Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport

Using my phone less has been on my mind for quite a while now. For no good reason, I’m 100% addicted to Twitter. I always have my phone on me, just in case there’s a text I need to reply to immediately, or some fact needs to be Googled, or to waste time when I’m bored. I enjoyed Deep Work by Cal Newport, so I thought I would give Digital Minimalism a shot.

My summary is this: make it easier for yourself to make deliberate choices about how and when to use your phone and other technology. So much of my current phone use is just a reflex, and I want to change that.

I don’t think there is anything revolutionary in this book. But it was full of good, timeless advice and ideas, sort of like talking to your friend who listens to a lot of podcasts. It made me think and reflect. Who knew books could do that.

My Digital Minimalism Strategy

I didn’t feel like going through the 30 day purge like Newport suggests. But I took some time to evaluate what I could do anyway. Here’s what I came up with:

  • I deleted Twitter, Reddit, and Hulu from my phone. These are my biggest time-wasters. I also blocked Twitter through Screen Time on iOS. I still have these on my iPad so that I can use them when I make a deliberate decision to.
  • I only watch whatever I’m binging at the moment while I’m riding the exercise bike.
  • I removed high volume RSS feeds like The Verge. Now I don’t feel the need to open my RSS reader often to check the latest news.
  • I cut down the number of podcasts I’m subscribed to—admittedly, I have more work to do here since I’m still subscribed to 25…
  • When I move into my new house, I would like to have a local newspaper delivered.
  • Switch to the iPhone 12 Mini. I was planning on upgrading to the Max, but I thought that maybe having a smaller screen would make me less likely to use my phone for things like watching videos and reading. I’m not certain this is actually the case, but I do love the size of the Mini.

I’m also experimenting with a pocket notebook. So far I’ve been using it to plan my weeks and sometimes days. I also use it to record ideas and other thoughts. I’m still figuring out how exactly I want to use this, but it has already reduced my dependence on my phone.

There are two main things that cause me to pickup my phone often—podcasts and time tracking. I suppose I could use the Toggl website instead of using Timery, but the Timery widget just makes it so easy. I’ve also experimented with listening to podcasts on my Apple Watch. I actually like using my watch quite a bit—I don’t need to pick up my phone when I go somewhere else in the house. But it is not always reliable. The podcast I want to listen to is not always on my watch when I want to listen, so I often still use my phone. I use Overcast—because of it’s superior Smart Speed® and Voice Boost®—but maybe I should look into other options.

Anyway, I feel like all this is making a difference. I don’t feel the need to always have my phone on me. I feel more engaged when I’m just hanging out with the family. Overall, I’m on board with the idea of using your phone less. I’ll take another look in a couple months and see what I need to adjust and tweak, maybe to do the whole 30 day purge that he suggests. Perhaps, Phase 2 will be when I switch to a rotary landline for all communication—buttons would make it too easy to call people.

December 14, 2020