Thanks to two incredibly popular books – ‘Deep Work’ and ‘Digital Minimalism’ – Cal Newport’s status as a modern guru who can help us work smarter and think deeper is already well established. Here he comes up with a superb blog to get our engine started nicely for 2020.
He says that if you really want to do the digital detox highlighted in his book ‘Digital Minimalism’, it is far more likely that you will pull it off if you actually started to do more meaningful non-digital stuff. “…if you fill your life with hard but satisfying analog alternatives — activities that resonate with our primal urges to connect, to move, to reflect, to be surrounded by nature, to manipulate elements of the physical world with out hands — you’ll find the appeal of animated GIFs and ASCII snark to be greatly diminished.”
In order to help you do this, Newport has created “the Analog January Challenge. It’s a collection of five commitments that last one month. They’re designed to provide you a crash course introduction to the types of satisfying analog activities that will reduce the anxious attraction of your screens.”
So here are the five commitments which make up the Challenge:
“READ: Commit to reading 3 – 4 new books during the month…The goal is to rediscover what it feels like to make engagement with the written word an important part of your daily experience.
MOVE: Commit to going for a walk every single day of the month. Try to make it at least 15 minutes long. Leave your phone at home…
CONNECT: Hold a real conversation with 20 different people during the monthlong challenge. These conversations can be in person or over the phone/Facetime/Skype, but text-based communication doesn’t count…
MAKE: Participate in a skilled hobby that requires you to interact with the physical world. This could be craft-based, like knitting, drawing, wood working, or, as I’ve taken to doing with my boys, building custom circuits. This could also be athletic, like biking, bow hunting, or, as is increasingly popular these days, Brazilian Ju Jitsu. Screen-based activities don’t count…
JOIN: Join something local that meets weekly. For many people, this might be the hardest commitment, but it’s arguably one of the most important, especially as we enter a political season where the pseudo-anonymity and limbic-triggers of the online world attempt to bring out the worse in us. There’s nothing more fundamentally human than gathering with a group of real people in real life to work on something real together…”
For most office workers in Mumbai, the last two challenges feel very challenging. But Newport urges us to not lose hope. He says that if we spend less time with our phones, these challenges will become tractable. He says that “…for the duration of the challenge that you dumb down your smartphone by following the rules I outlined here (summary: use your phone only for calls, texts, maps, and audio — as Steve Jobs originally intended).
Furthermore, I’d suggest that when you access social media on your computer, you always log out when you’re done, and un-save your password — introducing the crucial extra friction of typing in this information every time you want to check your account.”
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