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Digital Minimalism outlines how we can obtain value from technology while limiting the drawbacks associated with digital clutter. Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our technology. It is the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world. Cal Newport provides an outline of how excessive technology is ruining our leisure time and our interactions. The alternative is stripping your technology back to the minimal tools that improve your life and interactions with others.

Digital Minimalism

Digital Minimalism

by Cal Newport


1.36K reads

“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.”

Digital Minimalism is not what standard technology articles suggest. Instead of a quick fix approach, digital minimalism should be a philosophy you live by. Specifically, a technology philosophy whereby you focus your online time on only a few crucial digital tools. Digital tools should not be us...

“Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”

The Principles of Digital Minimalism

  1. Clutter is costly – Cal Newport is not just talking about physical clutter. You want to avoid cluttering your time and attention with too many devices, apps and services. If you do not reduce this clutter, your small benefits will diminish.
  2. Optimization is essential – To extract maxi...

Thoreau’s New Economics

Cal Newport provides arguments for each principle of digital minimalism. The first principle is supported by Thoreau’s New Economics theory and is based on one of his quotes: 

Cal Newport provides arguments for each principle of digital minimalism. The first principle is supported by Thoreau’s New Economics theory and is based on one of his quotes: 

The Return Curve

Cal Newport explains that the same law of diminishing returns seen in economics can be applied to technology. Most people’s personal technology relationships are on the early part of the return curve. This means that initial additions of technology will yield massive returns. That said, the value...

Cal Newport provides one of the Amish community’s principles as a justification for his third principle. You want to start with the technologies that you value the most. Then, declutter by working backward and asking yourself whether this next technology performs more harm than good.

Digital Declutter

Step-by-step processes:

  1. Put aside 30 days to take a break from technologies that are not essential.
  2. Use these 30 days to learn new skills, activities, and behaviors that you find meaningful.
  3. At the end of the break, you can start reintroducing technologies by starting w...

“The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.”

Spend Time Alone

Cal Newport encourages readers to consider the importance of solitude in their lives. Solitude isn't about being alone in your environment but about what's happening in your brain. If you have mastered solitude in your life, you can even engage with solitude on the busiest train. 

Avoiding ...

Practices to Adopt

Leave Your Phone at Home

Cal Newport emphasizes the importance of losing the notion that not having your phone is a crisis. Once you lose this feeling, you can start spending some time away from your phone on most days. Cal Newport doesn’t recommend ditching your phone alto...

Write Letters to Yourself

Writing in and of itself has many benefits. The same parts of the brain are used while writing as when going about your social life. The loss of social connection in our lives can also trigger the same brain systems like those seen when you are in physical pain. This is why research has found pai...

Reclaim Your Conversations

Digital media has warped what healthy conversations look like and reduced our ability to form true connections. Cal Newport describes connections in the modern world as low-bandwidth interactions that define our online social lives. Many people view conversations and connections as two separate a...

“My argument is not anti-technology… it’s pro-conversation.”

Don’t Click Like!

Cal Newport suggests you avoid clicking like or commenting on social media posts. Engaging with these behaviors will only teach your mind that these interactions are a reasonable alternative to proper conversations. On the flip side, completely removing these behaviors from your life will force y...

Consolidate Texting

Texting should not be something you slip in and out of during the day. By default, Cal Newport recommends keeping your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. You should also schedule specific times for texting. 

As well as offering unwanted distractions, replying throughout the day to text messages ...

Reclaim Leisure

High-quality leisure is crucial for human happiness. Despite this, more and more people are struggling to claim this all-important leisure. We forget about the insufficient high-quality leisure we have because we fill this time with digital noise. That said, this digital noise does not have the s...

“We live in a world that is working to eliminate touch as one of our senses, to minimize the use of our hands to do things except poke at a screen.”

Practices to Reclaim Leisure

Fix or Build Something Every Week

One way to create meaningful leisure that utilizes touch is by fixing or building something weekly. This might be changing your car oil, installing a new light fixture, or building your first shed. 


The digital world has a significant impact on all of our lives. That said, this doesn’t mean its impact is entirely positive. Cal Newport argues that technology is here to stay, so we must learn how to extract its best qualities and remove its bad ones. 

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