Part IV: Going All-In
Over the past few weeks, I have written about my intention to become a digital minimalist. As noted in previous posts, it is about embracing the concept of digital minimalism. At this time, it is perhaps helpful to revisit that definition as outlined in Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport:
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.1
And in following Newport’s advice, I set out six rules in an attempt to achieve that “philosophy of technology use”. Let me take a moment to recap my six rules:
- Do not pick up my phone during the first hour of the day
- Remove social media apps from my phone
- Only access social media platforms on my laptop
- Limit use of streaming services to one movie or three episodes of a show on Saturday/Sunday
- Check WhatsApp/iMessages once a day (Monday to Friday), between 7:00 and 7:30 pm
- Embrace solitude
At the end of last week’s post, I asked this question: Can these rules for a “philosophy of technology use” let me reclaim my time and my life?
In a word: Yes.
There is a lot of pressure right now to be connected all the time, especially since the advent of social media. At work, when meeting friends, walking down the sidewalk … a ding or a chirp sends people reaching for their phones, consequently taking their attention away from the present moment they are, then, experiencing.
And for a long time, that was me. Only, in my case, it did not take a ding to have me reaching for my phone (because my notifications we always off). It was simply the feeling that I might be missing out on something if I did not regularly check in on Instagram or Facebook. And, equally, the compulsion to check for likes and comments on my posts.
Since the first post in this series on 23 August, and as I have mentioned before, my screen time has decreased dramatically. And, conversely, my productivity has soared. There is a new calmness, a stillness, in my life as I limit time spent on social media platforms and engage less. I am able to enter more frequently (and here I still have more work to do) that “state of distraction-free concentration”2 to push my cognitive capacity to their limits. Without a doubt, I am [re-]taking control of my attention agenda to live a more focused life.
On Becoming a Digital Minimalist
In this noisy and chaotic world, we have a choice — to give ourselves over to other people’s demands or expectations of how we should live, or to live our life in a way that supports our most important values. I am opting for the latter. Redefining how I engage with current and future technology tools is about supporting what I value and, in turn, remaining committed to the deep work that also creates value for myself and others.
As a digital minimalist, my hope is this: that every day I strive to act with intention to live a purpose-driven life. And in staying focused on that goal, I will happily miss out on anything that does not support that vision. Maybe, too, I will remember what it is like to be human again.
1 Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (New York: Penguin, 2019), 28.
2 Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), 3.