Book Notes

“Digital Minimalism”, Cal Newport

My book notes on Cal Newport’s “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World”.

Also, check my 50 cents on the subject – Digital Immune System.

Solitude Deprivation

A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.

Solitude is good for you. Just spend enough time thinking, without distractions, devices, or external sources of information. Many examples of big thinkers were provided in the book.



  • Spend some time away from your phone most days. This time could take many forms, from a quick morning errand to a full evening out, depending on your comfort level.
  • It’s completely reasonable to live a life in which you sometimes have a phone with you, and sometimes do not.


  • The most common activities include trying to make progress on a professional problem (such as a math proof for my work as a computer scientist or a chapter outline for a book) and self-reflection on some particular aspect of my life that I think needs more attention


  • Writing a letter to yourself is an excellent mechanism for generating exactly this type of solitude. It not only frees you from outside inputs but also provides a conceptual scaffolding on which to sort and organize your thinking.


Don’t click “Like.” Ever. And while you’re at it, stop leaving comments on social media posts as well. No “so cute!” or “so cool!” Remain silent.

If the friendship is important, however, let the concern about this reaction motivate you to invest the time required to set up a real conversation

For the sake of your social well-being, to adopt the baseline rule that you’ll no longer use social media as a tool for low-quality relationship nudges. Put simply, don’t click and don’t comment. This basic stricture will radically change for the better how you maintain your social life.

No texting & Reserve conversation hours

  • This practice suggests that you keep your phone in Do Not Disturb mode by default.

The first is that it allows you to be more present when you’re not texting. Once you no longer treat text interactions as an ongoing conversation that you must continually tend, it’s much easier to concentrate fully on the activity before you. This will increase the value you get out of these real-world interactions. It might

  • If you write him with a somewhat complicated question, he can reply, “I’d love to get into that. Call me at 5:30 any day you want.” OR “I’d love to get up to speed on what’s going on in your life, call me at 5:30 sometime”

Setting your own variation of his conversation office hours strategy. Put aside set times on set days during which you’re always available for conversations.
Once these office hours are set, promote them to the people you care about. When someone instigates a low-quality connection (say, a text message conversation or social media ping), suggest they call or meet you during your office hours…

Reclaim Leisure

  • If you want to succeed with digital minimalism, you cannot ignore this reality. If you begin decluttering the low-value digital distractions from your life before you’ve convincingly filled in the void they were helping you ignore, the experience will be unnecessarily unpleasant at best and a massive failure at worst.

Lessons about cultivating high-quality leisure:

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

… Writing a piece of computer code that solves a problem (a high-skill effort) yields more meaning than a shallow activity like answering emails (a low-skill effort).

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

If you want to fully extract the benefits of this craft in your free time, in other words, seek it in its analog forms, and while doing so, fully embrace Rogowski’s closing advice: ==“Leave good evidence of yourself. Do good work.”==

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

Examples: F3 group (Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith), CrossFit, etc

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

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.


The simplest way to become more handy is to learn a new skill, apply it to repair, learn, or build something, and then repeat. Start with easy projects in which you can follow step-by-step instructions more or less directly.

My suggestion is that you try to learn and apply one new skill every week, over a period of six weeks. Start with easy projects like those suggested above, but as soon as you feel the challenge wane, ramp up the complication of the skills and steps involved.


schedule in advance the time you spend on low-quality leisure.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a local sporting league, a committee at your temple, a local volunteer group, the PTA, a social fitness group, or a fantasy gamers club: few things can replicate the benefits of connecting with your fellow citizens, so get up, get out, and start reaping these benefits in your own community.

Strategize this part of your life with a two-level approach consisting of both a seasonal and weekly leisure plan:

  • A seasonal leisure plan is something that you put together three times a year: at the beginning of the fall (early September), at the beginning of the winter (January), and at the beginning of summer (early May).
  • A good ==seasonal plan== contains two different types of items: objectives and habits that you intend to honor in the upcoming season. The objectives describe specific goals you hope to accomplish, with accompanying strategies for how you will accomplish them. The habits describe behavior rules you hope to stick with throughout the season. In a seasonal leisure plan, these objectives and habits will both be connected to cultivating a high-quality leisure life.
  • The ==Weekly== Leisure Plan: At the beginning of each week, put aside time to review your current seasonal leisure plan.

Becoming more systematic about your leisure, in other words, can significantly increase the relaxation you enjoy throughout your week.

Doing nothing is overrated

Join the Attention Resistance

  • Use internet/app control tools, like Freedom
    • “Allowing a single click from your Freedom dashboard to activate blocking across your computers, phones, and tablets. The tool has since been adopted by over 500,000 users…””
    • Default blocking doesn’t require you to abstain completely from the fruits of the digital attention economy but forces you to approach them with more intention. It’s a different way of thinking about your relationship with your computer, and one that is becoming increasingly necessary to remain a minimalist in our current age of distraction.
    • “Das Slow Media Manifest.” (“The Slow Media Manifesto”)
    • Slow Media cannot be consumed casually, but provoke the full concentration of their users. . . . Slow Media measure themselves in production, appearance and content against high standard of quality and stand out from their fast-paced and short-lived counterparts.
    • Read limited high-quality media: If you’re into technology, Hacker News and Reddit.
    • Another important aspect of slow news consumption is the decisions you make regarding how and when this consumption occurs