Digital minimalism
or back to the future

Cal Newport is a writer whose book on distraction-free concentration, Deep Work, placed him at the vanguard of professional effectiveness. With digital minimalism, he’s going one step further.

Cal Newport has a PhD in computer science from MIT and is associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University: when he recommends banning digital interruptions and intrusions as a way of boosting your productivity and creativity through in-depth concentration, you sit up and listen. In his latest book, Newport goes one step further by alerting us to a new idea that could take over from where digital transformation left off: digital minimalism.

For Newport, this new digital way of life includes everything that could reduce the addictive and parasitic hours we spend in front of computers, tablets and smartphones, especially when scrolling through social networks, emails and other kinds of digital media that we find difficult to resist. According to Newport, not only do these pursuits cost us dearly in terms of time and productivity, but excessive use of the digital can lobotomize and dehumanize us (Newport isn’t one to mince words) or leave us feeling depressed and guilty at the mixing of such trivial pursuits.
It’s time to take back control over our available brain time. And yet, when companies roll out digital tools, they rarely include advice on how to use them properly and in moderation. Why? Simply because the technology has been implemented too quickly to allow for its proper, reasonable use.

In order for these tools to really improve productivity, concentration, intelligence and creativity, Newport is campaigning to massively expand their use in both personal and professional settings. He advocates for “sensible disconnection” to boost our intelligence and performance, and free up time for higher cognitive functions, including renewed concentration and intellectual daydreaming. This approach would also help us step back and see the bigger picture, thereby giving us the space to develop our creativity and complex problem-solving skills.
So here’s the new challenge for post-digital transformation: digital restraint – both individual and collective – to preserve the public’s health and productivity. Care for some digital? Please use responsibly.

Further Reading:

1-Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport, (Portfolio, 2019)
2-Cal Newport’s video on the Georgetown University website