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Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Digital Minimalism cover

Cal Newport reminds us to think where we spend our time and attention. The book starts with an analysis of how the attention economy hijacks our life and what are the consequences.

Rest of the book is about digital declutter and other small hints and suggestions on what to do with time and energy that you can reclaim.

What I got from the book is the idea of putting more time into activities done without screens. Maybe instead of scrolling through the Facebook feed, it would be better to visit your family or meet your friends for a coffee? Instead of playing an online game with strangers, maybe it will be better to play a board game with the ones you already know?

Solitude

Solitude Depravation can the real problem with having a screen with us all the time. I've seen self-help advice to fill up all your time with reading or podcasts. It sounds good on the surface — you can learn more and better use your time. In practice, you feel overwhelmed. Because of the information overload, you forget most of the things you've seen. To learn more and to lead a more purposeful life, it's better to take some time off. It can be walking outside or any activity when you're not consuming any content: no podcasts, no books, no social media. Taking breaks from information can help to make better decisions and to remember more of what you learn.

Thinking by writing

It's only one of the suggestions, but it is something that I seem to notice a lot. Writing seems to show up when I read about reflection but is also part of CBT therapy. I write a journal for some time, but the mental model of thinking by writing already helped me get more out of it. If you have a difficult decision to make, it's better to consider the pros and cons on paper than in your head.

Conversation > Connection

Cal Newport made me reflect on the connections and conversations in my life. I remember hearing advice that you should get and maintain as many contacts as possible. This should help in some way—unfortunately, the help you're supposed to get out of it is a little vague. I've started wondering if the cost of maintaining those weak connections is worth the small convenience you will (maybe) get at some point?

Leisure

When I was around 30 years old, I started asking myself a question that Cal Newport mentions in the 6th chapter "Reclaim Leisure."

Is this all there is to life?

If your life is only about work, solving problems and learning things then at some point, you look back and wonder where is the happy life you were promised.

It turns out you have to make joy part of your life.

I've found a great quote in The Coddling of the American Mind book I'm reading now that strengthens Cal Newport idea.

“nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.” ― Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

Intention

I've learned about the Slow media movement. You don't need to delete your Facebook or Netflix accounts just yet. What is more important is making sure that you're enjoying them while they don't negatively impact your life.


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