Digital minimalism Focus and awareness in a noisy world

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Author: Cal Newport

Digital minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World Cal Newport 2019

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Digital minimalism

Philosophy of tightrope walkers (Digital minimalism)

Digital minimalism: The idea for this book came to Cal Newport while on vacation in the Bahamas in 2016 when he began to receive early feedback from readers of his newly released book Head to Work. Many agreed with Newport’s arguments about distractions in the office and added: “It’s just not clear what to do with it in everyday life …”

Indeed, the glut of technology is also affecting how we spend our time outside of work. Digital devices have taken a huge place in our lives, they constantly demand our attention, breaking it into tiny pieces, sucking up time and energy. Once we registered on social networks to communicate with friends from other cities, and now we cannot keep up a conversation with a friend sitting opposite without being distracted by the phone.

A common response to the over-influence of technology is life hacks like digital Sabbath – turning off the Internet from Friday night to Saturday night, advice to keep your phone away from the bed, checking email by the hour, and turning off notifications. 

But according to Newport, this is not enough to overcome Internet addiction. To succeed, you need a complete philosophy of using technology based on your values ​​. Newport called his version of this philosophy “digital minimalism.” Her followers can be compared to highly trained tightrope walkers who have learned to keep their balance despite many distractions. In a number of different modern concepts of the use of technology (neo-Luddism 1, quantified self 2, etc.), the idea of ​​digital minimalism represents a kind of golden mean and comes down to a simple rule: “less is better.”

To support his conclusions, in the book, Cal Newport presents the latest research on the impact of technology on people, including an experiment on the application of the concept of digital minimalism with the participation of 1,600 volunteers. 

In this book, you will find not only insights into the benefits of the mindful application of technology but also practices for establishing a new way of life, including tips for achieving sustained attention, which we all sorely lack in today’s information-rich world.

Unequal fight

The technologies of the 21st century, such as social networks and smartphones, have fundamentally changed our lives. And unplanned. 

Facebook was just one site among many in 2004 (Cal Newport’s acquaintances played Snood 3 for much longer than they spent time on social networks), and Steve Jobs created the iPhone, only to stop users carrying two separate devices – an iPod music player and telephone. 

Digital minimalism

Few imagined how our relationship with these new tools would change in the coming years.

The high school student who signed up for in 2004 didn’t know that the average modern user would be spending two hours a day on social media. And the first iPhone user, who bought it in 2007 for the music features, wouldn’t be thrilled to be told that 10 years from now, he’d be compulsively checking the device 85 times a day. “We began to use new technologies for minor reasons, but one day we woke up and found that they had colonized the core of our daily lives,” Newport writes. “In other words, we didn’t subscribe to the digital world we are now entrenched in.” 

Increasingly, technology is driving our behavior and moods and tempting us to use gadgets more than we think is normal, at the expense of more rewarding activities. We feel we are losing control of our own lives and feel uncomfortable. For example, when we can no longer enjoy the moment without a desperate desire to document it for a virtual audience.

Cal Newport believes we’ve been pushed into this pit by modern device manufacturers and attention economy conglomerates 4 who figured out before the average consumer that there was a lot of money to be made in a culture dominated by gadgets and apps. 

In 2017, this information was in the program “60 minutes. Brain hacking,” confirmed former Google engineer Tristan Harris. He admitted to the interviewer Anderson Cooper that the creators of technology are doing everything possible so that we use their products for as long as possible (for example, they use pop-up text tips on sites). Former developer of Gmail products that influence the behavior of millions of people, Harris compared smartphones to slot machines: every time we check them, we want to know what we got. So instead of giving us a better world, the “nerd gods” put addictive devices in our pockets. Harris previously wrote and mailed a manifesto titled “Call for Minimizing Attention and Respecting Users” to colleagues, after which the co-CEO of Google appointed him to the new position of “Product Philosopher”. But, in essence, nothing has changed, because respecting the attention of users leads to lower revenue. As a result, Harris quit his job and founded the non-profit organization Time Well Spent (“Time Well Spent”) with the mission of requiring technology to “serve us, not advertising.”

Digital minimalism

A month after the release of the Harris story, broadcaster Bill Mahr said on his Real Time show on HBO that it reminded him of a 1995 interview with former Tobacco vice president Jeffrey Wigand. The latter confirmed to the world what most already suspected: cigarettes developed by large companies are highly addictive. And checking likes, according to Mar, is equivalent to smoking. “Philip Morris wanted your lungs,” Mar concluded. “And the App Store is after your souls.” 

Digital minimalism

To avoid the worst consequences, you need to understand exactly how tech addiction works. NYU marketing professor with a Ph.D. in social psychology at Princeton and author Adam Alter found that modern technology stimulates moderate behavioral addiction5 (  compared to heavy chemical addiction to cigarettes and drugs) through variable positive reinforcement and our striving for social approval. The human brain is very susceptible to these two forces. 

In the 1970s, scientist Michael Zeiler learned from an experiment with pigeons that an unexpected reward is much more tempting than a known one and releases more of the joy hormone dopamine: birds were more likely to peck at a button that gave them food suddenly, rather than guaranteed after each press. In the same way that pigeons are affected by an unpredictable button, people are affected by the “Like” icon on social networks. The unpredictability of the number of “hearts” under a new post motivates you to check the network more often, making posting and checking likes insanely attractive.

Digital minimalism

Another online activity with unpredictable rewards is information sites. People go to them for a specific purpose, such as checking the weather forecast, and half an hour later they mindlessly move from one headline to another, from one link to another. Most articles are unsuccessful, but sometimes you end up with one that evokes strong emotions – anger or laughter. Every eye-catching headline or intriguing link is another metaphorical tug on the slot machine’s handle. As whistleblower Harris explained, tech companies are “sprinkling variable awards all over their products” to make them as eye-catching as possible.

Initially, the Facebook new notification symbol was blue, matching the site’s main palette. But no one noticed him like that. After changing the color to red, users began to constantly click on the icon.

Digital minimalism

The second force of behavioral addiction, the desire for social approval, helps explain the current obsession of Internet users with constant communication in instant messengers. The desire for approval forces us to maintain a long uninterrupted streak of communication with friends throughout the day. This strength also explains the desire to respond immediately to an incoming text message, even in the most inappropriate or dangerous conditions (such as driving). As Alter writes, “We are social beings who can never completely ignore what others think of us.” In addition to unpredictable feedback, social media tools give the impression of “tribal approval” if many people click on the little heart under your last post, and in the absence of positive feedback, they worsen the mood. 

Leah Perlman, who was a manager on the team that developed Facebook’s Like button (she announced the feature in 2009), now hires a manager as a small business owner to manage her page to avoid the service’s manipulative influence. “Whether there is a notice or not is not really that important,” she said. “No matter what we hope to see, we never break the bar.” 

Digital minimalism

We are engaged in an unequal battle to control our lives (or souls), in which technology exploits the vulnerabilities of our brains. 

In Plato’s chariot metaphor, our soul is the driver of the chariot trying to harness two horses, one of which represents our best nature, the other our basic impulses. When we succumb to digital technology, we energize the last horse and make it harder for the driver of the chariot to drive, which reduces the authority of the soul. 

Digital minimalism

Digital minimalism can help win this unequal battle (or, in other words, take back control).

Digital minimalism and its principles

Digital minimalism is a philosophy of using technology where you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that support what you value and ignore everything else.

It is reshaping our relationship with technology with our values ​​as the foundation. So, we have to ask ourselves the question: why do we use all these applications? Do they support what is important to us in life? In the absence of an analysis of what digital tools we allow into our lives, for what reasons, and with what restrictions, we will fight in vain in a whirlwind of attractive cyber gadgets. 

Digital minimalists are constantly analyzing costs and benefits. If a new technology offers little convenience, the minimalist will ignore it. If the technology is not the best way to support the minimalist’s value, they will try to optimize it or find a better option. Moving from their values ​​to their technology choices, digital minimalists are transforming innovation from a distraction into a tool for a good life. 

The minimalist philosophy contrasts with the maximalist one that most people take for granted. For those with a maximalist mindset, the potential advantage is enough to start using the technology. The Maximalist doesn’t like the idea of ​​missing out on something they think is interesting or useful. That is why many people do not part with their digital devices literally around the clock. “Don’t miss the opportunity. Sign up for notifications and get a 10% discount.” Indeed, people are afraid of missing out on a possible “profit”, even if they make purchases about once a year, and they will receive notifications several times a week, and at the most inconvenient time. In fact, they can be called maximalists: they try to use the maximum of attractive opportunities. 

Cal Newport’s co-workers were horrified when they learned that he had never used Facebook. “Why should I use Facebook?” he asked. “We can’t say for sure,” they answered, “but maybe there is something useful for you that you are missing.” For digital minimalists, this argument is absurd, as they ignore low-value activities that clutter up their time and attention and end up doing more harm than good.

Digital minimalism

At the end of 2017, Cal Newport invited his blog subscribers to take part in a small experiment, abandoning most digital technologies for a while and writing down their experiences. Newport expected to receive a response of 40-50 participants, but 1600 people offered their help. A few months later, the participants in the experiment shared their impressions and results with Newport. It turned out that the impact of digital trash on the quality of life of people is really very great. Many did not notice how much this reflex-based baggage interferes with their lives. Not surprisingly, after the digital reset, people felt noticeable relief. 

Tyler has taken to social media to grow his career, keep in touch and have fun. However, after analyzing the costs and benefits, he realized that although he appreciates all three of these goals, using social media is not the best way to achieve them. So Tyler left them. About a year later, his life changed dramatically. He became a regular volunteer and sportsman, reading three or four books a month, and playing the ukulele. Now that the phone is no longer glued to his hand, he has become much closer to his wife and children, and even got a promotion due to increased concentration. 

Adam runs a small business: the ability to stay in touch with subordinates is important to him. But lately, he’s begun to worry about the example he’s setting for his grown children. He realized that he wanted to talk to them about the importance of life off screen, but the message would not be remembered until they saw him exhibiting such behavior himself. Then he replaced his smartphone with a regular flip phone and explained to the children why he did it. Some things in his job became annoying, such as having difficulty typing messages to co-workers on the plastic buttons of an old-fashioned phone. But teaching children a lesson in digital minimalism was more important to Adam than typing fast. 

Creative director and father of three, Dave reduced his use of social media to one Instagram, which supported his interest in art. However, Dave didn’t want to just browse the feed, but decided to post one photo of his personal art project every week. “It’s a great way to archive projects,” he explained. He also keeps track of a small number of recordings of artists whose work inspires him. Dave remembered that in his first year of college, his father used to write him handwritten notes every day. Inspired by this example, Dave began to draw a picture every night to put in his eldest daughter’s lunch box. When the younger children grew up, they also began to receive their daily drawings. Dave now spends a decent amount of time doing three drawings every evening, which wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t protect his time from gadgets.

Digital minimalism

Cal Newport’s argument for the effectiveness of digital minimalism is based on three principles: 

Principle #1: Clutter is expensive. By wasting our time and attention on multiple devices, apps, and services, we are missing out on the benefits of each element individually.

Henry David Thoreau, who lived for two years in the woods at Walden Pond and wrote a book about it , figured it was enough to work hard just one day a week to meet his needs for food, shelter, and warmth. From the additional profits, the farmers he observed received only minor external improvements, such as blinds or a slightly more comfortable wagon, but were crushed by endless labor and “led lives of quiet desperation.” Economics according to Thoreau requires balancing profits with costs. In today’s reality, 10 hours of Twitter per week is too high a price to pay for the benefits we receive. If you value new connections and ideas, why not attend an event once a month where you can connect with interesting people?

Digital minimalism

Principle #2: Optimization matters. Finding that a particular technology supports your values ​​is only the first step. To take full advantage of it, you need to carefully consider how to use it.

According to the economic law of diminishing returns, investing more and more resources in a process cannot indefinitely improve its performance – the further, the less benefit we get. It is the same with technology: its value has a limit. If staying up to date is important to you, you can carefully select a few of the best news sites and download an app like Instapaper that lets you save articles and read them in an ad-blocking interface. 

An even more effective option is to collect interesting articles for the week, then to read them on a Saturday morning in your favorite cafe. But further improvement of this process, most likely, will not bring significant benefits: you have already reached the limit of optimization. 

Digital minimalism

Principle #3: Satisfies intentionality. Digital minimalists derive satisfaction from conscious interaction with technology.

Contrary to popular belief, the Amish  do not reject modern technology, but find out if it does more harm or good to their values. If the benefits outweigh the benefits, then the use of technology is allowed with some reservations. 

For example, the Amish can drive cars driven by other people, but cannot buy a car. Because car owners tend to drive to nearby towns on weekends instead of shopping locally and visiting elderly family members. 

Digital minimalism

Unlike the Amish, 8 Mennonites  are personally responsible for their decisions. However, liberal Mennonite and Albuquerque schoolteacher Laura has never used a smartphone and has no intention of buying one. She is happy with her decision because she appreciates the time spent with her husband, daughter and friends without distraction, and writing down landmarks if you need to find an unfamiliar address is not a problem for her.

Digital minimalism

Digital cleaning: 30 days and three stages

The path to digital minimalism is through digital cleaning, a way that, unlike the gradual change of habits, will not allow you to fall back to where you started. After studying the results of his experiment with 1600 volunteers, Cal Newport made two main conclusions. 

1. Digital cleaning works. Participants in the experiment said that digital cleaning relieved them of a psychological burden that they did not even suspect existed. 

2. Digital cleaning requires a conscious effort. Some people could not stand it and give up in the middle. But most often, the following errors led to failure, which is quite easy to fix:

• too vague or too strict restrictions;
• lack of understanding of how to replace technologies during harvesting; • treating cleaning as a “vacation” or “detox” – a period of rest from the digital life, after which it will be possible to immerse yourself in gadgets again. This is a weaker decision than an attempt to change a life forever (not having decided on global changes, it is much easier to break loose when it gets hard). 

So, let’s go on a 30-day journey, from which we will learn a lot about ourselves and our relationship to technology.

Stage 1. Inventory and creation of rules 

• Make a list of all the digital tools you use regularly.
• Choose from them those that you definitely cannot do without.

You, most likely, will not be able to refuse work mail or a messenger in which you communicate with your spouse who has gone on a business trip. 

Digital minimalism

• Formulate the clearest operating rules for mandatory instruments: why, how, and when exactly you allow yourself to use them.

Professor Nathaniel didn’t mind the serials, but he was worried that he would binge watch them, episode after episode, and that might hurt his work. Therefore, he accepted the restriction: no more than two episodes of any series per week. 

Digital minimalism

• All other – optional – tools enter into the stop list.

Stop using the Facebook messenger that you use to chat with friends abroad. This is not very convenient, but friends can easily withstand a month without contact with you. College student Kushbu said that thanks to digital cleaning, he lost contact only with those people with whom he did not want to constantly communicate.

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• Post the stop list and operating rules in a prominent place.

By the way, about 70% of the rules described by the participants in Cal Newport’s experiment were associated with a complete ban on the use of a particular technology and only 30% with restrictions. 

Stage 2. Pause and find ways to take time

• Completely stop using tools from the stop list.

Management consultant Daria used to pull out her phone in the first days of the experiment, but then she remembered that she had deleted all the news and social network applications from it. The only new information she could check was the weather. “That first week,” she said, “I knew the hourly weather conditions in four cities.” The desire to view something was too great to ignore. But two weeks later, Daria said: “I have lost all interest in reading any news on the Internet.”

Digital minimalism

• Strictly follow the rules that you formulated in the first step.

• Recall your life values ​​and favorite activities. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try something you’ve always wanted to do, or go back to the ways you used to spend your time before screens took over. 

While graduate student Unaizah used to spend her evenings browsing Reddit , during the digital cleanup she switched to reading books from local and university libraries. “I read eight books this month,” she said. “I could never have done this before.”

Digital minimalism

• Explore different outdoor activities. Find the ones that bring you the most satisfaction and benefit. 

Stage 3. Gradual return to a life of the most useful technologies

• Understand which technologies support your values ​​the most. Test each technology with a two-question checklist. 

1. Does this technology support what I deeply value? 2. If the answer is yes, is this technology the best way to support my value? 

By asking the first question, you may decide that Instagram supports your family values, as it allows you to follow your cousin’s life by viewing his posts and photos. But to the second question – “Is Instagram the best way to support this value?” – the answer is probably “no”. Seeing your cousin once a month seems to be much more effective in keeping the family bond. 

Digital minimalism

• Experiment with the technologies you have chosen, and try to find a truly optimal solution. • Formulate the most specific rules for each technology that you are going to leave in your life. 

Digital Minimalists don’t vaguely say, “I use Facebook because it keeps my social life going.” Instead, they are specific, such as: “I check Facebook every Saturday on my computer to see what my close friends are up to. I don’t have an app on my phone. I’ve reduced my friends list to 30 people who are really important to me.”

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• Don’t forget: in your life, the role of many familiar applications can and should change significantly.

When the cleaning was over, Kate logged into Facebook elated, ready to dive back into blogs and discussions. But after half an hour of aimless browsing, she raised her head and thought: “Why am I doing this? It’s… boring and doesn’t bring me happiness. These technologies don’t really add anything to my life.” Since then, she has never used these services. 

Abby, who works in the travel industry, has removed the browser from her phone and, when bored on the subway, jots down questions and ideas in a notebook. “I decided that I didn’t need to know the answers to all questions instantly.” Computer engineer Ron allowed himself to regularly check only two sites (he used to periodically check 40 or more). And 19-year-old Rebecca bought a wristwatch because she often got sucked into the internet when she checked the time on her phone. 

Digital minimalism

Digital Minimalist Practices

Practice 1. Spend some time with yourself.

Cal Newport greatly appreciates solitude – the state of a person in which the mind is free from the opinions of others. 

Every summer from 1862 to 1864, US President Abraham Lincoln lived in a cottage outside the city. This life gave him something that was impossible to get in the White House – time and space for reflection. His wife and son traveled a lot, so the house remained at the disposal of the president. The absence of people constantly demanding his attention helped Lincoln make such important decisions for the country and formulate his famous speeches. 

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Human prosperity requires regular doses of solitude.

Michael Harris in his book Loneliness points out three of its benefits: new ideas, self-understanding, and closeness to others (separation increases the price of closeness). 

“Even passionate love is not my real life, unless I have time to investigate and discover what is happening or has happened,” wrote the poet and novelist May Sarton.

Digital minimalism

In a patriarchal society, women were systematically denied the right to be single. Today we ourselves deprive ourselves of loneliness. As soon as we get even a little bored, an unlimited amount of information created by other people is at our service. For the first time in history, people have the opportunity not to be alone for a second.

The lack of loneliness leads to mental health problems, particularly increased anxiety. According to Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, a group of young people of the iGen generation, born in 1995-2012, with access to smartphones, tablets, and the Internet for nine hours a day, compared with those born in previous years, showed a negative trend. “Teen depression and suicide rates have skyrocketed. Much of this deterioration is due to their phones,” she writes. Teenagers have lost the ability to process and understand their emotions, to reflect on who they are, and what matters to them. They have forgotten how to build strong relationships and at the same time disconnect from their social circles from time to time.

Leave your phone at home. It’s ridiculous to think that the ubiquitous presence of the phone is vital, so spend more time away from it. If at first, you find it difficult to do this, you can bring the phone to the right place and leave it in the glove compartment of your car. In an emergency, you will be able to take the device, but not where it can destroy loneliness at any moment. And if you don’t have a car and you spend time around someone else, you can ask that person to keep your phone to themselves for a while.

Walk for a long time. Regularly (ideally every day) go for long walks, preferably in picturesque places. Do them alone and, if possible, without a phone. If you can’t refuse the device, put it in the bottom of your backpack so you can’t easily reach for it at the first sign of boredom. Plan your walks ahead of time on your calendar (it’s a great way to start and end your day). Walk-in any weather – cold, snow, or light rain: Newport once walked his dog even during a hurricane.

Write letters to yourself. Newport has 12 full Moleskine notebooks (he uses about one per year). He writes in them irregularly—sometimes he fills out dozens of pages in a week, sometimes he doesn’t write anything for months. He opens his notebook when faced with difficult decisions, difficult emotions, or a surge of inspiration. In recent years, every time Newport starts a new notebook, he writes down the current list of values ​​on its front pages under the heading “Plan”. 

The act of writing helps you become aware of what important events are happening in your life at the moment. It does not matter whether you keep a special notebook for this or, like President Abraham Lincoln, use scraps of paper.

Practice 2. Talk instead of being in touch

Thanks to social networks, we can connect with a huge number of people. At the same time, we always try to stay in touch with acquaintances – remember the effect of social approval. The loss of social connection (parting with a loved one, someone’s neglect) is tantamount to physical pain. The instinct to constantly gain petty social approval is so strong that many of us lose the habit of having leisurely offline conversations. People constantly interrupt the conversation to check Facebook or reply to someone’s short message. 

Meanwhile, the ability to “read” in a personal conversation what is happening with other people (thoughts, feelings, intentions) has been honed by us for millions of years. But now fast forms of communication are replacing slow ones that require attention to nuances, observation, and patience. This creates the illusion of a strong relationship, but in fact, increases our anxiety. “Small mood boosts from seeing your friend’s Instagram photo from time to time doesn’t make up for the social damage done by not actually interacting anymore,” Newport writes.

In his opinion, an attempt to simply redistribute time in favor of personal communication is most likely doomed to failure. Cal Newport recommends using messages for only two purposes: to set up a meeting and/or to convey short, useful information. If you start to prefer conversations to be connected, you will lose the habit of constantly checking social networks, writing “sheets” of meaningless messages throughout the day, liking, commenting on other people’s posts, posting your own, and frantically checking likes. Messengers will no longer interfere with your real conversations, they will not be able to distract you from more important matters, but you, in principle, will keep access to them, for example, from a desktop computer. As a result, your social circle will inevitably decrease, but the benefits and value of communication for you will increase many times over.

Do not like or comment on posts. The more actively people use social networks, the more lonely they feel. Approval expressed in a conversation is a real, conscious act of communication, which cannot be said about the formal pressing of the “Like” button. Especially when the likes are quantified and given to us by people we don’t even know. Newport recommends completely abandoning primitive types of activity in social networks: likes, virtual gifts, etc. In addition, more and more people are starting to use closed accounts on social networks, trying to protect their personal space from strangers and unnecessary activity, including bots.

Consolidate messaging. Being a friend does not mean being “on-call”. We can’t focus on anything, constantly distracted to respond to messages in instant messengers. All the time jumping out of the “here and now” into an online conversation, we stop feeling the taste of life. Cal Newport advises setting aside time during the day to respond to messages, and avoid distractions the rest of the time. Keep your phone in Do Not Disturb mode, and if you’re worried about emergencies, allow incoming calls to your favorite contacts (like your husband, mom, and kid). Warn loved ones that you check messages two or three times a day, and if they urgently need you, they can always call you.

Set “reception hours”. So, on the one hand, you will restrict access for those who distract you from business, and on the other hand, give people the opportunity to contact you at a convenient time for you. 

An executive based in Silicon Valley tells those who want to talk to him that he is always available for a 5:30 pm phone call on weekdays. At this time, he is driving home on a busy road. When he himself wants to chat with someone, he usually sends a message “I would like to know what is happening in your life, call me sometime at 17.30”, and on a difficult question he usually answers the interlocutor: “I would like to delve into it . Call me at 5:30 pm any day.” 

Digital minimalism

In addition, you can set “office hours” once or twice a week when you sit with a newspaper or a book at your favorite coffee shop. Another option is to invite those who want to chat to join you during your walks.

Practice 3. Improve the quality of your leisure time

Digital technologies should not be the main source of leisure – they should help you organize or support it, for example, by providing access to communities related to your interests, or educational materials for quality classes.

The Mouse Book Club sends out a themed collection of smartphone-sized books to its subscribers four times a year so people can pull a book out of their pocket and read a few pages instead. To help readers understand and discuss these books, the company maintains a blog and podcast that draws on experts. In addition, the founders of the project plan to create an online system for organizing meetings of subscribers who live close to each other.

Digital minimalism

Prioritize active activity over passive consumption. By spending more energy in your free time, you provide a new influx of it. 

FI 2.0 community leader (FI stands for financial independence where assets exceed costs) Pete Adeni works with his hands most of his free time. He renovated the house, built a separate building that served as his office and music studio, and bought a dilapidated building for further experiments. “If you leave me alone for a day… I’ll happily spend my time spinning between carpentry, strength training, writing, playing musical instruments, making lists, and completing tasks from them,” he says.

Digital minimalism

Create valuable things in the physical world. The source of quality recreation can be considered a craft – the activity of creating something material. It can be anything – from knitting to construction, from floristry to making buns. Cal Newport also refers to the craft as playing musical instruments. Posting your last visit to a trendy restaurant or a witty joke is a “boy’s brag” compared to a well-put-together bench or applause after a masterful performance of a song on the guitar, he says.

Matthew Crawford, after earning a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago and working as the head of a think tank in the US capital, began repairing motorcycles. Now he alternates the improvement of technique with the writing of philosophical treatises.

Digital minimalism

Look for activities that require real interaction. They usually require your personal presence and contain rules, internal terminology (slang) and a common goal. 

These can be board games, social sports like CrossFit, fitness groups like Mom boot camp (boot camp for new moms) or F3 (street workout for men), participation in volunteer events and team projects like building an ice rink in a neighboring yard.

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Learn and apply new skills. Cal Newport offers a list of easy projects for beginners – things that he or someone he knows could learn and do in one weekend:

• Independent oil change in the car.
• Installing a new ceiling light.
• Learning a new technique or trick on an instrument you already play (for example, a guitarist might learn how to play Travis Picking). • Making a simple piece of furniture. • A new recipe for an unusual dish, etc. 

From simple projects where you can follow step-by-step instructions on YouTube, gradually move on to more complex ones. The author recommends doing this for six weeks, which is enough time for you to develop a persistent habit of “getting your hands dirty.”

Former engineer Pete Adeny once built a house that included several custom metal structures, including steel stair railings. When he learned that the cost of making railings was $15,800, he decided to learn how to make them himself. He bought the simplest welding machine and other necessary equipment, selected a few simple projects on YouTube and began to learn from them. As a result, after the railing, he also created garden gates, unusual plant stands, tool racks in the garage and other necessary things from metal.

Digital minimalism

Plan low-quality leisure time in advance. Set a time when you’ll be checking social media or watching TV shows (intentionality is fine). During these times, you can binge-watch Netflix while browsing Twitter, but stay offline outside of these times. At first, you can set aside more time for low-quality rest, gradually reducing it to a minimum (20-40 minutes per week).

Billionaire Jim Clark once asked the CEO of the social network, who admired people sitting on Facebook for 12 hours a day: “Do you think a guy who spends 12 hours a day on Facebook can do what you did?”

Digital minimalism

Join some community. Choose one whose goal is close to you and actively participate in its life.

Benjamin Franklin liked to join different communities. And when he could not find suitable ones, he created them from scratch. So, in 1727, he created the Junto Club, where people gathered on Friday evenings and discussed issues of morality, politics and philosophy, and every three months they read an essay of their own composition. In addition, they contributed money to buy books that all participants could read.

Digital minimalism

Make seasonal and weekly quality leisure plans and follow them. Make a plan three times a year: in September, January and May. Or, if you prefer, quarterly. The plan should contain goals, strategies to achieve, and habits that you intend to follow in the coming season. 

Goal: Learn how to play guitar on every song on the A-side of Meet The Beatles! 

Digital minimalism


• Adjust strings and re-tune your guitar, find chord charts for songs, print them out and put them into beautiful files.  
• Get back to the old habit of playing the guitar regularly.

As an incentive, plan a Beatles party for November. Perform songs (ask Linda to sing).


• limit low-quality leisure time to 60 minutes a day;
• read something in bed before going to bed every night; 
• Attend one cultural event per week. 

Digital minimalism

At the beginning of each week, review your current seasonal leisure plan to brush up on it and consider how it will fit into your schedule for the coming week. Knowing that you’ll be rethinking your plan soon will make you more likely to stick to your habits and spot problems early (for example, if you’re consistently failing to develop a particular habit, it might be worth adjusting or replacing it).

Top 10 Thoughts

1. Increasingly, technology controls our behavior and mood and forces us to use them more than we think is normal. Often at the expense of more rewarding activities. We feel we are losing control of our own lives and feel uncomfortable. The fact is that technology stimulates moderate behavioral addiction.

2. To overcome addiction, it is worth adhering to digital minimalism – the philosophy that you use only those technologies that support your values ​​and ignore everything else.

3. The first question we need to ask ourselves is: why do we use these apps (and why are there so many)? If we do not understand what tools we allow into our lives, for what purpose, and with what restrictions, we will continue to drown in a sea of ​​cyber knick-knacks.

4. Our dependence is formed by the fear of missing out on something useful and profitable. But this fear is unfounded. We must constantly analyze costs and benefits. If a new technology offers little convenience, it should be ignored. 

5. Another reason for the addiction is the need for social approval. It is she who makes us stay in touch all day long and have endless conversations in instant messengers with friends and relatives. This correspondence is of little value but takes a lot of time. 

6. Three principles of digital minimalism: order, optimization, intentionality. Each of these principles ensures our satisfaction from interacting with technology. 

7. Do a digital cleanup: Take a break from unnecessary tech for a month; during this time, explore and rediscover activities that you consider important; reintroduce technologies that support your values ​​into your life by defining rules for their use.

8. Spend time alone – this is the time when a person’s mind is free from other people’s opinions. Leave your phone at home occasionally, take long walks, and write letters to yourself.

9. Use slow media. If you can’t help but read the news, read only the highest quality sources. Choose articles from the best authors. Read paper books. 

10. Prioritize active activity over passive consumption. Create things in the physical world, look for the real interaction, seasonal and weekly quality leisure, and follow them.

1 . Neoluddism implies criticism of the influence of scientific and technological progress and comes down to a complete denial of technology, presenting them as hostile to humans.

2 . Quantified self (translated into Russian as “countable self”) is a movement created in 2007 with the aim of using technology to obtain data on a person’s daily life: mood, pulse, activity, etc. Fitness bracelets and Other devices.

3 . Snood is a single-player Tetris-style puzzle video game released in 1996 for the Mac OS operating system.

4 . The attention economy implies a market where users pay for services with their attention.

5 . Behavioral addiction was first included as a diagnosable problem in the 2013 edition of the American Psychiatric Association Manual of Personality Disorders.

6 . We are talking about the book Walden, or Life in the Forest, published in 1854 and translated into Russian in 1962.

7 . The Amish are a conservative religious branch of Protestantism, preaching pacifism, simple life, and the rejection of excesses. It originated as the most orthodox direction of Mennonite. Most Amish live in the US and Canada.

8 . Mennonism is a branch of Protestantism that preaches the non-use of force, pacifism, and the rejection of any violence.

9 . Reddit is a social news site, one of the most visited in the world. On it, registered users can post links to information they like on the Internet. The most popular messages, determined by user voting, appear on the main page of the site.

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