Book ReviewsDigital Use

Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport

I first came across Cal Newport when I stumbled across his book Deep Work.

As a Computer Scientist who graduated from MIT and then a teacher of others who engage in computer sciences, I found it fascinating that he didn’t have any social media accounts and encouraged time away from digital technology. 

It turns out, he is right about our human need to protect our attention and focus as one of our most valuable personal resources. He suggests in Deep Work that those who are better able to focus for longer periods (a skill on the decline) are the ones most likely to succeed in the future and become the most sought-after professionals. 

The underlying premise of Digital Minimalism (Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World), is to highlight the value of moving from a mindset focused on Digital Consumption to one focused on Digital Use. 

What I mean by this is: becoming more intentional about how you use your devices, gadgets and apps for your personal and professional benefit while minimising the attention capital extracted by Big Tech from your valuable day.

Cal’s books are always well researched and logically presented in a way that builds a solic argument and reasons why.

He provides a convincing argument for resisting and pushing back on the lure of remaining a consumer of the attention economy – mindlessly scrolling social media and news sites, getting lost for hours in whatever the algorithm churns up – but rather using digital tools for what you can intentionally, productively, efficiently extract from its use, and then letting it be. 

He talks about developing a ‘Philosophy of Technology’ – how you use technology ‘as part of a life well lived’ – and being intentional about the technology that you use to support and amplify what you are doing and to improve your productivity and focus – rather than handing your time, attention and focus over to Big Tech so they can add profit to their bottom line.

If you do not pay for the product, you are the product. The business model for online media is to secure revenue through advertising. What they sell is your attention. 

The main focus of Digital Minimalism is not about removing technology for the sake of having less of it. It’s about digitally decluttering, about creating rules around how you use your technology and apps for improving your life and ultimately about ‘doing tech on your terms’. 

The book’s final section provides some useful options for helping minimise digital distractions. Some may work for you, some may not.

Anything is worth trying if it helps you regain control of your digital tech use and let technology work for you to increase overall productivity and lifestyle while minimising the negative aspects it can have on your attention, time, physical and mental health and in-person connections.

You can watch Cal Newport review his book on this YouTube video. 

About Cal Newport:

According to his YouTube channel descriptor: 

‘Cal Newport is a computer science professor at Georgetown University and is also a New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including, A World Without Email, Digital Minimalism, and Deep Work, which have been published in over 35 languages. In addition to his books, Cal is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, the New York Times, and WIRED, a frequent guest on NPR, and the host of the popular Deep Questions podcast. He also publishes articles at and has an email newsletter.’