Cal Newport – Digital Minimalism

With all new technology entering our lives, Cal Newport became convinced that we need a philosophy of technology use that steers us with decisions to make on what technology to use, how to use them and confidently ignore everything else. He call this Digital Minimalism. His philosophy is a structured approach to use of digital technology; the minimalism in it is a way to handle the digital abundance abundance we are confronted with.

Digital technologies are taking over out lives, if we let them, especially given they are design to attract our attention. Therefore it is essential we know how to best use these tools, and also about how to retain our autonomy while using these tools.

Newport cites researchers that have found sound indications that the tools addictive, as they are pushing use to behavior that is in the end bad for our well-being. These tools were even designed to be additive: they let us constantly seek for social approval and positive reinforcement. So we should find ways to reverse this and find way to put this technology in our favor instead of against us. Newports Digital Minimalism let’s us focus on a small number of carefully selected activities that support the things we value, and let’s us happily ignore everything else.

Principles behing his philosophy:

  • Clutter is costly – too many things and apps create negative cost.
  • Optimization is important – when you select a tool, you should be clear how you want to use it.
  • Intentionality is satifying – having selected the few tools needed, intentional use is more satisfying.

So how to achieve this? Newport proposes a rapid transformation through Digital Declutter:

  • Put aside any optional technologies in your life. For those non-optional, specify exactly when and how to use.
  • During this period aggressively explore and discover what you find meaningful.
  • After this break, reintroduce technologies, but only selected ones, with a clear intentional use.

Selection criteria for the tools we want to use:

  • Does the tool support my deeper values in some way.
  • Is it the best tool fr its purpose.
  • Then how and are you going to use it.

Having created a clear view on the use of technology, now Newport adds behavioral practices to further exploit a digital minimalist life.

Spend time alone

Humans need time to themselves. It increases happiness and productivity. However with the digital tools constantly begging for our attention if we let them, this need for solitude is becoming more and more unanswered – a state of Solitude Deprivation.
Practices Newport adds: leave home without your phone, take long walks, write letters to yourself.

Don’t Click “Like”

Humans are already wired for social interaction. WIth the digital tools we are pushed for even larger and less local social networks, through short interactions. Studies even show people feel more lonely when using social media extensively and having less offline interactions.
Newport recommends concersation-centric communication. Quality conversations are most meaningful social interactions.
Adopt basline rule: do not use social media as a tool for low-quality relationship nudges. I would add: social media is for marketing.
Consolidate texting.
Hold conversation office hours (and free time for deep work).

Reclaim Leisure

Pursue activities for the satifaction of that activity itself, not some other goal. That is leasure.

Prioritize demanding activities over passive consumption.
Use skills to produce things valuable in the physical world.
Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.

Fix or build something every week.
Learn and apply one new skill every 6 weeks.
Schedule low-quality leasure time.
Join something.

Create leasure plans. Season ones, weekly ones.

Doing nothing is overrated.

Join the Attention Resistance.

Again this is about making technology use intentional. Facebook researchers found that the unintentional, uncontrolled use of Facebook may not be healthy and good use of the software should be practiced.

Practices Newport suggests:

  • Delete Social Media from your phone. Making it less accessible makes using it more intentional.
  • Turn devices is single-purpose devices.
  • Use social media like a pro.
  • Embrace slow media. A small amount of high quality offerings is better than many low-quality crap. Plus be clear on the now and when of the slow media.
  • Dumb down your phone. Make things generally less accessible.

Slow down.

Photographers Playbook

Self-directed assignments or just inspiration: The Photographers Playbook edited by Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern.

Hollandse Beelden – Eddy Posthuma de Boer

Eddy Posthuma de Boer kende ik vooral van zijn foto’s in de reisboeken van Cees Nooteboom. En natuurlijk van Libretto.

Naar aanleiding van een grote overzichtstentoonstelling in Fotomuseum Den Haag gaf Hollands Beelden een speciale editie uit met alleen werk van Eddy Posthuma de Boer. De eerste helft zijn zwart-wit beelden, meest straatfotografie, met zijn typische humoristische toets. Het tweede deel is kleur en gemaakt in opdracht, voor de wereldtentoonstelling in Osaka in 1969. Het werk in kleur is meest geposeerd maar heeft toch een typisch EPDB stijl.

Ultralearning by Scott H. Young

Ultralearning by Scott H. Young is a comprehensive book on, well, ultralearning: how to master a complex skill as quickly as possible.

Image result for ultralearning

The combines theory with practice. Young grew his experience in the field through various experiments he undertook himself, like acquiring an MIT degree within a year, learning 4 languages in a year, and learning to draw within a month. 

Ultralearning is: a well planned strategy, self-directed and intense.

In a world where average is over and lower skilled jobs are quickly overtaken by machines, Ultralearning may be a strategy to ensure employment of all sort.

Young identifies a number of steps.


This phase determines your strategy. What to learn, which materials and methods to use, how to learn. Planning phase. May take up to 10% of total time spent.


You need focus for fast learning. So you need to plan time, opportunity, venture, etcetera to fit the ultralearning activities into your life.


As doing is best, plan for a direct method of learning. Prefer speaking a language over studying idioms.

Young identifies some ways to achieve this

  • Transfer: apply subject in a new context.
  • Do a project.
  • Go sit in the environment in which the skill must be practiced.
  • Simulate practical application.
  • Overkill, for example, aim to become world champion.


Find the bottleneck in your skill development (Young call this the rate determining step) and drill it. Ways to drill:

  • Time slicing.
  • Focus on a specific cognitive component (for example: pronunciation).
  • Copy others.
  • Deep dive a specific subtopic.
  • Try something, see what’s holding you up, focus on that (Young call this prerequisite chaining).


Immediate feedback is essential to achieve expert level. But also be assess what advise to ignore.

Kinds of feedback you can seek for:

  • Outcome feedback (a test result)
  • Information feedback (what was done wrong)
  • Corrective feedback: information feedback with also advice how to do better. This of course is best feedback.


Repeat to remember. Spread learning and repeat systems. Proceduralize, overlearn, use mnemonics.

Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein builds a memory palace to memorize 52 playing cards in a minute or 2.


Great example here: Richard Feynman. 

I think it is more discipline than intuition. 


  • Don’t give up on hard things.
  • Prove to understand – reproduce, explain yourself.
  • Don’t fool yourself.


  • Experiment to find your own path.
  • Diverge from your teachers and mentors.
  • Experiment with learning systems, technique, style.
  • Copy then create
  • Compare side by side experiments
  • Add new constraints.
  • Mix (unrelated) skills to something you uniquely can bring. This is Scott Adams combining two “ good” skills into a unique combination.
  • Explore the extremes.

A nice read. 

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**K – Sarah Knight

Voordat Mark Manson zijn Subtle Art publiceerde had Sarah Knight hetzelfde onderwerp met een al te gelijkvormige titel uitgebracht.

Volgens Knight zelf is een inspiratie voor haar boek (en ongewild ook de titel) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up van Marie Kondo.

Het boek helpt de lezer bij het identificeren en prioriteren van de zaken waar je wel en geen fuck om zou moeten geven. We geven veel te veel fucks volgens Knight. Voor een blijer en comfortabeler leven is het goed om van een groot deel van die vreugdeloze fucks af te komen en meer toe te komen aan de fuck die je wel belangrijk vindt.

Knight categoriseert de fuck in 4 groepen: Dingen, Werk, Vrienden en Familie. Elk van deze categorieën worden door Knight uitgediept en voor elke categorie is komt ze met een aanpak.

Halverwege het boek heb ik het wel gezien, en blader de rest van het boekje door. Fuck It. Geen zin meer om alles te lezen.

Save time

Free after Seth Godin:

Don’t watch television

Don’t go to meetings


Look at the blank space beween you and the future.

What is high leverage work.

(versus what crappy task is there only to keep you from doing the real work).

How to change a habit

Not mine, but from James Clear:

Start (very) small)

Increase in very small ways – 1% better every step

Break habits into chunks

When you slip, get back on track immediately (don’t let the slippage become a habit). Don’t Miss Twice.

Be patient. Stick to your pace. It is not the last sentence that finished the novel.