Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today best seller
"Newport is making a bid to be the Marie Kondo of technology: someone with an actual plan for helping you realize the digital pursuits that do, and don't, bring value to your life." (Ezra Klein, Vox)
Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It's the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.
In this timely and enlightening book, the best-selling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.
Digital minimalists are all around us. They're the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don't feel overwhelmed by it. They don't experience "fear of missing out" because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.
Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals, like observing a digital sabbath, don't go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends, and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.
Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a 30-day "digital declutter" process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. The key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. This book shows the way.
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|Listening Length||6 hours and 59 minutes|
|Narrator||Cal Newport, Will Damron|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||February 05, 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #2,187 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#4 in Technology & Society
#8 in Social Aspects of Technology
#25 in Stress Management (Audible Books & Originals)
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Top reviews from the United States
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Let me divide this review into 3 parts. First I'll share reasons why I chose to read the book and some personal takeaways. Next, a summary of the book including short excerpts I highlighted while taking notes. Last, I'll suggest a few complementary readings.
I probably pre-ordered this book because I’ve been intrigued by how the overused of modern technologies—specially social networks and social media—have influenced our societies during the last 10 years. This latest wave is actually recent, and being in my early 30s I still remember clearly how life was during high school and early days in college before this explosion.
We all acknowledge the wonders of technology, how the development of new tools has helped the prosperity of our societies in many dimensions. However, the opposite is equally important—consequences that deserve to be understood and evaluated. Besides the social, emotional and psychological aspects, which are the main focus of Digital Minimalism, I also care about the impacts on our physical health caused by technology overexposure. Not only how the devices shape our physical posture for worst over the years but also the detrimental effects of electromagnetic fields to our overall health.
That said, I’ve been trying to be mindful about technology use during the last 4-5 years. I still have social network accounts, but I feel quite odd among my peers because I’ve been checking these accounts less often than ever—about once a month—but I rarely post pictures or comments. It brings a deep sense of freedom and calmness. In terms of smartphone use, I keep it on airplane mode for around 80% of the awake time, and I often try to go on adventures up in the mountains to be away from signal access for days or weeks at a time. This desire to be unreachable has grown over time and, although it makes me feel grounded and present, I admit that can be quite selfish of me towards loved ones.
Reading this book helped me better understand the forces behind addictive technologies, exposed me to pragmatic ideas to implement the minimalism philosophy, and supported my previous thoughts on how we can better handle digital overexposure.
[Intro] Digital minimalism, according to Cal Newport, is a philosophy where we focus our online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that support the things we value. We learn how the author got interested in the topic after receiving feedbacks from his previous book.
[Chapter 1] Cal starts with a refresher—bringing back to the early and “potentially innocent" days of Facebook and the iPhone—then, he soon shows how these new technologies took the lead by dictating how we behave and how we feel by pushing us to overuse their products for as long as possible. Interesting story about how NYU professor Adam Alter shifted his research topic after getting “trapped” for 6 uninterrupted hours playing a game on his phone during a cross-country flight. Cal then explains 2 of the main forces used by technology companies to encourage behavior addiction:  Intermittent positive reinforcement.  The drive for social approval.
[Chapter 2] Here is a primer on digital minimalism. We learn that "to reestablish control, we need to move beyond tweaks and instead rebuild our relationship with technology from scratch, using our deeply held values as a foundation.” Cal explains why digital minimalism works through 3 principles:  The first principle argues that, when we clutter our time and attention with many apps, social networks, and services, we create an overall negative cost compared to the benefits of each individual item in isolation. I was absolutely delighted to read his arguments by sharing Henry Thoreau’s decision to live for two years in a cabin near the Walden Pond. Thoreau's book, Walden, has actually impacted my life tremendously when I first read as a freshmen in college.  The second principle says that besides choosing a technology that supports our values, we should also think how we should use them to extract full benefits—optimizing, therefore, the returns. Here Cal shows how “the law of diminishing returns” can be directly correlated with potential negative effects when technology usage surpass the benefits they can generate.  The last principle shows that being more intentional about how we engage with new technologies is one way to become sincerely satisfied. For that, the author illustrates the Amish's approach toward technology: “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 their values.”
[Chapter 3] In this chapter Cal shares a system for digital decluttering by transforming our relationship with technology. He encourages us to apply a rapid transformation: “something that occurs in a short period of time and is executed with enough conviction that the results are likely to stick.” He divides the process in 3 steps:  The first one is to establish which ones of the new “optional” technologies we can step away from without creating major problems in either our professional or personal life.  The second step is to take the leap and give ourselves a 30-day break while we rediscover the activities that generate real satisfaction without being attached to our devices.  The final step is the reintroduction, building it from the scratch, following the principles previously explained in chapter 2 by choosing carefully the apps/tools and using them with a deeper sense of purpose.
[Chapter 4] This is most probably my favorite chapter, where we learn the value of solitude. Cal starts by sharing an interesting story of President Lincoln’s decision to reside in a cottage during months at time, communicating back and forth to the White House on horseback. The author then shares the benefits of solitude such as being a prerequisite for original and creative thoughts, as well as a deeper appreciation for interpersonal connections when they occur. He then shifts gears toward the impacts of solitude depravation, showing, for example, that the rise in anxiety-related problems among students coincide with the use of smartphones and social media. At the end of the chapter we learn 3 practices to foster more solitude moments in our daily lives:  To leave our phones and devices at home.  To go on long walks.  To spend time journaling.
[Chapter 5] Now we jump to a chapter rich in social psychology lessons. We first learn how our brains evolved to desire social interactions, but differently than the rich face-to-face encounters, during the last decade or so we have been bombarded by digital communication tools, encouraging interactions through short, text-based messages and approval clicks. At the end Cal offers practices to develop meaningful “conversation-centric communication.” They range from avoiding clicking the “like” button all the way to holding more meaningful conversations during office hours.
[Chapter 6] Now we jump to an empowering chapter. We learn to cultivate high-quality leisure time at the same time we declutter the low-quality digital distractions from our lives. They both, in fact, work together in order to create a more purposeful habit. This chapter is filled with real life examples of successful stories where helpful lessons are drawn at the end of each example. Like in the previous chapters, Cal doesn’t share only examples, but also practical ways to adopt his claims. My favorite suggestion is about scheduling in advance the time we'll be spending on low-quality leisure.
[Chapter 7] The final chapter is about building a more resistant mindset to avoid the power of the attention economy—which is “business sector that makes money gathering consumers' attention and then repacking and selling it to advertisers." Practices are provided when further discipline is required to avoid exploitation:  Delete social media from our phone to remove the ability to access them at any time. If we're going to use social medial, we should access them through a web browser.  Turn our devices into purposeful tools, diminishing the number of things they enable us to do. In Cal's own words “I’m not talking about occasionally blocking some sites when working on a particularly hard project. I want you instead to think about these services as being blocked by default, and made available to you on an intentional schedule.”  To use social media like a social media professional does.  To embrace the slow media consumption by maximizing the quality of what we consume.  Making the hard choice to switch from smartphone to a “dumb” phone.
Well, it doesn’t matter where in the spectrum we fall as long as we vow to move the needle towards a more meaningful and intentional technology use, diminishing our “natural” tendency to become dependent on digital devices. While reading Digital Minimalism I thought about book titles that could complement the content.
 Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, is definitely the one that comes to mind first. It helped me focus on less but more important tasks, giving clarity to what matters most.
 Originals, by Adam Grant, helped me see the world of creativity through a different angle by being more true to who I'm.
 Atomic Habits, by James Clear, has already influenced me to build better and more meaningful habits during the last 3 months. It can be an extremely helpful source to apply the lessons suggested in Chapter 6.
 Last, if you'd like to learn a bit more about electromagnetic fields and how we can minimize the dangers, look no further than The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs, by Nicolas Pineault.
Take good care,
Cal makes a great case for WHY to pursue digital minimalism. But I already know why -- my digital addictions are messing up my life. What I wanted to know is HOW.
On that, Cal doesn't have as much to say. A few tips -- mostly the "digital declutter," a 30-day moratorium on the digital services in your life -- are pretty useful. For one, it finally convinced me to buy Freedom, an app that regulates your internet use.
The rest of the book is thickly padded with anecdotes. They had me flipping pages, wishing we could get to the point.
$15 can either get you this book, or half of a year of Freedom. If I could roll back the clock I know where I'd put my money.
With Digital Minimalism, I just want my time and money back. In this book, Newport explores a "new" idea (it's not) that social media use and technology are hurting us in ways we did not expect and that digital minimalism(!) is the answer. He had thousands of his blog readers experiment with a 1-month technology sabbath/abstinence and reported their findings because he himself has never used social media (e.g., never joined Facebook). I found it odd for someone like Newport to talk as if he knew the experiences and difficulties of technology addiction when he himself has never felt the helpless compulsion to check their smartphone when bored as most people are today. It's like someone who's never been overweight providing thoughts, practices, and strategies to a fat person on losing weight to -- it sort of just rings hollow. He poorly defends himself by saying that because he's not fallen trap to modern technologies, he has experience of seeing things from the other side.
The rest of the book is mostly things you probably already know or common sense stuff about technology addiction. There are a few useful tips on how to combat our overuse of technology, which is why I've given the book 2 stars instead of 1.
I would not recommend this book; for ~$15 and only 250 pages of fluff, your money is better spent elsewhere.
Given the fact that the fastest way to Optimize your life is to STOP doing things that are sub-optimal AND the fact that (for nearly all of us) our use of technology is the #1 thing that “Needs work!,” I think it’s SUPER important for us to figure out how to best use all the technology available to us WITHOUT becoming lost in a tsunami of inputs.
Enter: Our new philosophy of technology use: Digital Minimalism.
Enter: My strong recommendation of the book.
If you’ve been looking for a coherent approach on how to, as per the sub-title of the book, Choose a Focused Life in a Noisy World, I think you’ll love Digital Minimalism as much as I did.
Top reviews from other countries
My fault with the book, however, is that Newport is increasingly focusing on the niche. "So Good They Can't Ignore You" and "Deep Work" had a wide application. Anyone who wanted to improve at something, whether it's their job or writing poetry, could benefit from reading them. "Digital Minimalism" is more narrowly focused on those, essentially, with digital addiction.
Perhaps because my phone use is very limited as it is, I didn't find the text was very relevant to me. Where I was hoping for a thorough philosophical evaluation of technology's role in our lives - instead Newport offers a very practical and utilitarian manual for minimising using your phone use. Good for many, I expect, but I felt it wouldn't have the impact on my habits as much as his previous work.
There were sections I really enjoyed, especially on Thoreau and relating some classical philosophers' work for modern life. But even here, I felt the book was under-researched and lacked the academic punch of his previous work. It struck me as more blog-like. In many respects, this book seemed to be a departure from the world of MIT and into those of Ryan Holiday and Greg McKeown - whose quotes adorned the front page. That isn't a slight, just a discernible change of tack.
So buy the book if you're a digital addict looking for a way to stop staring at your phone - but otherwise, the book might prove a bit light weight and irrelevant.
The book takes a wider perspective on minimalism and life in general than an overview of the content suggests. Drawing on examples from history, from people who learned the value of managing time well, the power of solitude and other approaches to living well, the book sometimes feels a bit padded with self-help mantras before drawing these connections back to our over-reliance on smart technologies.
Overall, a thought-provoking read, but probably the people that need this the most won't go anywhere near it. Once you consider the idea of the smartphone as being a slot-machine you carry around in your pocket, it is quite difficult to view the device in quite the same life-improving way. Big tech companies know what they are about - wanting our attention to exploit it for economic gains - Newport offers ideas to fight back that are seriously worth some consideration.
I give this book five stars because it was a page-turner that held my interest throughout. However, there were a couple of points that I felt could be improved upon:
The only section that was clunky was "Use social media like a professional". It discusses a social media expert who "prefers the pronoun they/their to she/her". Fair enough, but the confusion between singular and plural made it very difficult to understand who was being referred to, and I found it hard to read. This section should have been rewritten to use more direct quotes from the expert, to get around this.
Also, the summary of key points for this book would be quite short, and I wonder if it was a bit longer than it really needed to be.
Still, great work, and well worth a read.
It's a very, very useful read, and enjoyable, too. Newport is not a traditional Luddite - he's a computer science academic - but he is very well aware of the dangers that smartphones, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pose to our concentration at work, our quality leisure time and even our relationships. In seven chapters, he suggests ways of dealing with this and streamlining digital usage. His suggestions include trying a 'digital detox' for 30 days (to prove that social media and smartphone usage is not essential), taking regular exercise (particularly long walks), contacting friends and family personally rather than simply 'liking' their posts on social media, making time for quality leisure activities - reading, arts and crafts, music, DIY and others - and learning to spend time alone without being 'plugged in' to technology and to spending periods without a smartphone (or perhaps, replacing the smartphone with an old-fashioned mobile). At the same time, Newport sensibly doesn't damn technology altogether, and is well aware that certain aspects of social media are necessary in certain jobs (for example, journalists in certain fields might need to look at Twitter). His view is balanced, and sensible, and having tried out some of his suggestions I can confidently say that they work.
The book's a delight in terms of style as well - the prose is beautifully lucid and elegant, there are lots of fascinating references to other writers (I now want to read Henry David Thoreau, Soren Kierkegaard and Anthony Storr), and Newport includes some valuable reminders of what really matters in life: quality time with family and close friends, music-making, practical tasks, walks in attractive surroundings, reading with real focus.
My only quibble is that Newport perhaps skates over some of the personal nastiness on social media, particularly Twitter, which appears to bring out the worst in people, and can be quite psychologically traumatic (I find I either end up feeling extremely inadequate reading about people's amazing achievements, or horrified at the amount of spite and aggression I come across). But behavioural patterns on social media wasn't really the book's remit, and anyone who wants to read about that can turn to Jaron Lanier's superb 'Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now' - or some of Newport's own talks on YouTube.
This book is essential reading for our crowded and generally rather unhappy times - and very enjoyable as well. Thank you Cal Newport - you've increased my focus and productivity considerably through your writing!
I do recommend it