Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World- Cal Newport

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up cleared my physical clutter but within inside I know I had to do something regarding my mental clutter. Our outer world is an reflection of inner world. On some reflection I realised I am constantly bombarded with digital data and I am drowning in Information.

That is why I thought, can’t I apply minimalism to my digital world and I started searching for Digital Minimalism and I came across this podcast of Cal Newport interviewed by Paula Pant on Afford Anything. I liked this podcast episode so much that I decided to read this book.

This book provides good suggestions and practical advice to deal with the chaos of our Digital World.

The lessons I learnt from this book are-

Digital Minimalism
A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.

  • As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses.
  • When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult—a diminishing of our soul’s authority.
  • When seen from this perspective, it becomes clear that this is a battle we must fight. But to do so, we need a more serious strategy, something custom built to swat aside the forces manipulating us toward behavioral addictions and that offers a concrete plan about how to put new technologies to use for our best aspirations and not against them. Digital minimalism is one such strategy.

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

  • By working backward from their deep values to their technology choices, digital minimalists transform these innovations from a source of distraction into tools to support a life well lived. By doing so, they break the spell that has made so many people feel like they’re losing control to their screens.
  • A life well lived requires activities that serve no other purpose than the satisfaction that the activity itself generates.

As Aristotle elaborates, a life filled with deep thinking is happy because contemplation is an “activity that is appreciated for its own sake . . . nothing is gained from it except the act of contemplation.”

  • Principle #1: Clutter is costly.
    • Digital minimalists recognize that cluttering their time and attention with too many devices, apps, and services creates an overall negative cost that can swamp the small benefits that each individual item provides in isolation.
  • Principle #2: Optimization is important.
    • Digital minimalists believe that deciding a particular technology supports something they value is only the first step. To truly extract its full potential benefit, it’s necessary to think carefully about how they’ll use the technology.Optimizing how we use technology is just as important as how we choose what technologies to use in the first place.
  • Principle #3: Intentionality is satisfying.
    • Digital minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies. This source of satisfaction is independent of the specific decisions they make and is one of the biggest reasons that minimalism tends to be immensely meaningful to its practitioners.
  • The Digital Declutter Process-

Put aside a thirty-day period during which you will take a break from optional technologies in your life. During this thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you find satisfying and meaningful.
At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies into your life, starting from a blank slate.

For each technology you reintroduce, determine what value it serves in your life and how specifically you will use it so as to maximize this value.


In this step, you have to decide a list of banned technologies along with relevant operating procedures. Write this down and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day. Clarity in what you’re allowed and not allowed to do during the declutter will prove key to its success.


  • Now that you have defined your technology rules, the next step of the digital declutter is to follow these rules for thirty days.
  • With this in mind, you have duties during the declutter beyond following your technology rules. For this process to succeed, you must also spend this period trying to rediscover what’s important to you and what you enjoy outside the world of the always-on, shiny digital. Figuring this out before you begin reintroducing technology at the end of this declutter process is crucial.
    • After your thirty-day break comes the final step of the digital declutter: reintroducing optional technologies back into your life. This reintroduction is more demanding than you might imagine.

Solitude: A Return to the Self.

  • Everyone benefits from regular doses of solitude, and, equally important, anyone who avoids this state for an extended period of time will, like Lincoln during his early months in the White House, suffer.
  • In As Kethledge and Erwin explain, however, solitude is about what’s happening in your brain, not the environment around you. Accordingly, they define it to be a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds.
  • In addition to direct conversation with another person, these inputs can also take the form of reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching TV, or performing just about any activity that might draw your attention to a smartphone screen. Solitude requires you to move past reacting to information created by other people and focus instead on your own thoughts and experiences—wherever you happen to be.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” Blaise Pascal famously wrote in the late seventeenth century.

  • Solitude can be just as important for both happiness and productivity.
  • Regular doses of solitude, mixed in with our default mode of sociality, are necessary to flourish as a human being.
  • Solitude Deprivation- A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.
  • For one thing, when you avoid solitude, you miss out on the positive things it brings you: the ability to clarify hard problems, to regulate your emotions, to build moral courage, and to strengthen relationships.
  • If you suffer from chronic solitude deprivation, therefore, the quality of your life degrades.

Good Practices to Implement –

  • PRACTICE: EMBRACE SLOW MEDIA – Have a careful plan for how you use the different social platforms, with the goal of “maximizing good information and cutting out the waste.”

Importance of Leisure-

Aristotle argued that high-quality leisure is essential to a life well lived.

  • Leisure Lesson #1: Prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption.
  • Leisure Lesson #2: Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world.
  • Leisure Lesson #3: Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.

Cal Newport wants you to replace digital chaos with a state where your leisure time is now filled with better pursuits, many of which will exist primarily in the physical world.

With schedule in advance the time you spend on low-quality leisure. That is, work out the specific time periods during which you’ll indulge in web surfing, social media checking, and entertainment streaming.

When you get to these periods, anything goes. If you want to binge-watch Netflix while live-streaming yourself browsing Twitter: go for it. But outside these periods, stay offline.

Strategize your free time.

  • Habit: During the week, restrict low-quality leisure to only sixty minutes a night.
  • Habit: Read something in bed every night.
  • Habit: Attend one cultural event per week.

This book is a must read for everybody. If you are short of time atleast listen to this youtube video.
I highly recommend you to implement Cal Newport suggestions for better life and become Digital Minimalist. I have started my journey and I will urge you to begin yours for our mental sanity and peace. I loved this book and would like to thank Mr. Cal Newport for writing it.