Digital Minimalism Book Takeaways

Finished reading: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport 📚

This is a great complement to Stolen Focus by Johann Hari. It has strategies to help reprioritize your time, attention, and relationship to technology. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach - you can pick out which approaches will work for you and skip over the ones that may be less relevant or beneficial.

These are some ideas I’m trying, some directly taken from the book and others indirectly inspired.

Thinking time

I’m setting aside 30 minutes each evening to just sit without my phone or any content to consume (TV, books, etc). I’ve decided to allow music as long as it’s instrumental or I can tune out the lyrics. While the goal of this time isn’t explicitly to write, I’ve already filled a few notebook pages with thoughts ideas from doing this the last few nights.

Apple Watch

I’ve stopped wearing my Apple Watch during the day. I’ve already noticed a huge improvement in concentration without getting disrupted by notifications the last few days. Since I’m so used to the watch, I’m not in the habit of checking my phone frequently without being prompted. I want to avoid falling into that when the novelty wears off.

Screen time limits

Mostly for privacy purposes, I deleted many social media apps from my phone several years back and switched to the mobile websites when I wanted to check them. I use the Duck Duck Go browser for social media sites. This was another privacy move initially, but an added benefit is that it signs me out each time I clear my tabs so I need to sign back into my accounts each time. This adds just enough friction to prevent mindless scrolling. It’s also reduced my impulse Amazon purchses.

All that said, I’ve found other apps to get sucked into that are more privacy-friendly (Readwise Reader, Mona for Mastodon, I’m going back and forth between setting screen time limits and deleting some of those apps as well.

Conversation Office Hours

One of my favorite suggestions from the book is to create “conversation office hours”. This is a dedicated recurring time when people can call you (or drop by) to have casual, yet deeper interactions than social media comments or even texting provide. It reduces the anxiety and awkwardness around calling out of the blue because callers know they aren’t interrupting you. At the same time, it’s organic and flexible because you aren’t scheduling specific times with specific people.

One example in the book is a person whose “office hours” are during his evening commute. His friends and family know they can call any weekday at 5:30 and he’ll be available. My commute is (thankfully) short, but I could use the time when I prep/cook dinner. Turning this into a routine might even help avoid the temptation to order out, which is another goal of mine.