Book Notes : Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

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Image by rowdykittens.com Who also wrote a fantastic review on the book.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism, written by Cal Newport.

I am forever grateful for this book, it has made me re-evaluate my relationship with digital tools (esp social media) , and many practical tips that I can implement into my daily life.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism

As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses. When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult – a diminishing of our soul’s authority

In the end, I just accepted the fact that I would miss some events in their lives, but that this was worthwhile for the mental energy it would save me to not be on social media

“I figured I didn’t need to know the answer to everything instantly, ” she told me. She then bought an old fashioned notebook to jot down ideas when she’s bored on the tube.”

Rebecca transformed her daily experience by buying a watch. This might sound trivial to older readers, but to a nineteen-yearold like Rebecca, this was an intentional act. “I estimate that around 75 percent of the time I got sucked down a rabbit hole of un-productivity was due to me checking my phone for the time.

Running is cheaper than therapy.

Solitude is about what’s happening in your brain, not the environment around you. Accordingly, they define it to be a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds.

Conversations enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius

We’re wrong to consider intimate interaction as the sine qua non of human thriving. Solitude can be just as important for both happiness and productivity.

Calmly experiencing separation, he argues, builds your appreciation for interpersonal connections when they do occur.

I am here alone for the first time in week, to take up my “real” life again at last. This is what is strange, that 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 Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet, I taste it fully only when I’m alone.

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness.

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas ; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.

Only thoughts reached by walking have value. To underscore his esteem for walking, Nietzsche also notes: “The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit.”

The more you use social media to interact with your network, the less time you devote to offline communication.

Where we want to be cautious…is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post.”

Humans are naturally biased toward activities that require less energy in the short term, even if it’s more harmful in the long term-so we end up texting our sibling instead of calling them on the phone, or liking a picture of a friend’s new baby, instead of stopping by for a visit.

Because our primal instinct to connect is so strong, it’s difficult to resist checking a device in the middle of a conversation with a friend or bath time with a child-reducing the quality of the richer interaction right infront of us. Our analog brain cannot easily distinguish between the importance of the person in the room with us and the person who just sent us a new text.

when you spend multiple hours a day compulsively clicking and swiping, there’s much less free time left for slower interactions. And because this compulsive use emits a patina of socialness, it can delude you into thinking that you’re already serving your relationships well, making further action unnecessary.

Smarter use of digital communication tools, not blanket abstention.

Similarly, if you adopt conversation-centric communication, you’ll still likely rely on text-messaging service to simplify information gathering, or to coordinate social events, or to ask quick questions, but you’ll no longer participate in open-ended, ongoing text based conversations throughout your day.

I don’t think we’re meant to keep in touch with so many people.

It’s now easy to fill the gaps between work and caring your family and sleep by pulling out a smartphone or tablet, and numbing yourself with mindless swiping and tapping.

Spending an hour browsing funny Youtube clips might sap your vitality, while-and I am speaking from recent experiences here-using Youtube to teach yourself how to replace a motor in a bathroom ventilation fan can provide the foundation for a satisfying afternoon of tinkering.

You are not quitting anything or losing access to any information, you’re simply being more mindful of when you engage with this part of your leisure life.

To repeat a line from the New Yorker writer George Packer, “Twitter” scares me, not because I am superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it. I’m afraid I’d end up letting my son go hungry. ” If you must use these services, however, and you hope to do so without ceding autonomy over your time and attention, it’s crucial to understand this is not a casual decision.

Dropping in to extract value, and then slipping away before the attention traps set by these companies can spring shut.

As many have discovered, the rapid switching between different applications tends to make the human interaction with the computer less productive in terms of the quality and quantity of what is produced.

Dunbar number of 150-a theoretical limit for the number of people human can successfully keep track of in their social circles.

Adopting digital minimalism is not a one time process that completes the day after your digital declutter; it instead requires ongoing adjustments.

Cultivating a life worth living in our current age of alluring devices.

Digital minimalism definitely does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people engage with these tools.

 

 

Digital Minimalism : More brain, less google

I try to do this very discreetly, but once or twice a week, I go into the bookshop, pick up the same book, read a chapter or two, put it back and walk away. I’m about 50% into finishing the book. I don’t want to deprive myself the joy of buying books, but seeing how I still have pile of books to go through at home, I just have to dial back at the moment.

There was a line that I came across, written in Chinese “勇气就是优雅的面对压力“。 A translation from Hemingway’s “Courage is grace under pressure.” How I love that quote in Chinese. Instinctively, I wanted to grab my phone, and snap a photo of that page, so I can write it into my notebook later. And then I stopped myself…wait, you can memorise that line, can’t you? So I closed my eyes and read that line in my head for a few times, I wanted to exercise my brain.

Later that day, I took out my notebook to write that quote, I was pretty proud of myself for remembering that quote at that point. Midway through writing the sentence, I suddenly forgot how to write the word “优“ (part of grace, in Chinese) . Again, the impulse to refer to my phone was strong…one tap, and I’d know how to write that word. I refrained again, I was thinking to myself…it’s in there somewhere, you just have to think really hard. I thought and I thought and I just couldn’t remember it at the time, so I wrote the sentence, with a small blank spot in the middle of it, so I can come back to it later.

As I was drifting to sleep that same night…suddenly, the word appeared. Sucker. I filled in the blank spot the next morning.

This is no small feat to me personally…and I really need to practice more handwriting in Chinese.

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Digital minimalism : Becoming the person I like

I’ve been enjoying going through all the blog posts about digital minimalism, I find it comforting knowing so many people are struggling like I do, and it’s inspiring that people are so self aware : Self awareness and self reflections are the antidote to the struggles we face.

Like most people, I have tried to take social media off in the past. My work is deeply intertwined with my personal life, people I meet from work often adds me on facebook or instagram, clients follow my personal account…and so on. For the longest time I didn’t know how to separate the both, I’d go on my personal instagram, then toggle to my work instagram, then I get on my facebook account, then manage my facebook page from there….I could list so many examples, but you get the idea.

Turning on the screen time was definitely a huge turning point for me, at the time, I was averaging at 3-4 hours a day…to say I was shocked is an understatement. From then on I started become more mindful of how much I use the phone..and still, it always comes up to about 2 hours daily. By this time I was researching on how I can be more efficient with social media for work, I started using planners, and only work from my browser. Once I developed a flow, I started working on my personal account…which was much harder than what I anticipated.

Most of the people I admire aren’t even on social media. I remember how agitated I feel whenever someone picks up their phone obsessively when I sit across them, sometimes I look around during red lights, and I swear, almost every driver I see are looking at their phones, if that is not an addiction, I don’t know what is. I self reflect alot, what am I doing? Do i want to become this person that I hate? Irritable, anxious, constantly looking for entertainment after entertainment, mindless scrolling and browsing, posting every food that I eat, I couldn’t concentrate on reading my book because I have this fucking urge to take a picture of the book and post it to instagram to show people that I am “well read”. I would take intermittent breaks, but I always go back. I’d justify my behavior by saying things like “I’m just going to use it for the information.” But who am I kidding? Out of all the posts that I see, perhaps 10-20% are actually useful to me…compared to the harm it causes me, it just makes no sense to keep using it.

In just a week, I’ve listened to more podcasts/audiobooks than I’ve had in the past few months combined. I read, I write, I invested time in my swim practice, I am much more focused and relaxed and I am actually pretty happy being bored. I only have to charge my phone every 2-3 days, and my screen time is reduced to under 30 mins a day…slowly, I am becoming the person I like, the person who is confident, productive, and not constantly comparing herself to others. I used to look at older folks and admire how they’re able to just sit and do nothing at parks (which is a rare sight these days), and slowly, I am becoming one of them. (Well…not as old, yet)

This is a learning process for me, and I am just getting started, I strive to do a little better everyday.

Personal development : Digital minimalism, kicking off social media addiction

For the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve started paying more attention in how I use the internet. I began deleting apps on my phone, limiting my screen time, decluttering my facebook feeds, I then moved on to re-organising all my back ups and external hard drives. I did it very progressively and methodically, I’ve picked up so many great tips along the way, and I want to share a few things I have learnt which has helped me tremendously.

Work/Instagram feed

Since I do use social media for work, (instagram/facebook), I set them up so I can manage it on my desktop instead of my phone. Google chrome has a instagram extension where I can access my instagram online. I’ve also started using feed planner, so I can schedule my posts, and have them posted automatically. (Buffer or planoly are great)

This has greatly reduced my impulse of mindless browsing, I do admit as photographers, I do enjoy viewing other photographer’s work, but instead of having access to it all day long, I allocate a time for it, via dekstop only.

As of this point I am uncertain whether I want to keep my personal instagram feed, while at the moment I am keeping it deactivated, I am formulating on how I can use it better to benefit me, as of this point, it is a form of distraction that doesn’t add value to my life. (such as posting half naked selfies, and try to justify my behaviour by writing super long captions that no one is ever going to read. 😀)

Facebook

After cleaning up my feed (including removing tons of old photos), and saving only those which adds meanings and values to me, I’ve also installed another chrome extension for facebook (newsfeed eradicator)  Now my facebook feed looks like this :

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Again, this completely eradicate my behaviour of mindless browsing, but if I do want to see what my family and friends are up to, I’m still able to do so. I also removed facebook app from my phone. Although I can still access it through browser, it just isn’t as appealing to me anymore.

Inbox 0 

Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty — or almost empty — at all times.
Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann. According to Mann, the zero is not a reference to the number of messages in an inbox; it is “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” Mann’s point is that time and attention are finite and when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity suffers.

 

After learning about Inbox 0 via Nathaniel Drew, I cleared up my inbox…and was horrified to learn I keep old emails from as far as 2013…again, this doesn’t mean I don’t hold on to things, I only want to keep things that adds value to my life. I labeled my folders accordingly, and archive as many emails as I can. Here’s how my inbox looks like now.

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I perform the same decluttering process with my dekstop / macbook / iphone, removing unwanted apps/files, keeping only the essential, and honestly, I already feel like a huge load is off my shoulder.

While I do the same with my physical stuffs (one in, one out), donating stuffs I don’t need / use, I am far from achieving minimalism, however, I can certainly strive for essentialism : keeping only the essentials in my life. I will definitely log my progress here.

The resources that has helped me tremendously

Jamesclear.com

Nathanieldrew.com

Dr.Cal Newport