Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism is one of the most important books of our time. I realize that is a big statement and I stick by it. It is one of the best books I have read about minimalism as it relates to everything digital: apps, social media, computer usage.
But it is also a book about how to create your life, and the obstacles (digital technology) that are making it harder and harder to do.
This book does an a really exceptional job in talking about digital minimalism, how difficult it is to control and the negative affects it has on our life. And it also talks about how we can appreciate technology but not let it take away our ability to find true meaning in life and act with intention.
Which is what is necessary if you want to really love the life you live.
Too much digital and not enough analog makes living an intentional life you love more difficult. Adults everywhere, who have been sucked into the digital craze (which I think is just about everyone) are affected. But sadly, it is our teens and the iGen generation (those born between 1995-2012) that have
lost their ability to process and make sense of their emotions, or to reflect on who they are and what really matters, or to build strong relationships, or even just allow their brains time to power down their critical social circuits, which are not meant to be used constantly, and to redirect their energy to other important cognitive housekeeping tasks.”
Every page of this book validates the imperative need to reduce our digital usage and to understand the life-sustaining benefits of doing so.
Digital devices, while offering valid paths to connection, are actually making us more cluttered, more anxious, and less connected with ourselves in a positive way. That is a real problem if you are in the business of creating a life you love.
Being able to reflect on what really matters, without so much noise, without the constant need to check an app or update a status, makes easier work for that creation. Reflection, and specifically solitude, are necessary components in your building process.
Solitude is an interesting word. It sounds lonely and sad. But it is anything but that. There are great benefits to finding moments of solitude – not necessarily alone but with no outside interference.
With solitude you can “clarify hard problems, regulate your emotions, build moral courage, and strengthen relationships.” (Newport, pg 104).
Solitude deprivation, on the other hand, is the new smoking. If you strip yourself of the gift of solitude, the life will get sucked out of you.
Almost quite literally.
Solitude deprivation means you are depriving yourself of the alone time needed with your own thoughts, free from the input from other minds, to slow down and connect more authentically. We need this because as humans, we are not wired to be so wired – all.the.time. We need that down time, that life line that allows us to focus, and regroup, and feel our life.
Without time to your self, in solitude – the quality of your life actually degrades. I know how bold that statement sounds. And believe me, I mean every word of it. If you want to contend with the consistent barrage of digital information that has the power to pull you from your self, you must create space away from it.
And that is the operative phrase. You must create the space. It won’t be given to you, especially not from the marketers who benefit from your addictions to everything digital.
Here are a few ways you can do that.
Don’t go rolling your eyes at me. You know as well as I do that when you clear your space of things that are in excess, that you don’t need or use, your head gets clear as well. Clarity in your mind (and space) is where the magic happens. Allow your space to breathe – unclutter it. And you will be able to engage and appreciate more fully some needed solitude.
2. Write a letter once a week.
This is an analog activity that forces you to slow down. It forces you to think for yourself, share your life in a more intentional and deliberate way. And that creates space in your soul. Plus, it spreads joy and that is as good a reason as any to do it. Other analog activities that you can do: make phone calls (preferably from a land line!) to friends or family you haven’t talked to in a while, go for a bike ride with a friend – or your child, or hug a tree. What better way to connect with yourself without any kind of outside noise.
This is pretty much the best way to really dial in to your inner self. It is important work because you get to really hear what you want. You get to do that important work of reflection, contemplation, redirection and discovery. That is where the becoming comes to life. That is where you can truly focus, and find yourself, in the quiet, not on the screen.
Create space so you can renew and refresh your life. Embrace the gift of solitude. And use it to enrich, and potentially save, your life.