The Top 7 Digital Minimalism Tips to Try Now

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Digital Minimalism" by Cal Newport. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to become a digital minimalist? What are some digital minimalism tips that can help you break your reliance on communication technology?

Adopting digital minimalism is all about setting yourself up for success in advance so you don’t have to call upon willpower when temptation strikes. The following digital minimalism tips will help you minimize your technology use so you have more time to spend on activities that actually add value and meaning to your life.

Here are seven tips to get your started on digital minimalism—a blissful lifestyle free from constant buzzing and mindless scrolling.

Digital Minimalism: Tips for Beginners

Many of us are glued to our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, to the point that we’ve lost control of how we spend our time and attention. We feel overpowered and exhausted by the multitude of digital tools at our fingertips, including devices like smartphones and tablets, websites, addictive apps, and social media platforms.

Adopting digital minimalism can loosen technology’s grip on your attention. Digital minimalism is a philosophy that aims to maximize the benefits of technology and avoid the pitfalls by identifying your values and determining how to use technology to support them. Here are the seven digital minimalism tips you need to try.

1) Delete Your Social Media Apps

These apps are designed to be more addictive than the web versions, and they’re always with you when they’re on your smartphone, making it almost impossible to resist checking them when you have a few free moments. If you have to log onto a computer to access those platforms, it will naturally limit how often you use them, and you’ll be more selective about when and why you log on. 

2) Text Strategically

Use text messages only to exchange logistical information, such as setting up a time for a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting. Additionally, keep your phone on Do Not Disturb mode so that you don’t receive text notifications, and then designate times when you’ll check and respond to text messages. If you need to, adjust your phone settings to allow calls to come through from certain people.

3) Designate Conversation Hours

Just like college professors hold office hours, during which students can drop by their office to discuss assignments and issues, set aside days and times to have conversation office hours. When people try to instigate a conversation via text or email, simply tell them you’d love to continue the discussion, and that they can call or meet you during your conversation office hours. This strategy prevents anyone from hesitating to call you for fear of interrupting something, and it blocks out time for you to invest in meaningful conversation.

4) Limit Your Smartphone’s Capabilities

Block all distracting apps, websites, and functions on your digital devices, ideally by default or on a set schedule—for example, during work hours—and then unblock certain services when you need them. There are several digital tools that help you to create these blocks, such as Freedom and SelfControl. The goal is to turn your smartphone, tablet, or computer into a single-purpose device as much as possible. 

5) Be Intentional in Your Social Media Use

When it comes to being intentional about digital use, take a cue from social media professionals—they have to be smart about avoiding distractions, or they’d get nothing done. Consider strategies such as keeping a short friend list on Facebook, following a small number of accounts on Instagram and Twitter, and creating separate Twitter accounts for professional needs and personal interests.

6) Transition to “Slow Media”

The Slow Media movement encourages people to shift their media consumption to high-quality sources over convenient, low-quality media. For example, if you used this approach for your news consumption, you would forego checking various social media and news sites throughout the day, and instead check a reliable source once or twice a day. You might also save longer articles that you come across throughout the week and spend a quiet Saturday morning reading them with a cup of coffee.

7) Get a “Dumb” Phone

Trading your smartphone for a cell phone that can only make calls and send texts is the most effective action you can take in resisting tech addiction and overuse. As tablets and laptops become lighter and more portable, you can rely on those devices for internet access. Alternatively, if you need your smartphone for work or other logistical reasons, you can get a tethered dumb phone: When you want to have some time without your smartphone, activate your tethered phone to have texts and phone calls forwarded from your smartphone. 

The Top 7 Digital Minimalism Tips to Try Now

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Cal Newport's "Digital Minimalism" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Digital Minimalism summary:

  • Why you're addicted to technology (and how tech companies feed your addictions)
  • How a focus on social media is bad for real-life relationships
  • How to transform your tech habits to get the best benefits without the drawbacks

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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