Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Rating Now: 8/10
Max Rating: 10/10*

Summary

Cal Newport’s book Deep Work was magnificent. When I saw he came out with another book I judged he probably didn’t have much else to say on the topic and it wouldn’t be worth reading the new volume called Digital Minimalism. However, at the behest of my friends Zach Obront and Michael Cazayoux, I purchased the book and I was pleasantly surprised.

If Deep Work represents the philosophy that will allow creative thought workers to thrive in the present and future economy, Digital Minimalism represents the implementation manual.

Newport delivers useful tips and tactics with well-thought reasoning. I found numerous action-steps (bulleted below) that I’ve implemented.

This book was most valuable because it offered a poignant reminder of something I already know, but was not implementing wholeheartedly.

I did skip over sections I found unnecessary (I’d already developed a solution) and I didn’t find anything that was truly groundbreaking. The book simply came at a time in my life when I already tackled many of the challenges, but I can see how this would be a 10/10 opening the eyes of someone addicted to social media and their phone.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your time = Facebook / Twitter / Google money. The most profitable product that any of these large technology conglomerates have is YOUR TIME. It’s empowering to remember that you can opt-out.
  • If you remove social media from your life, but do not fill those habits with something else, it is easy to fall victim of other bad habits (watching Netflix etc)
  • Digital minimalism doesn’t mean shutting out the world. Instead, create reasoned rules to utilize the benefits without the side effects of these tools. Make them work for you rather than vice versa.

Implementation:

  • Keep phone on grayscale – Cal Newport doesn’t specifically address how to manage colorful (i.e., distracting) notifications, but my iPhone now operates on grayscale. Only black and white. When I do triple tap the power button for color, it is overwhelming colorful suggesting this is probably a good change. Android how-to here. iPhone implementation here.
  • Install / delete Instagram – Newport also neglects to mention Instagram, though it is a part of Facebook. Desktop Instagram doesn’t allow for adding stories or posting photos so I had to develop an alternative. My solution is to simply install Instagram in the evening, post the content, reply to any messages from people, and then delete the app. This prevents me from scrolling or seeing any validation traps. But I still get to share what I’m up to.
  • Limit phone location usage – Another tactic I’ve used is to limit phone internet usage to a single area of my home (at the entrance). If I want to take my phone into the rest of the house to listen to an audiobook or podcast, it has to go on airplane mode. This adds a barrier to usage that batches my text responses.
  • Facebook Messenger – I have no need for Facebook on my phone, but I can still use the Messenger feature to stay in touch with various groups and friends. The inadvertent result is that I often go the entire week without checking Facebook. Even if I did post, I could post on desktop and disengage from the newsfeed.

* The time of life I read a book impacts the score. My Rating Now is how valuable the book was currently. However, at a different part of my life it might receive my Max Rating. Sometimes they are one and the same.

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Evernote book notes here
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