A [Modern] Life Well-Lived (Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport)

Aug 6, 2019

3 minutes

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Is the concept of Digital Minimalism the answer to our modern tech issues?

It’s no secret that I like to keep things simple.

Heck, I even identify with the somewhat-controversial, always-polarizing label of being a minimalist.

That being said, I’m also an entrepreneur + a writer.

Every penny that I make comes from things I do when connected to the internet … so how could I possibly benefit from, or even BE, a digital minimalist?

Well, according to Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism, I’m a bit of a digital minimalist already … but I still might have a slight addiction to my phone.

What is Digital Minimalism?

Cal Newport defines it as: “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.”

… minimalists don’t mind missing out on small things; what worries them much more is diminishing the large things they already know for sure make a good life good.

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism

The in-depth way he talks about Henry David Thoreau’s Walden was very fascinating + added an unexpected twist to his perspective on the importance of Digital Minimalism.

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.

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism

What is a Digital Declutter?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Similar to doing an elimination diet, where you stop eating all possible allergins or irritants (often going vegan) for up to 30 days, a digital declutter has you remove all non-essential apps from your phone + computer.

The focus is on limiting your exposure to apps, sites, and tools that are delivered through a screen – a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone.

I feel like this would be even more successful when paired with James Clear’s Atomic Habits!

If the thought of doing that for 30 days already makes your palms sweaty, the good news is that Cal has included VERY useful information on how to plan for your digital declutter, including having specific instructions on when + how to use certain apps or sites, and deciding in advance what activities + pursuits you’ll use to replace the time you spend being digitally distracted.

Similar to the elimination diet, after 30 days, you slowly start adding your banned or rarely-used apps, sites, and tools back into your life … or maybe you don’t.

Maybe you don’t miss them at all. Maybe you end up valuing the time you got back more than the “benefits” you got from spending so much time on social media or news sites?

For real. Can anyone actually be a Digital Minimalist?

Well, for one, the author of the book is a digital minimalist.

He isn’t on any social media websites … yeah, for real.

Cal also shares the stories of numerous people, both in the book and on his website, that have done a digital declutter + made subtle or drastic changes to how they use the modern digital tools that have taken over their lives.

… but you never really know what it’s like until you do it, right? Until you dive in + give it a try for yourself?

You’re either thinking, “oh, being without Facebook on my phone for a month would be no big deal.” OR “Checking Twitter every hour is the only thing that keeps me sane!”

Ever the modern scientist, I’m ready to test this on myself.

In September 2019, I’ll be doing a digital declutter.

I’ll be removing all the non-essential apps from my phone (I don’t own a tablet) + drastically limiting the amount of time I spend staring at my TV.

The best part? I’ll be cataloging my entire digital declutter process here on my site, week by week, struggle by struggle, triumph by triumph.

Since I won’t be able to post on social media from my phone, that means I’ll be off Instagram for the entire month (the thought of that makes me twitchy). I’ll also be spending much less time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you want to stay up-to-date with my weekly posts about the process, join my weekly newsletter list (since my social media posts will scant). I’ll remind you every Friday when a new post is up, and you can reply to the email + share your perspective.

Should you be feeling bold, you can join me for a digital declutter of your own!

There’s still time to get a copy of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, read it, + prep for the month of September.

Next week’s Friday article will be all about planning for the digital declutter, so stay tuned to see what I’m cutting out AND what I’ll be replacing it with.

(Thanks to the Austin Public Library for having this book available to borrow.)

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