Digital Minimalism

Tech expert Cal Newport’s new book

According to Nielsen, the average American spends three hours a day on phones and tablets. According to one study, the average Indian spends nearly four hours on phones and tablets. If you add up computer and TV time, you are staring at a screen nine to ten hours a day.

In the last four weeks, I have maintained a journal detailing what I observe in public places – offices, hospitals, bus and rail stations, and airports. I am amazed at people’s predilection to keep tapping away messages or talk. Hospital waiting rooms with prominent signs about not using phones are blissfully ignored. More than once, I have felt like an alien – am I the only odd person not using a digital device while waiting for my turn? I am baffled by the statistic – in four weeks, observing over five hundred people, I could come across just one other person not using a digital device. I am tempted to suggest that we have a new form of addiction – digital addiction.  

In his latest book, Digital Minimalism, technology expert Cal Newport offers suggestions to use the time better for professional and personal gain.

Newport suggests scheduling work into two-hour uninterrupted blocks. According to Newport, focusing on work to the exclusion of everything else facilitates the mind operating at full capacity.

Next, Newport refers to “solitude deficit” – the inclination to pull out our phones at the first sign of boredom. Newport advises to practice productive meditation – doing something physical or focusing on a single problem. This would tame our screen-check impulse and improve concentration.

The Radicati Group says that the typical worker sends or receives 125 emails a day. The result: many hours wasted in low-quality communication. Newport’s advice is to ignore mails that don’t require a response and for those that do, provide thoughtful, specific responses.

Digital interaction is not a substitute for face-to-face conversation. Newport advises against the use of social media for everything. Even if you can’t meet someone, Newport says, give them a call. You will feel better.

Newport recommends a 30-day break from any digital tool that is not essential to your work. When the detox is complete, set productivity and relationship goals, and re-introduce only those tools that help you to achieve them.

Signs of Digital Addiction?

As you scale back on your digital compulsions, make time for a hobbymusic, painting, or anything that requires creativity and the use of your hands. That will help you forget what may be happening on your phone.

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