Digital Minimalism – Book Review

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Digital Minimalism - Book Review

I recently finished Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport. I have been pleasantly surprised by this book. It is an excellent book!

This book is about breaking our dependence on digital technologies and services and regaining our attention. People are spending more and more time on their phones. Most people cannot keep a conversation without having to check their phones. This book will help you solve this!

I do not think I have a problem with social media or my phone. I have no personal social media profiles. And I use my phone as little as I can. In fact, except for some banking applications, my phone is almost empty.

Even though I am probably a digital minimalist for some things, I still learned some fascinating lessons in this book!

So, let’s see what this book is about and what I thought about it.

Digital Minimalism

Digital Minimalism Book
Digital Minimalism Book

This book is about the Digital Minimalism philosophy, introduced by the author, Cal Newport.

This philosophy is straightforward: less can be more to our relationship with digital tools. We need to apply minimalism principles for our interactions with the digital world.

You need to select the products that add value to your life carefully. And then, you need to optimize their usage as much as possible for your life.

Once you have regained your attention, you will have more time. You can use this time to improve real social interactions. And you can also build high-quality leisure instead.

If you think you are spending too much time on Facebook or other social media platforms, this book is really for you! The same is true if you cannot spend five minutes without looking at your smartphone.

Social media wants your attention

This is something fundamental that many people do not realize. Big social media companies are building tools to increase the time you spend on their services. They have entire teams dedicated to making sure you spend as much time as possible on it.

This is how they make money. Instead of selling products to you, they are selling your attention to advertisers. The more attention you give them, the more they can sell it. You should not believe that big social media companies are doing anything social for you!

They want to make you addicted to their apps and services. They have no reason to optimize their products to save you time. They are doing precisely the contrary, optimizing everything so that you do not leave their services.

That is not to say there is nothing good about social media. There are many great things about it. There is some value on most social media services. But the entire system is based on trying to make you spend way too much time on it. The big problem is that you do not get more value out of it if you spend more time on it. On the contrary, you will get less and less value.

If you learn to use social media to your advantage, you can get the same value out of it and drastically decrease the amount of time you need to spend. You need to optimize your digital life!

Once you realize this, you need to fight the battle to regain your attention! Digital Minimalism is an excellent solution for this!

The Three Principles of Digital Minimalism

The author describes three core principles of Digital Minimalism:

  1. Clutter is costly. Using too many apps, devices, and services have an overall negative cost.
  2. Optimization is important. Getting some value out of a digital tool is good. But optimizing how you get this value in the best way is much better.
  3. Intentionality is satisfying. Being very intentional about how you use digital tools will yield a lot of satisfaction.

The book goes into great lengths to prove these three great principles.

Digital Declutter

The author proposes a method to become a digital minimalist. This is a three-step process:

  1. Take a 30 days break from all optional technologies.
  2. During the break, find satisfying and meaningful activities and behaviors.
  3. After the break, reintroduce key optional technologies into your life. For each one, optimize it to get the most value out of it.

This method starts by providing you with a reset of your digital life.

The author asked many people to try this method and got a lot of feedback from them. It is really interesting to read about this feedback. Each of the three steps is defined in detail. And for each of them, results from the experience results are shared.

The Value of Solitude

Reclaim your attention and enjoy some solitude
Reclaim your attention and enjoy some solitude

The book spends an entire chapter about the value of solitude.

In the past, people were alone quite often. Now, it is more challenging to be alone. First, there are more people than ever. But this is not the biggest issue. The biggest problem is that we always carry our phones with us.

If you are alone in the middle in the forest and checking Facebook, you are not truly alone! When was the last time you were truly alone and enjoyed solitude?

The human brain needs to be alone to be able to think fully. By never letting our brain be alone, we are repressing it. Of course, it also needs to be with people from time to time. But it needs moments of solitude to shine truly!

You do not need to be alone to enjoy solitude. If you let your mind wander in its thoughts, you will be in solitude. This is true even in a crowded coffee shop. On the other hand, even if you are alone somewhere and you let other minds intruding on your own, you will not enjoy solitude.

Optimize your usage of Digital Technologies

One thing that the book insists a lot on is that you should optimize your usage of technologies. The idea is that digital technologies have value. And you can most of this value with little of your attention.

There are many great examples in the book.

For instance, you could disable notifications from most apps. You only need to keep notifications from apps and persons that are important. For example, your second-degree cousin eating an apple may not be worth your attention. But your wife sending you an important message may be different. You need to learn what has value and what has none.

Another technique would be to allocate time for social media browsing. For instance, you could allocate half an hour every morning to check on Twitter. And during the day, you will not check it. If you only follow people you care about, this will be more than enough time to get all the value you need!

You should remove social media applications from your phone. You can still use your computer to read about what your friends are doing. The smartphone applications are optimized to keep as much of your attention as possible.

By not having social media on your phone, you will significantly reduce your usage of these services. After a few weeks, you will appreciate not having to check social media so often. You will still find the important information. But this will filter out the rest.

There is one thing I did to optimize my usage of News. I like to keep informed on Swiss news. I am using 20Minutes for this. The problem is that I was using the poor mobile app. It is showing the same story many times. And they are tons of sponsored news.

So instead, I am now using their RSS feed. And I did not stop there. I also removed all Sponsorised news with a filter. And I am filtering duplicates as well.

Now, I have a much better feed of news! I have divided by two the time needed to get this information every day. And I have less distraction than before!

I strongly encourage you to try to optimize your usage of digital technologies. There are many things we can do, and we do not even realize it!

Focus on high-quality leisure

Craft is a very high quality leisure
Craft is a very high-quality leisure

Another thing that the book recommends is to focus your free time on high-quality leisure. The idea is not to spend your free time browsing the web aimlessly or zapping on television.

You should know what you want to spend your time on before you declutter your digital life. If you have no quality leisure hobbies, you will fall back to your low-quality digital hobbies.

The author recommends hobbies where you craft something. For instance, you could build furniture yourself. I did this when I crafted a bookshelf. You could write songs or books. You could even write computer programs.

The author recommends to fix or build something each week. If you do not know how to fix something, you can learn it.

Craft is not the only related leisure that you can do, of course. You could also focus on Social Leisure. For instance, you could join a book club. Or start CrossFit. Or you could play board games with friends.

One leisure I would recommend is reading. You can learn a ton with reading. And you can let your mind wander in imagination. Hiking is also a great hobby since it is very healthy. And hiking will let you enjoy some solitude!

If you want to go all-in in your high-quality leisures, you can even build a leisure plan. For instance, you could make a detailed how you are going to learn guitar in twelve months. And then, you make weekly plans on how to work towards your goals. It is not something I do. But it could be interesting to try it.

What did I like about the book?

Honestly, I liked almost all there is in this book.

First of all, the book is very well written. And it is also very well researched. The author spent a considerable amount of time researching each of its subjects. There are many citations of other books and research in the field. This gives authority to the book. It is something I have not seen recently in the Personal Finance Books I have read.

The book is both very informative and very practical. The author did something great here. There are tons of information about the problem. But there are also some solutions. After you read this book, you will have some things you can do to improve your situation!

A great thing about Digital Minimalism is that the author uses many actual examples. For instance, the case of Abraham Lincoln retreating in an army retirement house to get some solitude. Or Henry David Thoreau for his simple living experiments.

Also, the author references many other books. During my reading, I took notes of five books that I should read next. And only one of them is from Cal Newport.

This is entirely subjective, but I agree with the author that there is a big issue today with digital technologies. And I especially agree with the part about smartphones. I wish smartphones never were invented. A lot of people are obsessed with their phones and social media. And most people do not realize how much time they spend on this.

What did I not like?

There is very little I did not like about Digital Minimalism.

I think that the author is a bit too extreme about high-quality leisure. An example, entirely subjective, is video games. I am a big computer gamer. And I think this is a perfectly fine hobby. It should not become an addiction, of course. But this should not be banned either!

I think that many hobbies are perfectly fine. The book seems to say that only a few hobbies are good and that they should be about crafting something. I think it is too extreme of a stance. Reading is a perfectly fine hobby where you can learn a lot.

Conclusion

Digital Minimalism is a great book! This is probably one of the best books I have read and reviewed on this blog. I am happy to have read it!

I think it is essential to recognize that social media companies want your undivided attention. But it is also important to realize that there is value in some of these services. So, you need to regain your attention by optimizing these services for more value.

If you have some high-quality leisure, you always wanted to focus on, try to declutter your digital life. You may well discover a lot of free time!

I do not have any issue with clutter in my digital life, and yet I still found some value in this book. It can teach you some potent lessons!

If you are interested in this book, you can buy it on Amazon: One Hour Investor.

To discover more great books, read about the best personal finance books.

The author of Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport, has a great blog. I would encourage you to take a look at it.

Have you ever read this book? What did you think of it?

Digital Minimalism Book
Digital Minimalism Book

Digital Minimalism (Paperback)
Author
Publisher: Penguin LLC US
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0525542876


Rating: 10 out of 10

Reclaim your attention and live a better life!
by , October 20, 2019
An excellent book about setting you free from the attention-grabbing social media companies and your phone. You need to reclaim your attention and focsus your time towards high-quality leisures. The author makes really good poitns about a very important and very timely problem.

Mr. The Poor Swiss

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

2 thoughts on “Digital Minimalism – Book Review”

  1. Hi Mr. TPS, thanks for introducing this book to us. I felt exactly the same sentiment from the author that when I’m on social media, I seem to get lower value from it the more I used it. This is especially true when I was first came to Switzerland and I got addicted to using it to keep up with what my friends were doing in the U.S. that I forgot to live my life and enjoy my new environment.

    Ever since I cut back on social media did I became more productive and since then I have completely detach myself from using it. However, it’s hard to delete my profile since I get so many friends who got worried that something bad happened to me lol… it’s crazy how this thing called ‘the network effect’ seems to work when if everyone is on FB, for example, it’s hard not to be on it yourself…

    Anyway, I’d love to read this book. It sounds very interesting.

    1. Hi Mama Bear,

      Yes, it’s a bit crazy that people are worried when your profile gets less active or worse when disabled.
      I think FB can be a good tool to keep in touch with some people. But it needs to be timeboxed. It is probably more than enough to read what happens to some friends on a weekly basis. But nobody really needs to know what happens in other people’s life every hour…

      It’s very good that you were able to break this cycle with your social media! Congratulations!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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