Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Author(s):
Cal Newport

Finished Reading:
Jun 28, 2019

Edition Publisher:
Portfolio

Edition Release:
Feb 5, 2019

Purchase Search via DuckDuckGo:
ISBN 9780525536512

Highlights & Annotations

Introduction

Page xiv · Location 101

these types of minor corrections , willpower , tips , and vague resolutions are not sufficient by themselves to tame the ability of new technologies to invade your cognitive landscape —

PART 1: Foundations

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 6 · Location 202

These changes crept up on us and happened fast , before we had a chance to step back and ask what we really wanted out of the rapid advances of the past decade .

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 8 · Location 220

It’s not about usefulness , it’s about autonomy .

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 8 · Location 223

managed to succeed in metastasizing unhealthily far beyond their original roles .

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 9 · Location 231

The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T - shirts selling an addictive product to children . Because , let’s face it , checking your “ likes ” is the new smoking .

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 10 · Location 239

“ Well , every time I check my phone , I’m playing the slot machine to see ‘ What did I get ? ’ ”

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 10 · Location 245

Bill Maher , for his part , thought this interview seemed familiar . After playing a clip of the Harris interview for his HBO audience , Maher quips : “ Where have I heard this before ? ” He then cuts to Mike Wallace’s famous 1995 interview with Jeffrey Wigand — the whistleblower who confirmed for the world what most already suspected : that the big tobacco companies engineered cigarettes to be more addictive . “ Philip Morris just wanted your lungs , ” Maher concludes . “ The App Store wants your soul . ”

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 11 · Location 253

BJ Fogg’s famed Persuasive Technology Lab — which explores how to use technology to change how people think and act .

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 12 · Location 260

Cameron Crowe

Note - 1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 12 · Location 260

Halt and catch fire?

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 14 · Location 284

Drunk Tank Pink ,

  • Note - Book rec

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 17 · Location 320

Irresistible ,

  • Note - Book rec

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 17 · Location 328

Something about unpredictability releases more dopamine — a key neurotransmitter for regulating our sense of craving .

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 18 · Location 340

This behavior can also be sparked by unpredictable feedback : most articles end up duds , but occasionally you’ll land on one that creates a strong emotion , be it righteous anger or laughter . Every appealing headline clicked or intriguing link tabbed is another metaphorical pull of the slot machine handle .

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 19 · Location 344

As whistleblower Tristan Harris explains : “ Apps and websites sprinkle intermittent variable rewards all over their products because it’s good for business . ”

1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 21 · Location 368

Consider , once again , social media feedback buttons . In addition to delivering unpredictable feedback , as discussed above , this feedback also concerns other people’s approval . If lots of people click the little heart icon under your latest Instagram post , it feels like the tribe is showing you approval — which we’re adapted to strongly crave . * The other side of this evolutionary bargain , of course , is that a lack of positive feedback creates a sense of distress .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 28 · Location 428

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 .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 28 · Location 433

In the absence of this introspection , we’ll be left struggling in a whirlwind of addictive and appealing cyber - trinkets , vainly hoping that the right mix of ad hoc hacks will save us .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 37 · Location 529

mortise and tenon joints

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 37 · Location 535

“ I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately , to front only the essential facts of life , and see if I could not learn what it had to teach , and not , when I came to die , discover that I had not lived . ”

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 38 · Location 540

There’s truth to this interpretation , but it misses a whole other side to Thoreau’s experiment . He had also been working out a new theory of economics that attempted to push back against the worst dehumanizing effects of industrialization .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 38 · Location 543

It’s important for our purposes to understand this more pragmatic side to Walden , as Thoreau’s often overlooked economic theory provides a powerful justification for our first principle of minimalism : that more can be less .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 39 · Location 558

Thoreau then contrasts these costs with the hourly wages he could earn with his labor to arrive at the final value he cared most about : How much of his time must be sacrificed to support his minimalist lifestyle ?

  • Note - I need to do this. What kind of lifestyle do I need to support?

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 39 · Location 560

This magician’s trick of shifting the units of measure from money to time is the core novelty of what the philosopher Frédéric Gros calls Thoreau’s “ new economics , ” a theory that builds on the following axiom , which Thoreau establishes early in Walden : “ The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it , immediately or in the long run . ”

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 39 · Location 566

Thoreau’s new economics considers such math woefully incomplete , as it leaves out the cost in life

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 41 · Location 590

If you value new connections and exposure to interesting ideas , he might argue , why not adopt a habit of attending an interesting talk or event every month , and forcing yourself to chat with at least three people while there ? This would produce similar types of value but consume only a few hours of your life per month , leaving you with an extra thirty - seven hours to dedicate to other meaningful pursuits .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 42 · Location 598

It’s easy to be seduced by the small amounts of profit offered by the latest app or service , but then forget its cost in terms of the most important resource we possess : the minutes of our life .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 43 · Location 610

The law of diminishing returns is familiar to anyone who studies economics . It applies to the improvement of production processes and says , at a high level , that investing more resources into a process cannot indefinitely improve its output — eventually you’ll approach a natural limit and start experiencing less and less extra benefit from continued investment .

2: Digital Minimalism > Page 52 · Location 706

When a new technology rolls around , there’s typically an “ alpha geek ” ( to use Kelly’s term ) in any given Amish community that will ask the parish bishop permission to try it out . Usually the bishop will agree . The whole community will then observe this first adopter “ intently , ” trying to discern the ultimate impact of the technology on the things the community values most . If this impact is deemed more negative than helpful , the technology is prohibited . Otherwise it’s allowed , but usually with caveats on its use that optimize its positives and minimize its negatives .

3: The Digital Declutter > Page 74 · Location 952

The goal of a digital declutter , however , is not simply to enjoy time away from intrusive technology . During this monthlong process , you must aggressively explore higher - quality activities to fill in the time left vacant by the optional technologies you’re avoiding .

PART 2: Practices

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 95 · Location 1163

“ All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone , ”

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 97 · Location 1176

sine qua non

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 97 · Location 1178

A Room of One’s Own ,

  • Note - Book rec

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 98 · Location 1189

“ the ability to be alone . . . is anything but a rejection of close bonds , ” and can instead affirm them .

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 98 · Location 1193

friends , even passionate love , are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened .

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 111 · Location 1337

This cycle of solitude and connection is a solution that comes up often when studying people who successfully sidestep solitude deprivation ; think , for example , of Lincoln spending his summer nights at his cottage before returning to the bustling White House in the morning , or of Raymond Kethledge taking a break from the busy courthouse to clarify his thoughts in a quiet barn . The pianist Glenn Gould once proposed a mathematical formula for this cycle , telling a journalist : “ I’ve always had a sort of intuition that for every hour you spend with other human beings you need X number of hours alone . Now what that X represents I don’t really know . . . but it’s a substantial ratio . ”

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 114 · Location 1370

I don’t mean to create a false sense of nostalgia for these pre – cell phone times .

  • Note - // to not romanticizing Thoreau’s Walden experience

4: Spend Time Alone > Page 126 · Location 1517

making time to write a letter to yourself when faced with demanding or uncertain circumstances .

5: Don’t Click “Like” > Page 133 · Location 1593

When given downtime , in other words , our brain defaults to thinking about our social life .

5: Don’t Click “Like” > Page 134 · Location 1610

The loss of social connection , for example , turns out to trigger the same system as physical pain — explaining why the death of a family member , a breakup , or even just a social snub can cause such distress . In one simple experiment , it was discovered that over - the - counter painkillers reduced social pain . Given the power of the pain system in driving our behavior , its connection to our social life underscores the importance of social relationships to our species ’ success .

5: Don’t Click “Like” > Page 136 · Location 1631

the unintended side effects of digital communication tools — a sort of social fast food — are proving to be similarly worrisome .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 166 · Location 1972

life well lived requires activities that serve no other purpose than the satisfaction that the activity itself generates .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 169 · Location 2008

The most successful digital minimalists , therefore , tend to start their conversion by renovating what they do with their free time — cultivating high - quality leisure before culling the worst of their digital habits .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 169 · Location 2016

FI stands for financial independence , which refers to the pecuniary state in which your assets produce enough income to cover your living expenses .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 177 · Location 2101

Leisure Lesson # 1 : Prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 179 · Location 2128

He soon grew disenchanted with the oddly disembodied and ambiguous nature of this work , so he did something extreme : he quit to start a motorcycle repair business . He now alternates between building custom motorcycles in his garage in Richmond , Virginia , and writing philosophical tracts on meaning and value in the modern world .

  • Note - The dream

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 182 · Location 2158

Leisure Lesson # 2 : Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 189 · Location 2243

The most successful social leisure activities share two traits . First , they require you to spend time with other people in person .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 189 · Location 2245

The second trait is that the activity provides some sort of structure for the social interaction , including rules you have to follow , insider terminology or rituals , and often a shared goal .

6: Reclaim Leisure > Page 190 · Location 2250

Leisure Lesson # 3 : Seek activities that require real - world , structured social interactions .

7: Join the Attention Resistance > Page 232 · Location 2731

Jennifer is more suspicious , however , of the increasingly popular Instagram Stories feature , which lets you broadcast moments of your life . Jennifer describes

7: Join the Attention Resistance > Page 232 · Location 2737

I don’t think we’re really supposed to be connected to so many people so frequently . ” Jennifer now tries to keep friend engagement * below the Dunbar Number of 150 — a theoretical limit for the number of people a human can successfully keep track of in their social circles .

7: Join the Attention Resistance > Page 239 · Location 2812

waiting until the next morning to read the article about the story in the Washington Post almost always leaves him more informed .

7: Join the Attention Resistance > Page 241 · Location 2832

Another important aspect of slow news consumption is the decisions you make regarding how and when this consumption occurs .

7: Join the Attention Resistance > Page 241 · Location 2834

isolating your news consumption to set times during the week .

7: Join the Attention Resistance > Page 252 · Location 2953

interested in applying new technology in highly selective and intentional ways that yield big wins. Just as important : they’re comfortable missing out on everything else .

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