Digital Minimalism – Book Review
Author: Cal Newport
Genre: Technology, simplicity, minimalism, productivity, non-fiction
My rating: ★★★★☆
Release Date: Published 5th February, 2019 by Portfolio
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
What did I think?
“Digital minimalists see new technologies as tools to be used to support things they deeply value—not as sources of value themselves. They don’t accept the idea that offering some small benefit is justification for allowing an attention-gobbling service into their lives, and are instead 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.” (Cal Newport)
I enjoyed Newport’s other books, Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You, but to be honest I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much. I felt this subject has been done a lot—in books and on the internet—and I felt it would rehash parts from his other books. The surprise was that (though there was a little rehashing) I liked this one just as much.
This book is for those who appreciate technology but who also see the problems it brings with it. We have been funnelled into a new way of living that has some benefits and some drawbacks but really, it’s all happened so fast that we didn’t really know what we were getting into.
Newport provides a background of how our lives have changed, what some problems are and then shows us how we can use technology more effectively. Meaning, how we can get the maximum benefit with the minimum drawbacks. It’s about knowing what you use, why you use it, how you use it, what you gain and lose from it. It’s about being mindful of technology and social media use.
Digital Minimalism gives many examples including some from everyday people (like us) who took part in Newport’s research project on the subject. I appreciated those examples because it gave me some ideas on changes I might make. To illustrate, if staying up to date with news is important to you but you get lost in too many news sites each day then other options might be: Listening to news on the radio, choosing one site or a certain number of sites you look up and being strict about not going further than that, getting news the old-fashioned way by a newspaper or some other paper-based news subscription. The point though is you can look for solutions, do things differently to improve your situation.
You feel Newport is describing his life. He’s really into productivity and, on a side note, I remember reading some books in the early 2010s by a few different young, American, white guys who were sooo into productivity. To be honest, I lost patience with that whole scene pretty quickly. But I have become a fan of Newport because he’s an academic and there’s something about his attitude towards things that speaks to me. Anyway, so you get to know a lot about him, what he values, how he lives, and I enjoy that. But you don’t have to do everything the way he does. Again, the key is to make mindful choices instead of just being swept along by every new tech option without analysing it first.
There was an interesting discussion of how the Amish decide on which technology they will adopt and which they won’t and describes them as living a different form of modernity. It’s not blanket praise but praise on the way the decisions are made consciously.
Digital Minimalism includes a practical plan for removing ‘optional’ tech, apps etc for 30 days before reintroducing some of it (conscious choices) with operating procedures in place for how and when you will use it. Newport is thorough, which is something I like about him, and I’m glad I didn’t skip this new book.
For more info: Goodreads – Or your local Library