Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport Notes & Summary

Amazon.com: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy ...

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An interesting perspective on how to live a focused life in a world full of noise. Beneficial for anyone who thinks they’re addicted to their phone/social media and wants to make a change.

  • “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity… You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?” Marcus Aurelius
  • The core mission of the iPhone was to play music and make phone calls… not all the other stuff. Steve Jobs was initially dismissive of the idea the iPhone would become a general computer (5)
  • The iPhone today does much more than play music and make phone calls. These changes were massive but unplanned (6)
  • “People don’t succumb to screens because they’re lazy, but instead because billions of dollars have been invested to make this outcome inevitable.” (9)
  • “Checking your likes is the new smoking” + “Philip Morris just wanted your lungs, the App Store wants your soul” – Bill Maher (9)
  • Rewards delivered unpredictably are far more enticing than those delivered with a known pattern
  • When confronted with quitting social media, most people believe “I wish I could do that, but I just can’t” (31)

Principles of Digital Minimalism:

  1. Clutter is costly
  2. Optimization is important
  3. Intentionality is satisfying
  • “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau (37)
  • Thoreau believed clutter was costly: “I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.” (40)
  • Common optimization among digital minimalists was to remove social media apps from their phone (47)
  • “For many people, their compulsive phone use papers over a void created by a lack of a well-developed leisure life” (71)
  • How many “small” moments do you miss out on because you were looking at your phone? (73)
  • Newport suggests going on a 30-day detox. (80)
  • Solitude is the subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds (93)
  • “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 really don’t know… but it’s a substantial ratio.” – Glenn Gould, pianist (111)
  • “Only thoughts reached by walking have value” – Nietzsche (117) …Nietzsche walked 8 hours per day one summer
  • Researchers found the more someone used social media, the more likely they were to be lonely (139)
  • If you increase the amount of likes or links clicked by a standard deviation, mental health decreased by 5-8% of a standard deviation. (140)
  • Value generated by a Facebook comment or Instagram like, although real, is minor compared to the value generated by an analog conversation or real-world activity (142)
  • Anything textual or non-interactive: basically all social media, email, text, and instant messaging doesn’t count as conversation and should instead be categorized as connection (147)
  • The more you text, the less necessary you’ll deem real conversation. In addition, when you do interact face-to-face, you’ll be checking your phone nonstop (157)
  • Don’t treat texts as ongoing conversations you must tend to, it will make concentration easier (158)
  • “A life well lived requires activities that serve no purpose than the satisfaction that the activity itself generates” (166)
  • Leisure philosophy from Mr. Money Mustache: “Carpentry, weight training, writing, playing around with instruments in the music studio, making lists and executing tasks from them” (172)
  • Expending more energy in your leisure can end up energizing us more (176)
  • You’re living truer to your primal potential when you’re interacting with the world with physical tasks (179)
  • “Leave good evidence of yourself. Do good work.” – Gary Rogowski (182)
  • Some new skills you can learn on YouTube: changing your own car oil, installing a new ceiling-mounted light fixture, learn a new instrument, start a garden plot (197)
  • Newport believes you can receive the vast majority of the benefit of social media in as little as 20-40 minutes per week. (202)
  • Join groups: 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, but it’s worth it (205)
  • Doing nothing is overrated… investing energy into something hard but worthwhile almost always returns much richer rewards (212)
  • The app Freedom allows you to block websites for set amounts of time. Freedom’s internal research states users gain 2.5 hours of productive time per day from using their app (226)
  • Turn your devices into single-purpose computers – meaning they only help you do one thing at a time. Much more compatible with human attention span. (229)

Further Reading

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