all good.” Newport encourages us to view it, “some parts of this are useful – use only those parts.” Time, as he discusses, is literally money – and your time starting a screen is making other people money. The people who built Facebook could not have done so if they had spent hours every day on social media platforms.

    So, in summary: An important message but you have to do Newport’s actual detox; that being said, this book is poorly structured and is a lot of repackaging of other people’s ideas.

  • 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 digital minimalism trend g

    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.

  • 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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