Cover of book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

by: Cal Newport

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151 Highlights | 7 Notes
  • Its subtitle was alarming: “An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts.
    Note: Information addiits!!!!!
  • I also provide an insider look at the attention resistance
  • We require a philosophy that puts our aspirations and values once again in charge of our daily experience, all the while dethroning primal whims and the business models of Silicon Valley from their current dominance of this role;
  • confronting the thicker reality of how these technologies as a whole have managed to expand beyond the minor roles for which we initially adopted them.
  • They were, instead, designed to put slot machines in our pockets.
  • Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.
  • how tech companies encourage behavioral addiction: intermittent positive reinforcement and the drive for social approval.
  • property of unpredictable reinforcement.
  • mindlessly following trails of links, skipping from one headline to another. This behavior can also be sparked by unpredictable feedback: most articles end up duds, but occasionally you’ll land on one that creates a strong emotion, be it righteous anger or laughter.
  • Our Paleolithic brain categorizes ignoring a newly arrived text the same as snubbing the tribe member trying to attract your attention by the communal fire: a potentially dangerous social faux pas.
  • 112 apps and ask the more important question of why he uses so many apps in the first place.
  • what all of us who struggle with these issues need—is a philosophy of technology use
  • which digital tools we allow into our life, for what reasons, and under what constraints.
  • Digital Minimalism A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.
  • Even when a new technology promises to support something the minimalist values, it must still pass a stricter test: Is this the best way to use technology to support this value?
  • the maximalist philosophy that most people deploy by default—a mind-set in which any potential for benefit is enough to start using a technology that catches your attention.
  • They tend to be incredibly wary of low-value activities that can clutter up their time and attention and end up hurting more than they help.
  • But Adam is a digital minimalist, which means maximizing convenience is prioritized much lower than using technology to support his values.
  • digital information intake to a pair of email newsletter subscriptions and a handful of blogs that she checks “less than once a week.”
  • Dave began a habit of drawing a new picture every night to place in his oldest daughter’s lunchbox.
  • Principle #1: Clutter is costly.
  • Principle #2: Optimization is important.
  • Principle #3: Intentionality is satisfying.
  • shifting the units of measure from money to time is the core novelty of what the philosopher Frédéric Gros calls Thoreau’s “new economics,”
  • “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
  • you end up “crushed and smothered” under the demands on your time and attention, and in the end, all you receive in return for sacrificing so much of your life is a few nicer trinkets
  • He says: keep calculating, keep weighing. What exactly do I gain, or lose?
  • always reckon with how much of this life we trade for the various activities we allow to claim our time.
  • optimizing how we use technology is just as important as how we choose what technologies to use in the first place.
  • Perhaps, as the final step in this optimization, you discover through trial and error that you’re best able to absorb complex articles when you clip them throughout the week and then sit down to read through them all on Saturday morning on a tablet over coffee at a local café.
  • Finding useful new technologies is just the first step to improving your life. The real benefits come once you start experimenting with how best to use them.
  • they start with the things they value most, then work backward to ask whether a given new technology performs more harm than good with respect to these values.
  • approaching decisions with intention can be more important than the impact of the actual decisions themselves.
  • a similar embrace of simplicity and a suspicion of cultural trends that threaten core values of maintaining strong communities and virtuous living.
  • she emphasized the importance of being present with her daughter, even when bored, and the value she gets out of spending time
  • Put aside a thirty-day period during which you will take a break from optional technologies in your life. During this thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you find satisfying and meaningful. At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies into your life, starting from a blank slate. For each technology you reintroduce, determine what value it serves in your life and how specifically you will use it so as to maximize this value.
  • A typical culprit, for example, was technology restriction rules that were either too vague or too strict.
  • Another mistake was not planning what to replace these technologies with during the declutter
  • consider the technology optional unless its temporary removal would harm or significantly disrupt the daily operation of your professional or personal life.
  • Don’t, however, confuse “convenient” with “critical.”
  • My final suggestion is to use operating procedures when confronting a technology that’s largely optional, with the exception of a few critical use cases.
  • In the end, you’re left with a list of banned technologies along with relevant operating procedures. Write this down and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day.
  • feelings of discomfort faded after a week or two.
  • For this process to succeed, you must also spend this period trying to rediscover what’s important to you and what you enjoy outside the world of the always-on, shiny digital.
  • Figuring this out before you begin reintroducing technology at the end of this declutter process is crucial.
  • cultivate high-quality alternatives to the easy distraction they provide.
  • expect the first week or two of your digital declutter to be difficult
  • aggressively explore higher-quality activities
  • rediscovered the type of activities that generate real satisfaction,
  • start from a blank slate and only let back into your life technology that passes your strict minimalist standards.
  • Serve something you deeply value (offering some benefit is not enough). …
    Be the best way to use technology to serve this value (if it’s not, replace it with something better)
  • Have a role in your life that is constrained with a standard operating procedure that specifies when and how you use it.
  • Abby, a Londoner who works in the travel industry, removed the web browser from her phone—a nontrivial hack. She then bought an old-fashioned notebook to jot down ideas when she’s bored on the tube.
  • quota of only two websites he’s allowed to regularly check
  • used long runs alongside the cornfields of Michigan to work through the difficult emotions he faced on first returning from combat,
  • solitude is about what’s happening in your brain, not the environment around you. …
    a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds.
  • so long as your mind is left to grapple only with its own thoughts.
  • reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching TV, or performing just about any activity that might draw your attention to a smartphone screen.
  • focus instead on your own thoughts and experiences—wherever you happen to be.
  • “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” Blaise Pascal
    Note: #eq, Blaise Pascau
  • The smartphone provided a new technique to banish these remaining slivers of solitude: the quick glance. At the slightest hint of boredom, you can now surreptitiously glance at any number of apps or mobile-adapted websites that have been optimized to provide you an immediate and satisfying dose of input from other minds.
  • What Thoreau sought in his experiment at Walden was the ability to move back and forth between a state of solitude and a state of connection.
  • Glenn Gould once proposed a mathematical formula for this cycle, telling a journalist: “I’ve always had a sort of intuition that for every hour you spend with other human beings you need X number of hours alone. Now what that X represents I don’t really know … but it’s a substantial ratio.”
    Note: #eq, Glenn Gould, What is my X? 2hrs daily? 1hr daily?
  • Put another way, in 90 percent of your daily life, the presence of a cell phone either doesn’t matter or makes things only slightly more convenient. They’re useful, but it’s hyperbolic to believe
  • To live permanently without these devices would be needlessly annoying, but to regularly spend a few hours away from them should give you no pause.
  • I recommend that you try to spend some time away from your phone most days. This time could take many forms, from a quick morning errand to a full evening out, depending on your comfort level.
  • “Only thoughts reached by walking have value.” To underscore his esteem for walking, Nietzsche also notes: “The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit.”
    Note: #eq, Nietzche
  • the same key property of walking: it’s a fantastic source of solitude
  • “We do not belong,” he wrote, “to those who have ideas only among books, when stimulated by books.”
    Note: #eq
  • On a regular basis, go for long walks, preferably somewhere scenic. Take these walks alone, which means not just by yourself, but also, if possible, without your phone.
  • The hardest part of this habit is making the time. In my experience, you’ll probably have to invest effort to clear the necessary hours
  • every time I started a new Moleskine notebook, I would begin by transcribing my current list of values, underneath the heading “The Plan,” in the notebook’s first pages.
  • The key is the act of writing itself. This behavior necessarily shifts you into a state of productive solitude—wrenching
  • the ability to perform complicated social thinking.
  • What, if anything, is active in the brain when someone is not trying to do a task? “It was an unusual question,” notes Lieberman,
  • there’s a particular set of regions in the brain that consistently activate when you’re not attempting to do a cognitive task, and that just as consistently deactivate once you focus your attention on something specific.
  • The default network, in other words, seems to be connected to social cognition.
  • When given downtime, in other words, our brain defaults to thinking about our social life.
  • The loss of social connection, for example, turns out to trigger the same system as physical pain—explaining
  • human brain devotes significant resources to two different major networks that work together toward the goal of mentalizing: helping us understand other people’s minds, including how they are feeling and their intentions.
  • Shakya told NPR, “is that we have evidence that replacing your real-world relationships with social media use is detrimental to your well-being.”
    Note: #eq
  • real-world socializing that’s massively more valuable.
  • Because our primal instinct to connect is so strong, it’s difficult to resist checking a device in the middle of a conversation with a friend or bath time with a child—reducing the quality of the richer interaction right in front of us.
  • Conversation, Turkle draws a distinction between connection, her word for the
  • making more space in your life for quality conversation.
  • The philosophy of conversation-centric communication takes a harder stance. It argues that conversation is the only form of interaction that in some sense counts toward maintaining a relationship.
  • The socializing that counts is real conversation, and text is no longer a sufficient alternative.
  • conversation is what counts—don’t be distracted from this reality by the shiny stuff on your screen.
  • Put simply, don’t click and don’t comment. This
  • This practice suggests that you keep your phone in Do Not Disturb mode by default.
  • If you’re worried about emergencies, you can easily adjust the settings so calls from a selected list
  • You can now schedule specific times for texting—consolidated sessions in which you go through the backlog of texts you received since the last check, sending responses as needed and perhaps even having some brief back-and-forth
  • By simply keeping your phone in Do Not Disturb mode by default, and making texts something you check on a regular schedule—not a persistent background source of ongoing chatter—you can maintain the major advantages of the technology while sidestepping its more pernicious effects.
  • he’s always available to talk on the phone at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Put aside set times on set days during which you’re always available for conversation.
  • Coffee shop hours are also popular. In this variation, you pick some time each week during which you settle into a table at your favorite coffee shop with the newspaper or a good book.
  • You spread the word among people you know that you’re always at the shop during these hours with the hope that you soon cultivate a rotating group of regulars that come hang out.
  • a life well lived requires activities that serve no other purpose than the satisfaction that the activity itself generates.
  • joyful activities high-quality leisure.
  • It’s now easy to fill the gaps between work and caring for your family and sleep by pulling out a smartphone or tablet, and numbing yourself with mindless swiping and tapping.
  • start their conversion by renovating what they do with their free time—cultivating high-quality leisure before culling the worst of their digital habits.
  • when individuals in the FI community are provided large amounts of leisure time, they often voluntarily fill these hours with strenuous activity.
  • Expending more energy in your leisure, Bennett tells us, can end up energizing you more.
  • Leisure Lesson #1: Prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption.
  • “craft” describes any activity where you apply skill to create something valuable.
  • Craft doesn’t necessarily require that you create a new object, it can also apply to high-value behaviors.
  • &ldquoPeople have the need to put their hands on tools and to make things. We need this in order to feel whole.” As Rogowski
    Note: #eq, Rogowski
  • In a culture where screens replace craft, Crawford argues, people lose the outlet for self-worth established through unambiguous demonstrations of skill. One
  • If you want to fully extract the benefits of this craft in your free time, in other words, seek it in its analog forms, and while doing so, fully embrace Rogowski’s closing advice: “Leave good evidence of yourself. Do good work.”
  • Leisure Lesson #2: Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world.
  • This café didn’t serve alcohol and offered no Wi-Fi, the food was forgettable and the chairs uncomfortable, and it cost five dollars just to enter.
  • The secret to Snakes & Lattes’ success is that it’s a board game café:
  • Board games, of course, are not the only type of leisure that promote intense social experiences.
  • Another interesting intersection of leisure and interaction is emerging in the world of health and exercise.
  • The most successful social leisure activities share two traits. First, they require you to spend time with other people in person.
  • The second trait is that the activity provides some sort of structure for the social interaction, including rules you have to follow, insider terminology or rituals, and often a shared goal.
  • Leisure Lesson #3: Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.
  • It’s a physical object that demands (cognitive) struggle before it begins to return value—but when it does, the value is more substantial and lasting than the sugar high of a lightweight digital distraction.
  • In this new state, digital technology is still present, but now subordinated to a support role: helping you to set up or maintain your leisure activities, but not acting as the primary source of leisure itself.
  • A foundational theme in digital minimalism is that new technology, when used with care and intention, creates a better life
  • Pete is an example of someone who is handy, in the sense that he’s comfortable picking up a new physical skill when needed.
  • apply one new skill every week, over a period of six weeks.
  • schedule in advance the time you spend on low-quality leisure. That
  • when defending their products, they prefer to focus on the question of why you use them, not how you use them.
  • Undeterred, he decided he would simply start the social organizations he desired from scratch.
  • These efforts in creating new social organizations also succeeded in gaining him the contacts needed to access long-existing clubs.
  • His commitment to structured activities and interactions with other people provided this restless founder great satisfaction and, more pragmatically speaking, built the foundation for his successes in business and then, later, politics.
  • It’s easy to get caught up in the annoyances or difficulties inherent in any gathering of individuals struggling to work toward a common goal.
  • Join first, he would advise, and work out the other issues later.
  • They lay out a vision for what they’re trying to accomplish on multiple different time scales, connecting high-level ambition to decisions about daily actions.
  • both a seasonal and weekly leisure plan.
  • A seasonal leisure plan is something that you put together three times a year: at the beginning of the fall (early September), at the beginning of the winter (January), and at the beginning of summer (early May).
  • objectives and habits that you intend to honor in the upcoming season.
  • At the beginning of each week, put aside time to review your current seasonal leisure plan.
  • schedule exactly when you’ll do these things.
  • slot machine action of swiping down to refresh a feed,or alarm-red notification badges
  • the power of a general-purpose computer is in the total number of things it enables the user to do, not the total number of things it enables the user to do simultaneously.
  • I want you instead to think about these services as being blocked by default, and made available to you on an intentional schedule.
  • the Europeans suggest transforming the consumption of media into a high-quality experience
  • in which you aggressively eliminate sources of news and information to help reclaim more time for other pursuits.
  • which focuses more on aggressively eliminating what’s bad than celebrating what’s good.
  • To embrace news media from a mind-set of slowness requires first and foremost that you focus only on the highest-quality sources.
  • consider limiting your attention to the best of the best when it comes to selecting individual writers you follow.
  • It’s a general rule of slow movements that a small amount of high-quality offerings is usually superior
  • if you’re interested in commentary on political and cultural issues, this experience is almost always enhanced by also seeking out the best arguments against your preferred position.
  • I recommend instead isolating your news consumption to set times during the week.
  • choosing a location that will support you in giving your full attention to the reading.
  • On most other occasions, however, he brings his Nokia 130, a sleeker version of the Doro that shares its simplicity: no camera, no apps, no web—only calls and text messages.
  • These products, which include, notably, a Kickstarter darling reject the mind-set that says you must always have your smartphone with you.
  • implementing this philosophy is largely an exercise in pragmatism.
  • the key to sustained success with this philosophy is accepting that it’s not really about technology, but is instead more about the quality of your life.