Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, with Professor Cal Newport
Oh. You. Good, afternoon everyone I'm Sala Ismail head of library technologies, at Georgetown University Library, and it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this special program we're. Thrilled to be joined on Cal Newport, associate. Professor of computer science here. At Georgetown, Cal. Is here to discuss his newest, book digital, minimalism. Which, explores, how casually. Society, adopts, alluring, new technologies. Digital. Minimalism, which you will have the opportunity, to purchase the, end of this event is meant, to be an indispensable guide. To, anyone, seeking to cultivate a focused light in, an increasingly, noisy. World all, those cell phones tablets, and laptops and, all those social apps in. Addition, to researching, cutting-edge technology, Cal also writes about the impact of innovation on society, is, the author of six, books including, digital minimalism, and the, bestseller, deep, work which. Argues, the which, argues, that focus, is the new IQ in the modern workplace, Cal's. Writings, and ideas have been featured in The New York Times and, PR, The, Wall Street Journal. The Economist, The New Yorker and more without. Further ado. So. My apologies, in advance, I thought. Warm weather meant you're not allowed to get colds anymore but my three kids are like, germ magnifying, machines and so you. Know if, I collapse on stage let's just pretend this because of my fervor for the topic. So. I figured what I would do is talk, a little, bit about why. I wrote this book what's the story behind it right how did I come to it and. Then I'd like to give, some observations. Typically when I give these talks on I'm. In the middle of my tour so it's a little bit weird to be where I work on the book too which is very convenient I, like, to give some observations, about what are some things I've been noticing and some typically. Like recently what have I been noticing would have been on the road about how people were responding to the book what's catching people's attention, what surprised, me and. Then I thought I would add a sort. Of extra, code under this that I don't normally talk about but I figured since I'm here at Georgetown where I work, it. Might be interesting to talk a little bit about. Why. As, a computer scientist, an. Academic, I write books, the. Better-known academic, so, I figured that would be applying they'll do questions and then we can make. Questions. The priority, and if. I don't like what you're asking that I can lecture on theoretical computer science or the. Other won't fill the time and we have whiteboards. So. How did I come to write this book so, we it's, helpful to rewind a little bit to 2016. So. 2016. That's when I published, deep work. So. That came out of 2016. The. Right way to think about deep work at least as it's, relevant divisional, minimalism is that it's a book that is about some of the unexpected. Consequences, of. Technology. On the workplace, right so. By. The way. Probably, free myself a little bit I mean okay. I'm. Used to I'm a professor I'm used to laundry. So. So, deep work and, in some sense was about unexpected technology. Unexpected, consequences, of technology. In. The workplace and, so we talked about how things like low friction digital, communication, like email and slack. Was. Having. These consequences, on our ability to concentrate and that there's an actual sort of, economic. Consequence, to us losing our ability to concentrate and so the book actually talked quite a bit about. The. Concentration, as being something that is. Important. So, I put this book out there I go. On tour I do a lot of interviews about it and, I, kept. Getting this feedback from people that was essentially saying okay, maybe I buy your premise about. These. Unexpected, consequences, of technology. And. Work but what about our lighthouse Idol. This. Is what people kept going back with its like in our personal. Life outside of work there. Seems to be something, going on that we're not happy about and this, is definitely something that seemed to be picking up steam, let's.
Say In the last two years or so something in the last two years or so people really begin to have this growing. Sense of unease. About. The role of Technology, in their life outside. Of work and. So, I start, to look into this I want to understand I want, to understand what was going on and, one, of the things that immediately became clear is that the, issue is, not. Utility. So. When people say they're uneasy about like what's happening, on. These screens in, their. Life outside of work. The. Issue they're having is not what. I'm doing when I'm looking at this screen is, worthless. I don't like it right. That doesn't, seem to be the, problem it's not like cigarettes. Or cigarette smoking where people, would just be happy sorry to wander back to the film thank you where. People would, just be happy not to do it at all actually what I'm doing, grab. And we can look out these windows I'm sure we'll see someone, somewhere. We could grab and say what are you doing. They'd. Proper report its there's. Some valley too so. So what seems to be going on. Well. When you push people further the issue seems to really be about. Autonomy. So. This seems to be what's going on it's not utility, its autonomy, so what people seem to be increasingly. Uneasy, about is this idea that they're. Doing this more than they should or. That they're doing this more than they know is healthy or they're. Doing this to the exclusion. Of things, that. They think, are more important, all. Right so it's almost a sense of diminishing manage, the. Quality of my life is diminished by how much I'm doing not that everything, I'm doing on here is bad, and that's one of the themes I picked, up pretty quickly when. I was out there studying it so then the question is what do you do about this and so the answer, question you, need to understand two things, why, is this a problem, like. Why is this happy to than to what. Works for getting around it and. So. You know what I found is that there was lots of people who for years now are out there giving tips and they're giving tricks and they're giving hacks or. How you spend less time looking at your face we've. Probably all seen these same articles right turn off your notifications, that's one you hear a lot, don't, bring the phone into the bedroom that comes up a lot, Digital, Shabaks are popular and take a break from technology like one day a week one night a week don't use technology, when, I was out in Silicon Valley a couple weeks ago talking about the book everyone, seemed to be putting their phone into grayscale this. Is a thing you make the screen black. And white and, then maybe it'll be less. Appealing right, you'll, use it less that's the idea. Well. The way I'm always very nervous gonna have the Silicon Valley because I don't. Know how welcome I am always looking over my shoulder for Mark. Zuckerberg it actually turned by the way just as an aside it, turns out I, found. That when I was out there but I actually have, met on many occasions, and until. Recently the sort of the head of Facebook so so Zuckerberg is over all the products but the person who runs Facebook, actually knew and I didn't know that, what. Do you just step down so. But. Back when I was saying there's plenty of tips there's plenty of hacks right that's all out there and we've, seen the same articles differently get it again it didn't really seem to be doing anything right. It wasn't really making a substantial change the people who felt like they're uneasy, about, their. Relationship, with their digital tools so then you go out there and you study people who seem to really have a handle on this, seem. To be using. Tech real intentionally, they seem that be happy, about it all in their life and typically they're doing things that are more. Drastic, what. They actually have is some sort of underlying, philosophy. We. Can call it a philosophy of technology, use that's the phrase I use but a philosophy, that gives them a, consistent.
Way Of tackling the question of what. Tech going to use how do I use it why do I use it right. So the people, who have fundamentally, different relationships. Had. These stronger philosophies. Well. I, seen. This before or what seemed familiar to me about this was actually food and fitness. Nicole. Taught me that you. Look at food and fitness we saw something similar, where. We had a rise of, suddenly hyper palatable, foods and junk foods arising. In the, mid 20th century we got an obesity epidemic in, large, part because of this we. Found that tips. About eating healthier and moving more and didn't. Get the job done who. Are the people that got really healthy cool think about the person you know who's the most annoyingly, healthy person you know they probably have some philosophy, right like they're vegan or paleo or something, that's basing their values it gives them a very consistent way of thinking about something like food that's how they're able to actually, have. A strong stance against the cultural forces push you know so. The idea behind digital, minimalism, is that the people who are having success, with technology, and the personal life tended, to have some sort of deeper philosophy, basing their values on which they approached, Haqq and. So. I gave him a name to this philosophy though I certainly didn't invent, the philosophy, and it wasn't the first and apply it to technology. But, I call it digital minimalism. Which, is a word that's easy to type and as countless interviewers, have discovered, it's more complicated to pronounce did you think as. Something writers don't think about minimalism. It seems easy, enough that's hard so. I call it digital minimalism, but basically. The idea here is you take the, ancient, notion of minimalism. Which. Is an idea that you can go back and see Marcus Aurelius talking. About this you can see Thoreau talking, about this you can see the. Voluntary, simplicity move, in the 1960s, talk about this you can see Mary Kondo, talking. About this I didn't. Know much about her until recently now I know a ton about her. Turns. Out she is popular. All. Of these people are applying this ancient idea of minimalism which, is a philosophy. That says in many human endeavors, you're. Better off focusing. Your, attention on, a small number of things that you know for sure really valuable. As. Opposed to trying to take some of that attention and spread it out over other things that are less valuable. Focusing. On the big wins but. More simply tends. To leave you better off than trying to scatter, that over anymore small, and so you can apply this to your closet, right. And get rid of the things that gonna spark joy but you can also as. I've discovered apply, this to. Your phone and so this is what these digital minimalists were doing and it's what I talk about in the book is that essentially.
They Get. In touch with an answer to the question and like this is what I care about this is what I want to spend my time doing especially, outside of the work context, and. Then they work backwards, from that to deploy technological. Tools and, so, the question they always ask is, is. This tool, one. Of the best ways to use technology to, help one of these things I really care about and if the answer is no they say I'm happy missing out on it I don't, care whether or not it has some value if it's not giving me a big win on the things I care about, I'm. Okay missing out on and. If. The answer is yes they said I'll bring it to my life but I might put some fencing, around it so I want, to know it like how am I going to use it what am I going to use this I'm not just gonna open, myself to unrestricted, use the technology, that's essentially, the digital minimalist approach they're. Very intentional. About their technology they. Deploy it at the service of very specific values, and because of that they get a big went out of it while avoiding a lot. Of the potential. Downfalls of unrestricted, use and so. I wrote this book that explained, how. We got to the place where everyone is uneasy and what, this particular solution of digital minimalism was. Why. It works, the type of things to think about if you're trying to embrace the more digitally minimalist, life and, it, also includes, and this is something, as. An academic I was a little bit uncomfortable with it actually has a 30-day, process. In it which. Is not the type of thing I would normally write about there's actually a 30-day process, for trying to do this or decluttering, in your digital life and the reason is in there is. That it works, that's. What I found is that it's. Actually really difficult, to. Take, your digital life and pare, it down something, is really intentional, and Iran is this sort of informal, experiment, a couple years ago right head it was 1600 people go through this process and, what. I found is, actually, having that much time, to. Really step away and reflect and figure out what matters, and the rebuilding, carefully digital life you really need something like amount of time so I've been out there pushing this sort of relatively. Large transformation. Process but actually it's been put aside a whole thirty days to sort of reinvent, your digital life. That's. Where the book came from, those. Are the basic the. Basic ideas of the book so. What have I learned being. Out there talking about it. Well. One. Thing I've learned being out there talking about the book is that, of. The various things I outline. Probably. The thing that seems to be resonating the most with people is. What I uncovered, in my research about how. We got to a place where we look at our phones all the time. So. We think about that as being somehow. Fundamental. To the technology, right. You know you have a smartphone is ubiquitously, connected, to the Internet like, that's just how we naturally, are going to use it right we're gonna look at it all the time it's it's an interesting thing, but if you actually go back and look at it that's not how we.
Started, With these devices I mean. If you look at the original iPhone, it was not intended to be something that you looked at all the time, it wasn't sold as something that you were supposed to look at all the time. Social, media was not invented, as something you're supposed to look at all the time it wasn't used that way so where, did this behavior come, from well. As best as I can tell it was, essentially. Created by. The social media companies. And. There was this transition, point there's some interesting research on it but there is this transition, point when they were getting ready for the I do so, in. Particular when Facebook was getting ready for its. IPO, was this this big. Transition point they, had to get the revenue numbers up right because, they had to try to get a big, win, a big, return for. Their original investors so they had to get their revenue numbers up and so, what they actually did is they went through a reason. Earring of the social media, experience. So. That it was less about you posting, your, friends posting, and you, reading what your friends posted they engineered. The experience, so it was much more about this constant. Incoming, stream of social approval indicators, so. Things like likes and tags. And, favorites, and this was a good this, was like a change to, the service and how it worked but it changed, it from this more static, type of thing it. Says something where every time you check that you could get a reward it was a reward it was about you. This. Was intentional and, it was basically from this transformation, that we got that, behavior, of like wanting to check this all the time and, so, that. Essentially retrained, us the. See our phones is something that we've use all the time and. Once we are retrained, we became used to it so that's an interesting thing to keep in mind is that this this behavior, of constantly making phones. Is. Itself, relatively, recent and is itself relatively, contrived the. Other, interesting, observation, I've had being. On the road is that journalists. Hate Twitter so. If you're if you're curious about that when you talk to journalists, once they are off, mic or off-camera they they they feel completely, obligated, and completely unhappy with how much they have to use Twitter and, I, would say the final these are just sort of like recent observations, the. Final thing I've noticed is that. Professional. Athletics, are getting interested in this so. Just, as like an interesting aside, I. Talked. To a lot of people from various professional, athletic front offices, and in sort of recent weeks in recent months I think in professional, athletics, they're. Starting to get more interested, in, this. Notion of, this. Has, an effect on this and this. Has a huge effect if you're doing something really cognitively, demanding like, performing, at the. Professional, level in the leave sport the. Complete, concentration matters, and so this is a change that's starting to bubble up in professional athletics they're starting to worry about let's say the. Way the athletes use phones it just as a sort of insider. Thing about what's going on out there. That's, something I've found to be interesting. Okay. So. That's digital minimalism, that's roughly what the book is about and, those. Are some observations I've I've had from the road I'll, say briefly why am i as a computer, scientist, writing. Books, on these topics. The. Way I see it now is essentially like I am a technologist, and so it makes sense for me as a technologist, to also do some thinking about impacts of these technologies, on. Our culture and, so with deep work and with this book and with the new book I'm working on now all specifically. Tackle, this. Intersection, of Technology, and cultures I think we need as many voices as possible trying to understand these things I think technologists. Of cells we have our own sort of interesting, views on what's going on what we can do about it and. So you know people like to refer to, these. Refer to me as having two careers right we have these two careers your professor and the writer and so part of what I'm trying to do is get that to come, across more as one career that it's actually two, natural facets, of one career as being sort, of intellectually, engaged in technology is, not just developing. Technologies, but also thinking. About their impact and so that's something I've been trying to try to work out I think George sounds a good place to actually have. This type of intersection. Okay. So.
That's What this book is about and I. Am, happy if anyone has any questions, I'm, happy to take any questions anyone has. Yes. Right up front are you proponent. Of renaming, the, phone because. It's more than just a telecommunication. Device yeah. All, right that's interesting question like given a different name because it's used, for so much yeah I, haven't. Thought about that that, particular idea, but the underlying, issue, there I think is an. Important, one, there's. This interesting article I came across where, someone. Went back and reminded, us that the original. Motivation for the smart phone it. Was a business facing, product. Effort and the, original motivation was, productivity. Because. If you go back to let's say like the early BlackBerry days if you were away from your office. Laptops. Were big and this. Was before Wi-Fi, was like very, widely spread right so if you're away from your office you really couldn't do much and so. The whole notion of the smart phone is we can put like some communication. And some basic sort of stuff you would do on your computer technology. In a phone and. Then you can get some work done beyond, the office and so at the interesting point, in his article I found it is okay that's no longer the case we, have laptops. That are smaller. Than pads. Of paper we. Have tablets. That are incredibly lightweight they can do all this type of stuff. And so we don't really need them to fill that role right, you're better off just bringing the light, tablet, with you on the road of your business and so, they had to you, know if your Apple but. Your Samsung you, have to figure out in some sense okay how do we get people to need these right when it's no longer a business proposition, and. That's where we get a lot of the sort of invented use and so this is why there's such a focus on camera quality for example that's. A way to get people use, these the social media companies completely cracked helping. People to take out a phone all the time to look at it so. It's a bit of a divergent, answer to the question but, yeah. The original purpose of this is no longer there the, purpose we use it for now was, largely, invented, a lot of it in response to how. Do we get more time and attention from. A revenue perspective, but. Anyways I'm a big fan of dummy down I had this op-ed in The Times earlier in the year where, I was saying more people should go back to Steve Jobs his original, vision for the iPhone which, is, it. Takes a couple things you people really love to do like make calls and listen to music and made. The experience great and, it was this tool that did a couple things really well and that's, probably a better way to use a phone than sort of the current way which is always on. Yeah. I. Mean. I know some of the people who are at the forefront of the the. Push for various, regulations. And. What I can say is I'm yet to actually hear, a, particular. Regulatory. Philosophy. That I think is going to have a major impact, on the things that people really seem upset about and. I, think this is in part a sort. Of PR agenda, so this made us a little bit conspiratorial, but so what I've noticed being on the road talking, to lots and lots of people about, their experience, with phones like what they like what they don't like compared. To what let's say you're seeing in new, coverage, of. Technology. Right is, they're. Talking about two different conversations and, so I think if I'm let's, say PR at Facebook, what, do I want the conversation to be a I wanted to be about privacy.
To Doing the deep work doing the writing that you that, you like to write, well so like, for example I, had this article in. The Chronicle higher education last month that, maybe got me in some trouble because they ended up titling, it is email making Professor stupid. When, I was told it was their most read article of, the year after. But. That's actually so, it's a topic on it's one tackling in my new book actually, but. I think. One of the things that for, me so I don't use social media for example so that's not a problem I don't I. Don't, web surf for the most part I don't I don't even believe in using bookmarks because, I figure if. A website, is important enough for me to check I should remember it so I don't actually spend a lot of time looking at looking at my phone or my. Computer screen but email obviously, is a. Huge there's, a huge issue and, so. This. Is a whole other talk as a whole of the book the book I'm working on now by the way the working title is a world without email there's. I give you some sense like, somewhere. Between the fantasy. But. The real. Quickly like what I think the, theory I'm developing here is that essentially, and. This is this is essentially. Like a bit. Of a technological, determinist type, idea right so there's a sort of big split in the philosophy of technology, between technological. Determinist. A technological, instrumentalist, and so the instrumentalists think you know the technology is like essentially completely neutral like what matters, is the cultural. And social forces acting. On the people that use them and, on the people that invent them and that's how you can understand technology and then the determinists, think well technologies, can actually have these. Big impacts, that are kind of, unplanned. And unexpected and. They, seem almost like on, tax rate, and. So I think we had some kind of email so when we introduced, low-friction, digital. Communication. For. Various reasons it upset, the way I would think about an engineers that it upset the dynamical, system we had of, work, interactions, it upset at the got, us the sort of nonlinear and predictable response or, completely changed how we worked and. It changed how we worked so that like everything two things happen one so we're in this constant ongoing unstructured, conversation. Became how we worked no one decided that that was just emergent, once the technology was there it. Also significantly. Increased. The number, of stakeholders. That now have access to your time and attention so. This is why I like in an organization, like in Georgetown you can now you, just compared. To 30 years ago there's a number of different groups and organizations, and whatever on campus, that are now you, know you need to fill this out we need this from you look at this whatever whatever that it also explodes, because there's this sort of balance between what's the friction and getting in touch with this time and attention what's the value we get and. So I think we've inverted, created, a whole knowledge work sector, that. Is not working very well because. We're constantly communicating. And we're doing much more stuff than we used to do and this is all. Completely. Mismatched with how brain psychology, works and so I talked about in deep work that there's these sort of huge cost to context switching if. You need to use your brain to produce something valuable there's. A huge cost to switching your attention let's say to an email inbox for even, a minute, the time is a matter but switching to be an email inbox and coming back gives, you this long lasting attention, residue it, reduces cognitive performance and so there's this business I think there's a complete mismatch between, power. Neural, hardware works and the. Work environment we set up and I. Mean I would go so far as to think this is a factor at play in the fact that in the non, industrial. Sectors. Of non industrial economic.
Productivity Zuv, a form of economic metric, of productivity, excluding. Industrial productivity so looking largely at the knowledge sector has been flat for at least a decade and. Throughout this whole period we've made communication you. Know and, formation retrieval. Faster. More flexible than, ever before billions have been invested and instead of us getting more productive, has been. Flatlined. And I think that's in part is because we accidentally, created this mismatch between how, our, brains work which is we need. Undisrupted. Focus. On one thing we really want to produce high, pocket, about put on that thing and the need to constantly check in on all these communication, channels makes that almost impossible, so it's like we're. Accidentally. And, persistently. Reducing, our cognitive. Outlet and so email, is a big thing I'm thinking a lot about and I'm writing a lot about it I think, it's emailing. The problems, that caused I think are something that's ripe for revolution, and. I think there's going to be massive changes, probably the next 10 years of Melos work that's. That's a long answer short. Yes in, many different settings we hear a lot about the importance, of networking and. How to be engaging whether we thought it's is whether that's in first of our online and with more and more received a presence online and from, like the professional. Career perspective of when you're applying for jobs you get a lot of questions about your social media platforms, and your LinkedIn profile, and questions. About your Twitter account and not, having a strong digital presence, online can, raise like suspicions, questions, sometimes what do you think about that question yeah so. So. Probably of the various articles I've written the one that got me yelled out the most was. 2016. I wrote that this was again, in The Times I've read an op-ed that said. Social. Media your social media presence is not a support to your job as you think it is young, people just stops paying so much time on their social media presence actually they probably better off putting, that time towards other things that are useful to that job and, people. Hated, it I mean this is a really interesting, it. Was to the point where the New York Times actually, commissioned. The response, op-ed for the next week so like they went out and they got the head of, something. At monster commerce on to, write an op-ed about why my offend was wrong because there you. Know pushback he was. But. Interestingly so. It so I put that up there and that came out right. After the presidential election right so this was actually this was the same the, same weekend I think was like the weekend after the presidential election. By. The end of that year my. And I'm kind of dodging your question to talk about something else but I'll get back to it at, the end of that year there's this like, small video this talk I've done it at TEDx about why you should put social media there just been languishing, went. Up really literally millions of views and I, think there, was this turning. Point in, our culture that happened, between like, november and. Jan member, of 2016. And and, the beginning of 2017. Where. People's, relationship, with social media kind of changed and i think, what happened is up until the presidential election, most people have a sort of uniformly. But. Vaguely positive. Association. With social media it's high-tech it's of the future it's sort of part of this exuberant bubble, that's been happening it's, been helping the stock market rise since things since the recession, and. Just like it was weird or eccentric when people like me said don't, use social media right and I think what happened, my theory is the the election, to the Donald Trump election on all, sides of the political spectrum gay. People like really specific, things that got, them upset about social media and so if you're on the right there are certain things that got people upset if you're on the left or specific things I think that changed.
The Place where people were. Categorizing. Social media in their brain right and I think it shifted, it from universally, good to something that could have flaws and, then once it was something that could have flaws people started thinking well wait a second you know how am I using the disregard so I think there was like a cult that that article that got so much trouble within. That. Was like the last of, the age of I think sort. Of uniform, generally. Speaking this is probably good as weird to. Be negative about it so I was, using your course as an excuse to talk about that's what I think things changed back back to your point I. Think in a lot of job situations, now it. Would probably be applause if you said now I don't use it on i whatever. You busy focusing or, like I find it distracting right, like I'd rather focus on these, type of things that's. Become countercultural. And positive, and. So. That's, what I didn't say I would also say in mini fields I'm this was the original point of that article in. Many fields. It's. Overrated, the degree to which people think, that their their social media presence is important, or. The, role it plays in networking. A lot, of cases I think it has, been exaggerated. To some degree and, I think the trade. The. Average u.s. user using almost two hours of data social media I think, the advantage is you get from that if you took those two hours a day and let's say instead you. Know applied, those to other forms of networking or even better like improving certain skills that were really valuable the industry would be probably a. 10x. More valuable. So everything, I'm an author though social media press it's like you could still sell books I was told I couldn't, work. It's. Funny because. Actually. Follows under like centralization. Of different social options so it you could have just one have to do a lot of different things, in. This new age of people becoming more or. Demanding, to become more autonomous over their phones do you think that market compartmentalization. Is like a good way for a technology to -. All. Right so it's, about a little bit more so if I'm a tech company and I wanted to embrace the compartmentalization like, what might that look like, so for example like after reading deep work actually I was able to get all the social media apps off my phone but the last one was Facebook and the reason I was able to do that is because messenger, you can actually a messenger without having, a Facebook account so that's. Kind of me, yes yes okay so so I think that would be really useful for users I think. They're really worried about doing it because, I think at, least I mean then again I'm just looking at this relatively, small sector, which is like the attention conglomerates. But, basically the court of the business models the ecosystem, notion so, you, enter the ecosystem. Like the Facebook ecosystem, because there's something specific that you need to do like messengers, wait there big regret. Making. Messenger, separate, reason. So you have something like when I use messenger is how I talk to this. Relative, or, something like that well what they want you to do is think well now I'm in the Facebook ecosystem, so as long as I'm there only look at the newsfeed I'm gonna look at the do see let me go here and it's just like Instagram, is doing really well in part because. It's. Hard to take it off your phone because you need to take use, photos on Instagram and well that's where you take your photos right and so they keep you on there because you want to see your nieces photo, or, something but, then you're in the world and then they they can grab you for I mean Facebook products, now consume about 50 minutes per day. Sort. Of the average user, so, I I think compartmentalization. Is great and in fact it's actually what I I preached for just doing it yourself and so all, the case things on my bucket digital, minimalist, they're. Really, big on.
Never. Just saying I use this service or I don't use this service I it would never be so big they always say how and when do I use it and so, like, in the book I talk about for visual artists Instagram. Is really important, because, a, lot, of artists post work and work in progress on Instagram, and if you're an artist what you need like the fuel for being an artist especially individual, artists you have to see a lot of other art because. That's that's the the raw material that feels your own creativity and so Instagram, is like democratize, art because it used to be you had to live in Soho if, you wanted to be a really good artist cuz that's all the galleries were otherwise, you just couldn't see you know right now Instagram you can live anywhere right. But. A lot of visual artists I talked to you went through this sort of minimalist process they say okay use Instagram, for that reason because it's important but, I only, use a common user will not use on my phone. I'm, going to curate. Who I follow down to like ten artists, to me and I have a schedule maybe I check that Sunday night on my desktop computer and so you see a lot of this sort of self compartmentalization. Where people come in and say I can, get a big win at Facebook's group there's another one profile. A bunch of different students for example who you. Know I run this group you know at my campus and we use Facebook groups they, can organize I have to look at Facebook groups and so, they'll do something won't happen on their phone and they'll use like a browser. Plug-in, that, scrubs the newsfeed so. That they can just they go on the Facebook and all they see is the group it's, like this is great I'm getting this value out of it and Facebook is not grabbing 50, minutes of my time every, day and so, I call it in the book the attention resistance, but there's this like whole, group of people who were really careful to use a lot of tools about how do I go and like do these surgical strikes on these platforms and, self-imposed. Compartmentalization. Get, out what is really really useful to me without, allowing the rest a sort of guinness hooks into my brain so i think users should definitely do it and i think the particular, attention economy companies hate it. Yeah. So. One of the things I've. Been hearing from a lot of parents on the road for example is, modeling, is crucial right. And so it's like almost impossible, to. I mean you can lecture all you want and put. County Porter County. Part on the audio book on car trips with multiple. Parents have got a. Local. Parent company yes there, we go you, put it in the car. I'll, marry them don't worry yeah. But. If you're looking at the phone all the time it's, really really hard right so so one of the things that seems big among parents and the reason I'm a parent but my kids are young right so I'm really learning I'm. Learning a lot from parents, whose kids are older cuz it's relevant like my, six-year-old doesn't have a phone it's not really relevant but that is 60 year old this would be much more important and, so this is one thing I'm hearing from them is modeling, is really important so I wrote this article not long ago on my blog called, digital, minimalism, for parents and I talked, about this one idea that a local. Parents had told me which I thought was really interesting which, is essentially, when they're home after work.
They. Don't keep the phone with them it's, a simple idea right it is what we used to do but it can seem scary but they put it on like the foyer like near the front door like. The idea is if you need the phone for something like you. Go you go there to the foyer you want the phone it doesn't leave there and you have a plug in there or, if you're expecting a call you have the ringer on you, know used to do you. Know when you get it you go and you get it when it rings and if. You're having like a tense conversation we, have to keep going into whatever like it's a bit of a pain. But. Your kids don't see you with. The phone it's a constant companion which is incredibly important, so you know the thing about that is a painting but basically as, I said in the article only that's basically the definition of parenthood. I mean. The. Whole thing is inconvenient, everything. It's. Not a game to get into if you're looking to avoid, inconvenience. And. So this was this, idea of something if I was really interested so something as simple as what, you model is like I don't have the phone with me in the house, like. Certainly that's things the other thing I've been hearing and this makes me feel good, is that there seems to be this growing sort, of countercultural. Rebellious, movement among teenagers to. Step, away from social media like, the tide, is shifting from, like this is the cutting edge thing we're doing and parents just don't understand, it too. We're. Really getting exhausted. From. This and and, I'm, kind of looking for an excuse to get away from it and so I've been getting some notes and we. Talked about it earlier but I'll be getting some notes from parents who actually, you. Think it would never work but it has they sat down with their teenager they've talked about like digital. Minimalism or something right here's what's happening here's how Instagram, is sort of harvesting, your attention for data you're sort of but what you're missing out on what. Do you think we should do as a family and, I'm going to report after report of, you know 16 year old 17 year old saying okay I'm done. Great. I'm looking for an excuse I'm looking for an explanation for why I don't have to use these anymore and. They take. Off the phone and so, yeah. We'll see I I think, our culture is going to shift on it I think I mean depending which way the research literature ends up. Finalizing. The research literature mental health and teens is starting to focus, on but psychology, literature's are very complicated, if. It keeps in the same direction it's going without major correction I think like within the next five to ten years, the. Idea that a teenager would have like social medias can be something they don't do anymore, but. In a, near future I'm sorry moving by some of these stories. Yes. So. For. A new tech company and slack, is you know over age. People, are on it everyone, is on all day, drives. Me crazy so. I figured. Out my strategy but a couple of things that it really helps, with are. Lot. Of people who are more introverted, and are less likely to top. Are ready to point will. Feel free to do so in slack and. Also. Democratizes. Problem-solving. Because. It, makes it less hierarchical, and, everybody. Can, dive in and solve, the problem together and many times solve it really quickly so. If there isn't. It like a philosophy. Of digital minimalism. For. Working. Groups, in, terms, of how to get the best out of it but yeah. Well, this is essentially the new book. So. The other problem slack solved. Is the. Ever, filling, email, inbox, is, something, that really clashes with, our sort of. Paleolithic. Social machinery so it's a huge source of unnecessary just, the idea that like there's an input element. With communicated, communicative. Obligations.
Causes. A lot of stress and anxiety because. Just. The way our brain is wired so slack also solves that problem because, of synchronous, and so it doesn't it. Doesn't build an inbox and so that's, part of the relief it gives. So. What's the problem with, slack, so basically what slack is doing is taking a our. Sort of our ancient, instinctual, approach, to coordination, right. And implementing it digitally so if you what. Is our instincts, for how, you should work is we. Should just have. An ad hoc on structure conversation, this is what we would do in you, know the, Paleolithic, if we're hunting a mastodon there's four of us we. Would just you go that way I go that way you sort of read the situation you you use flexible, it's adaptive, right that is our instinct, for for how to communicate and so the slack sort of implements that what. The research literature shows it's like yeah that's great for. Like up to five people. But. If you try scale it up to let's say an organization, with hundreds of people it, all breaks down because. Now it's just too much communicating, to try to keep up and things get lost in the brain completely fragmented, so. One of the things I the. Future I see is I think we need to get away from it. Just sort of a global, approach, to coordination, with a number of organizations, where we just take the five hunters on the savanna and say let's just do that writ large and the whole organization we're all an email we're all in slack everyone can talk to everyone because. It just doesn't scale and, it requires too many brain cycles, just to constantly, manage, and be a part of these conversations and. It's very difficult to extract yourself in the conversations, because they're needed if this is how we coordinate is the unstructured, ad-hoc, communication. That's problematic, within. The scope of small teams working on something secret. Is communication is very powerful right. So like the ability like here in my team of four and five we could sit and go back and forth and do the sort of secret ad hoc thing is very efficient, and so, I don't, know exactly how to engineer solution, but I you know I could imagine a future in which at. The scale of teams there's. A lot of back-and-forth. Unstructured. Communication. Helped by low digital networks, we. Talk about communication between teams though or other, units, in the organization, trying to compete with the teams that there's going to be a lot more structure. To the channels and a lot more friction a lot a lot less direct access, this. Is like they used to do at Bell Labs right you you had these what we offices. With doors that would shut and it would be you and three other people and go into this office and figure out transistors, or what happened to but. Outside of that it was sort of hard to get people's attention, so. It was I'm still, trying to work out those dynamics, but basically. If. All you're doing is, managing these conversations, they're incredibly adaptable they're incredibly. Flexible. It's. Very convenient. But. It says a really ill-suited, if you're doing that all the time it's really ill suited to then using the taking your brain and actually creating. The things that ultimately needs to be created so I think we have more of a segregation, of at, what scale we do that and at what scale do we have a sort of much, more button-down. Protocols. And friction for communication, yeah, I mean you can do that with channels, so there's, probably a book bar a how-to guide that, needs to be in terms of how, many people and what channels for what purposes, yeah yeah, or early computer. Science pressure could write a book. What. Was that emailed it it could spell this all out, yeah we're something huh I'm, still trying to figure it out but yeah and also what that highlights is the tools not the problem right like, slack, is like a pretty. Good infrastructure for a synchronous, digital communication. Email, protocols, is sort of like a very nice innovation, for asynchronous low friction, digital, communication, the, thing that we where the problem comes from the thing that needs to be fixed is what's the underlying workflow, what's. The underlying agreement, on, how we manage. Obligations. That who, does what how we assign it how we execute how we check up on it that's all governed, by some sort of implicit workflow and if the answer is well we'll just have this ongoing conversation. And figure, out on the fly that's when we get into trouble. Yes. You. Don't have to wait to. See the next episode or. Just. The way our attention, spans are, kind of being primed, in these two minute clips, of you, know video content.
And. Also, like the ability to always find the answer you know if you're out to be. Thinking. About a thing instead of being. Bored you, know like what is boredom now. Yeah. Well so just thinking about boredom, is that it's, a strong drive right. We don't like being bored it's, unpleasant so there has to be a explanation for, it right. So. Boredom, is, sort of historically, I'm talking on sorta like the deep history scale here right what. Among other things drive you to do useful things that, are maybe, require some expenditure, of energy like I'm gonna go do, hard on the cave wall or I'm going to build a spear, or something that's like kind of a pain right but I don't like being bored so it drives you it drives you into activity, so, it's actually problematic thing, when, you invent this sort of perfect. Technology just. With like a touch of, can kind, of just dispel boredom because it just how rhythmically, can select, based on a data profile, generating around your past behavior just a perfect thing to show you that's, going to be novel some sort of novel stimuli the. Problem is we can we can kill boredom, just with that press you. No longer have that drive pushing you to do these sort of harder. Or still but ultimately sort of more fulfilling things because that's sort of the the twin parent that the pairing, with boredom was we also get a sense of deep satisfaction when, we actually like, take an intention and make it manifest concretely, in the morning so it drives us it, drives us to do interesting, things those interesting things make us feel better if, you just spell the boredom of the press you. Never get the reward. Of doing the interesting hard type skill things and this, is really actually a problem and so if you don't have sort of high. Quality leisure, activities, I call them the club but things you just steal for the intrinsic quality of the activity, right it just in itself and feel satisfying, we, know all the way back to Aristotle that, this is like a key, part of living, and resilient, and sort, of clearing life even, amidst all the ups and downs you can't control if there's things you do just the quality require, skill you can get better of it you're. Losing a lot of that especially with young people just, skilled, activities, social activities that are hard and skilled but meaningful, because we've been dispelled boredom and. I do think that's I think that's actually a problem. Then. The other problem we get from this is there's, a lot of benefits to having periodic. Time alone with your own thoughts and, so. I'm whole chapter about it in the book but like the long and the short of it is if you, demolish. Every. Last moment of. Where. You could possibly be alone with your own thoughts not, processing, stimuli, it makes us anxious so. We have, this sort of like persistent, background.
State Of anxiety we. Especially, younger people have this sense of there's kind of this void in their life or like what am I supposed to be doing with myself at my time but you kind of paper it over with like if I just do this I'm not like an escape from having to face it but it's still there and you the existential point is it's, right okay right over there and you're kind of just you're blinding yourself a little bit but as you're still feeling that hole and. So it's like one of the scariest, but also one of the biggest rewarding, parts people get when they do this digital especially you know all this digital minimalism, transformation. Is the scary part is when, they step away from this because I asked them to do that for a month it's part of the process it's terrifying, it what, am I supposed to do, but. If they persist and really work hard at figuring out what do I really want to do instead they're, often surprised by the violence really. Rewarding, and it's like we've lost touch with that and so I. Think, messing with or them in the way that we did with these things we. Hijacking. The boredom drive to. Generate data for a small number of companies to get their stock price up so, sort of hijacking. Everyone for enjoyment to take all this time and attention away and also find in the city the stock price has been problematic, and it's leaving, like. A whole generation sort. Of vaguely unhappy, and anxious. Yeah. This has been commonly reported all right that, effect of now like, when you go on Netflix, wait I can't find like the exact thing we want to watch it like really unhappy and, it used to be you go to the video store. Well that's gone that's gone that's gone this is kind of interesting right like I mean just think about my wife and I talked about this visa we're build similar, files before you know kids. But. We saw everything like, that you know just we went Boston at the time we there's, five or six theaters we would go to and, none, of them are things I mean like 10% are things I would not click on. Yeah. Yeah. Going back to the slide question, a little bit. You're kind, of touring around the country if you actually come across me like companies, or. Institutions actually, like training people how to use these. Tools in an effective manner I'm, just I'm gonna get an apartment here I mean, I've always kind of blown away was just no one knows how to actually like effectively, send, an email but not have these reactions. Where you, have annoy or, why. We would even do slash or you know yeah. Not nearly enough but. I think that's going to change right, I think, it's gonna change we're not very good at using these tools we don't have a lot of structure around how we're using it. It's. Hard to find a lot of good examples I mean some of the examples, are ironic, like to fight there's, this social media thing tick tock which. I guess is like the epitome of play time wasting social media supposedly. They're there or their headquarters, but they don't use an email they don't use slack there may be something that's really smart so I'm trying to figure it out except, I just gave a lot of bad quotes about them to, a paper in Canada so I don't know I'm trying to get in there on the wire and find out about this before they. There's. Not a lot of this going on I think. We're going to see a lot of this going on though and because I've seen this if you look at previous intersections. Of technology, and commerce you see that there's these long learning periods, where we do things cut around deeply and then someone. Puts in the time to figure out how to do it better which is almost always inconvenient. Requires more money requires more overhead and has hard edges bad things happen right, you got to be willing to all those things. First. Person who does all those things it makes a lot more money than suddenly the whole industry change and that's, exactly what happened with Henry Ford's assembly line, we. Used to build cars that way those incredibly natural there's. A team building a car right there another, team is build another car over there if you want to scale up and get more teams right people. Are building cars in place the, assembly line was, incredibly.
Complicated. Compared, to that incredibly inconvenient, you know the hire new managers, you have to build all this equipment there's also really hard to get right if you didn't get just right bad things happen this, the steering wheels are getting here too fast and they're piling up or whatever a huge pain figure. Out how to get to work right though produces, cars 100x, faster. So. I think that's what's going to happen with different, education is the knowledge workspace though, it much more highly structured approaches, that allows people to use their brains produce a lot more value and not be burned out and miserable are, going to be inconvenient, and require more investment, and require more overhead and it's going to cause a lot about things to happen and that's why I think we see very little change, but. The pressure is building up and so I think that damn is gonna versiv. Or. We still look at a time you tell me what I should what. Should I be shooting for. I. Read. Back, to back before, so. I cannot have them mixed up in my brain but. As. An elementary school teacher when I read this kind of books I started thinking, a lot in different situations, and, so. With deep work. You. Know most of the examples, are. Adults. That either retire, and I think, you talk about two different ways to reach, that before and, then I'm I was, wondering, if you know or read, or have done any research about. Specific. Learning disabilities. Kids with ADHD and, how. Can we help them get to that deep work when it's, not, necessarily. A decision. That they make to. Focus. And. Avoid. The shallow and get, to, a little, more deeper. Work and that that's the first thing I was thinking while I was reading the book and then the second, thing I was thinking. And. Asking myself is if the structure, of this school. Of. Having a class and then a class and then. And then, promotes. Deep work in, the school structure. Yeah. They're. Both good questions so. The intersection with deep work at ADHD is really interesting, and so oh I'm. Sorry because I I was gonna add I read. A lot of books and they are different like. You. Know I. 45. Minutes of seating, and working, in 15 minutes for anything you know different strategies. For for. That, situation and then I read, the deep, work that it's really, promoting, a long chunk, maybe, of time for, you to really get oh you know 802 do get there well, I mean like the interesting thing about ADHD. Is, for, a lot of people that are, talking about this one, of the the. Regularly. Consistent, behavior needs to use this ability to go into what they sometimes call the hyper focus mode where, it's, just weird back and forth between where, stimuli. Can very easily capture, capture, your attention but. When you're in a situation where. You can lock the attention you can actually sort of do super Carolla, concentration. Right and so like in deep work I've talked about this guy Peter Shankman I didn't mention the book that he was ADHD but he does and, he. Was writing and. What either DUP doing was he booked a round-trip business, class seat to Tokyo and. And. He broke broke. Broke out the Tokyo got, a cappuccino at, the airport they got back on it flew back, finished. The book at this like in this 30 hour period, but he wasn't by, taking the distractions, out, he. Was able to focus incredibly, intensely right and so, a lot, of the things that are making it hard for just, most. People, to. Concentrate make. It really really hard for people with ADHD right. And so if you're particularly, attune to, things. They can do attention capture. Our. Current environment in, schools and, in life and in general especially with phones makes it makes it much much harder but on the other hand if you look at the, sort of structured approaches like the students I used to work with I use, it a lot more in study habits, it's, very structured approaches, like you're talking about words it's very structured to how they do their work where the information is.
You. Can learn a lot about that like what they set up that allows something in the hyper focus mode is actually something that's probably useful for anyone so on the flip side think about it so I think there's something to learn from that community and, it is a lot of what we're doing now that makes things very hard for. That community and in terms of schools I mean, this used to be this. Used to be the function of schools. Especially once you get to like the, college level it was. How. Do we teach your mind to do something which is pretty unnatural in our deep history which is concentrate. For a long time on abstract things right. That's. Not something we spent a lot of time doing and actually but the, primary, one of the primary tools, we use for training that ability was long-form eating right, long for readings like incredibly unnatural, it's very very hard to learn I'm teaching my six-year-old now it's like very. Difficult, to learn you're hijacking parts, of the brain of work designed. To do that to, do that but, once you can teach a brain to read and you doing a lot of it it's really like you're doing pull-ups right for your your your your neurons, all right it's like you're doing this sort of very artificial, but highly effective training, of building. Up abstract things holding with your mind and so like I like to think to hit vertically all the reading you do is sort, of setting, up the teacher mind you focused abstract thinking and so that's why I get worried when we kind of, we. Break things up into smaller chunks or. We move with oh this is old-fashioned, like maybe you could do into YouTube video instead or, like undergrads, I mean really. If. You have a phone near you anything while you're reading you know while y