In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport makes very clear the goal of a 30-day digital declutter is not simply to spend time away from technology for its own sake. During the break, you should “aggressively explore higher-quality activities.” It should be a period of “strenuous activity and experimentation.” The reasoning is that by making space in your life during this time, you can focus on what’s really important to you, and then reintroduce technology as appropriate in a more meaningful and productive way.
In the chapter, Reclaim Leisure, these are the lessons he highlights:
- Prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption.
- Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world.
- Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.
With those lessons in mind, these are some of the practices he suggests:
- Fix or build something every week.
- Schedule your low-quality leisure. (Time-boxing social media activity)
- Join something.
- Follow leisure plans. (Goal-setting for leisure time)
After giving it some thought, here are the activities I’m planning to focus on during my break:
Reading old, challenging books
I’m particularly interested in the St. John’s College Great Books list. And to be honest, I was going to focus on this anyway this year. But the timing of this decluttering exercise is perfect so I can jumpstart this activity.
Starting a band
Just before the pandemic, my wife and I jammed once with a couple of friends (with the loose intention of forming a reggae band). Now that things are getting back to normal, we have plans to give it another go. The catch is I’m going to be playing bass, which has never been my main instrument. (I studied drums and can do some things on guitar and piano.)
Constructing crossword puzzles
I love crosswords and do the New York Times puzzle most days. I’ve played around with trying to construct a puzzle but never gotten very far. During this break, I’ll at least work on some “minis,” the 5x5 versions of the typical 15x15s.
Teaching my kids how to fix or build something every week
I like Cal’s idea of fixing or building something every week, but this doesn’t appeal to me too much. I’ve previously spent time doing car maintenance and woodworking and repairing basic things around the house, and I’m not really looking to invest in those activities again. But since we do have a couple of able-bodied teenagers in the house, I like the idea of passing on some knowledge and getting them to contribute.
Some other activities I want to try to use my extra time for:
- Organizing semi-structured gatherings with friends (maybe like a board game night or bowling or something)
- Calling old friends
- Writing for this blog