I had the opportunity to read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport recently and wow, his book not only builds an impressive case for living analytically, but also provides numerous examples and strategies for doing so. The book lays out an impressive case for the danger and damage of social media, but far from being an anti-technology screed, the book then goes onto explore the tools and strategies we can implement to best use social / digital media in our lives. For example, most of us get distracted by social media while we’re on our phones, so an easy solution is to uninstall your social media apps, or turn your phone onto Do Not Disturb mode so that you can’t be as easily distracted. The book also mentions helpful apps, like Pocket or Freedom, which can be used to better manage your digital life.
However what I enjoy most about the book are the numerous examples of individuals being thoughtful and analytical in their lives. Many examples come from Cal Newport’s idea of a digital reset, where for 30 days you drop all of the ‘optional technologies’ in your life. The insights people were able to make, and the adjustments they were able to execute were inspiring.
I was particularly struck by the story of a young father who’d quit using his phone when his son was at the park only to discover that he’d been missing ‘small victories’ when his son would climb a ladder, go down a slide, discover an interesting twig, etc. He found it more shocking that he was now he only parent not on his phone while his son was playing in the park. He made the adjustment to avoid using his phone during that time in order to be more present with his son, which has given him a better connection and the rewarding feeling of being a good parent.
Awareness is a prerequisite for The Analytical Life – you can’t analyze your circumstances effectively if you don’t know what they are. You don’t know what you’re missing. Distractions are counterproductive to living analytically, and I can think of no better distraction than your phone. Digital Minimalism offers solutions to combat these distractions as well as strategies to determine how best to use digital media in your life. Beyond this, the book advocates for simply being aware of how digital media impacts your life. I can’t argue with that – well done Cal!