Book Review: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport & 20 Hours of Audible In 10 Days


Table of Contents

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Hey guys


Here’s the again and I wanted to share with you my thoughts after reading ‘Digital Minimalism‘ and getting through (according to Audible) 14 hours of book reading in around the last 10 days.

Digital Minimalism is an amazing read written by MIT professor Cal Newport about the power of using technology with intention and purpose and getting back on the frivolous or shallow way in which we engage with technology.


What 14 hours 44 minutes of Audible has taught me

I’ve now gone through 14 hours 44 minutes of Cal Newport and heard about what has come from his incredible mind and have begun rapidly applying as much of it as I can to my life.

As I was discussing with Strawberry yesterday – the way that habits/new routines – especially when they are numerous and radical in my life tend to stick is probably at around a 50% ratio.

Not everything I’m trying now will ultimately stick – but I’ve perhaps made 30+ changes overall in the space of the last 2-weeks – it’s all become an incredible blur.

What Cal’s books do – make you do a worldwide audit of exactly how you spend your time, and what you spend it doing – and brings in the question if you’re spending that time in the wisest manner.

I think what’s been most telling for me is that over the last 10 days I have listened to 19 hours of audible and it’s literally changing my life.

If I compare this to Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr – there were zero hours listened to.

1 Hour A Day Of Audible

So what’s exciting to consider is what if rather than listening to audible in ‘sprints’ – I aim to listen for 30 hours a month – i.e one hour a day to simply learn new things

That’s a pretty big number overall – but when broken down into 60-minute chunks on a daily basis it’s pretty achievable.

Furthermore, if you break it down further still – it doesn’t even need to be 60 minutes in one chunk. If you focus on intense listening whenever you have a 15-minute+ break – you need four of them a day to fit in the hour.

Or of course, you can do it in one block.

It’s definitely achievable – and the MASSIVE competitive advantage this would give you in life is incredible.

Digital Essentialism is what is getting me to move toward this place in my life and my thinking.

Maybe I’ll aim for 30 and end up doing 22 hours – but I’m pretty confident that I’ll get to 30 – I have some time to make up for this month but then you have the weekend – where you can easily do 2-hour days.

Cal has many ideas in this book which to a degree I’ve covered in the last blogs – so I’ll get onto some of the other ones I’ve picked up one by one.

Walking Alone Every Day

One element is man’s need for solitude. 

I think that’s definitely the case when you think of the unfettered continual access smartphones and the like have given us.

There’s a decent amount of evidence that Newport discusses in his book that points towards the benefits of solitude. For Newport, he uses it as his opportunity to focus on specific problems that he has within his work or otherwise.

Walking alone is a daily habit of his to such a large degree that he’s built it into the fabric of his life – and doubles up by saying that it’s walking in nature that’s particularly powerful.

Steve Jobs was actually famed for his long walks in nature as well – where if you were invited to join him you could expect a series of intense conversations.

It’s with disappointment but at least the happiness of realisation I say this:

I’ve become so accustomed to listening to music whenever I walk or run – that on those odd times I don’t have my phone or otherwise with me – I end up humming music constantly.

I’ve ultimately conditioned my brain to engage in a low-grade activity that prevents me from thinking deeply about anything.

So the time that walking and solitude can afford you gets literally lost.

I tested this theory yesterday by going for a walk absent of my music with my smartphone on aeroplane mode kept with me as a means of adding notes into my planner as they came to me.

I was out for an hour and it was wildly productive. It’s too early in my journey to know if this will stick but the first attempt was promising.

Newport also talks about the importance of building productive and purposeful leisure activities in your life.

My weekends and spare time can often be spent binge-watching Netflix shows, or trying to find another horror movie to watch on Popcorn time.


Now, as I’ve decided to give up all streaming of entertainment I’ve opened up 5-15 hours a week of additional time for myself..

I want you all to take stock of that for a second…

I’m an ambitious man with big dreams about what I wish to achieve with my life.

Losing 7,800 Hours

Yet…between pointless social media browsing and streaming – I lose around a minimum of 15 hours a week I’d say. 

I’m 33 years old. Assuming I’d discovered this was a challenge 10 years ago – I would have had an additional 7,800 hours of time to do other things with…

That’s 325 full days.

Basically, I’ve spent 10.8 months of the last 10 years either watching TV or being on social media. The weird irony of all of this is that I remember around 5-10 years ago reading an excerpt from a book whose name I forget that (I thought) left an amazing impression upon me…

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That we quell our ambitions and castrate our dreams and ambitions through the vehicle of cinema/reality tv – whilst those whom we watch are busy out there making life happen

The TV shows we watch numb us into catatonia that keeps our eyes glued to the screen.

When you realize this – you recognise that THIS is probably a large part of why those who have incredible success achieve it.

The upside of this realisation is that at LEAST I know this now – and I – and hopefully you my dear reader can take this into your next 10 years and gain 10.8 months of personal and professional fulfillment. 

Moving into the personal fulfillment side of things – Cal refers to our tribal nature and need for strong social connections alongside the potential to have personal pursuits, and hobbies that challenge you – and again provides evidence to show how satisfying these can be.

I do believe that ‘man was made to work. I spent the last few years I’ve been in business also working during the weekend mornings but then wouldn’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the day.

Productive Hobbies

Newport talks about planning leisure activities and using your hands as ‘god’/our ancestors were so used to.

Anyway ultimately, two things have come out of this. I’m making excuses for not learning Italian when I have an Italian partner so I”m committing 4 hours at the weekend to attempt to learn Italian.

I’ve scheduled it for 8-10 am tomorrow (Saturday) as well as Sunday.

Let’s see how I go!

Furthermore, I recognize that there are practical handyman skills I’d definitely love to learn and feel proud of being able to do. 

So I’ve made a note to learn more about DIY hopefully and fix some of the issues there are on in our flat. While I could hire a handyman – it’s true with YouTube I could begin the journey of becoming one myself.

Finally, I’ve always loved making rap music – and I’d love to use my love for this as a reason to continue with my plans to build a recording studio locally that I can walk to and invite my friends to share with me.

The idea would be that I’d do this anytime my spare time allowed once I got the setup working.

So building activities such as these into my leisure time rather than continuing to watch yet another TV show seems a much more productive way to spend my time.

I’m yet to see whether I’ll commit to all of them – but I’m making big changes and I know at least some of them will stick.

On another note – I had some great conversations with my uncle and parents yesterday on two separate calls – and they were really interesting and have been things I’ve taken from this book.

Ultimately the book talks about how it’s important to have conversations not just connections – connections in this context are the ‘low-grade’ WhatsApp chats we have back and forth with people in our network.

30 Minute Phone Calls

Conversations focus upon actual in-depth meaningful conversations we have with people via voice, video, or in-person as opposed to texting on whatever medium you use.

The book describes how a silicon valley executive wanted to remain connected and available to his family and friends without it interfering with his work. Each day he had a drive home from 530pm.

He then purposefully kept 530pm open every day for phone calls with friends and family – so whenever he received a message he would say – that sounds fantastic why don’t you call me to discuss it at 530 any day of the week.

Fundamentally he kept 530pm every day open for such conversations whereby he would call someone or he would be called

This has totally blown my mind – and I tried to put it into practice yesterday.

My dad called me at 1230 and I was in the middle of something and asked him to call me back at 6 pm – cue my mum, dad, Strawberry, Jenny (our cat), and I were all having a great conversation. 

My uncle had tried calling me twice over the last two days and again I’d been busy – this time I called him at 830pm and we had a great 30-minute conversation.

Those two slots are now being kept in my diary for daily opportunities to have meaningful conversations with people I care about.

So. I’ll leave it here and say all in all – reading is having a profound impact upon my life and it’s without a doubt going to become part of the fabric of my life and success.