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How to Minimize Your Life: The Unimportance of Practically Everything

Cal Newport

"Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”

Cal Newport

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Oliver Emberton
"The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency."
Oliver Emberton
Important vs. urgent tasks
  • Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals.
  • Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately: phone calls, urgent deadlines, and situations where you have to respond quickly.

Sometimes important tasks stare you right in the face, but you neglect them and respond to urgent but unimportant things.

Don't be available all the time

Time, not money, is your most valuable asset. Invest your asset:

  • Allocate time to each task you need to get done every day. 
  • Each task of the day should be attainable, realistic, and time-bound. And it should advance your goals for the day, week or month.
  • Don't get distracted by everything others expect you to do.
The new law of productivity

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

Deep work vs. Shallow work
  • Deep work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. Creates value.
  • Shallow work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. Doesn't create value.
4 philosophies to integrate Deep Work into your life
  • Monastic: maximize Deep Work by minimizing or removing shallow obligations. Isolate yourself for long periods of time without distractions; no shallow work allowed
  • Bimodal: divide your time into some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leave the rest open to everything else. Reserve a few consecutive days when you will be working like a monastic. You need at least one day a week
  • Rhythmic: involves creating a routine where you define a specific time period — ideally three to four hours every day — that you can devote to Deep Work
  • Journalistic: alternate your day between deep and shallow work as it fits your blocks of time. Not recommended to try out first.
Cluttered digital lives
Cluttered digital lives

If people's physical lives were anywhere near as cluttered as their digital lives, their kitchen sinks would be full of dishes, their closets would be jammed, and their houses would be in chaos.

Become a Digital Minimalist

We can reclaim our time and our attention. Unlike a physical space, we can wipe the slate clean in our digital environment.

If you clear apps from your phone, nothing will happen. You can always reinstall the ones you use.

Digital Declutter
  • Clear your browser history.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters, podcasts, blogs, and anything else you consume.
  • Delete all the apps that are currently on your phone and desktop or laptop (as long as you don’t have to buy a new version of anything).