Discussion about Digital Minimalisim by Cal Newport


I don’t agree. I think his advice on how to talk with your boss about changing how/when/where you work is very good and I’ve read several success stories. What Cal does enjoy is being his own boss in the academic style, but seriously — have that 30 minute conversation where you explain deep work and then ask your boss how much of it they’d like you to be doing.


Being an academic and researcher myself, I agree on the point that our schedules are our own (which is a blessing AND a curse) but would say that anyone can discuss with a supervisor how specific things can be implemented. It can often be impossible to tell a boss that you’re unavailable at certain times (especially true for those in non-hourly or contracted positions) but certain guidelines can and should be discussed with them in order to foster productivity.


I think that goes back to his book Deep Work of resetting certain expectations when possibly. Such as not checking your phone regularly and not having an expectation to respond to email immediately.


I could forsee some bosses being ok with this and others not caring less


I can get “deep work” in the sense that I am uninterrupted, but I’m still in a crowded open office with people talking and running around. I close Slack but I’m definitely “rebelling” by doing that. Anyone in my company will not be OK if I told them I’d be off Slack for a few hours during my work time.

Note that I am still able to get work done, so not complaining too much. I just meant Newport would definitely not like my work environment but there’s not much I can do about it. Most offices seem to prefer seeing butts in seat vs letting people work from home and get more done.


His advice isn’t to just tell your coworkers you’ll be less available. It’s to ask your manager how much deep/focused work they would like you to be doing. Then they help you develop a set of changes that accomplish what the manager wants you to do. So if your manager thought 40% focused work would be a good target, then maybe they would support you having Slack closed from 8-11am, or whatever.

It’s possible your boss would say your job is 100% being reactive and available but I personally don’t think that would be the most likely response.


That’s interesting. “How much focused work should I do” is something I have never asked anyone I’ve worked for. I’d guess most of my former bosses would look at me like I have a third eye. Their answer would probably be “just get it done”.


FYI I just noticed he’s doing an AMA on Reddit now:


Good answer from Cal in that thread about talking to your boss:

One of the most effective strategies seems to be having a discussion with your boss about your deep-to-shallow work hour ratio. The idea is that you explain what deep work is and you explain what shallow work is. You note both are important. You discuss what ratio of deep to shallow hours in a typical week is optimal for your position. Once you have a number set, you can measure and report back. If you’re falling short, then you can work with your boss to make some accommodations to help you hit the target.

The key to this approach is that it’s positive in that it focuses on how to make you more valuable to the company (not you complaining about distractions), and it’s something you’re doing along with your boss…


I agree with you, that said maybe you might have to dumb down or modify the definitions of deep and shallow work. Maybe in those cases frame it as things that pay off vs housekeeping stuff etc? Just a running thought. Use something like “intense concentration that allows for getting stuff done in a shorter amount of time in spurts”. Maybe someone here would be able to flesh that out more but my quick thought.


Sure, I’ve had that discussion, on both sides. They went well. Yes, the discussion needs to be framed with the language of the employee’s job and industry.

I don’t think those job examples are instructive. Amazon is kind of its own thing. Logistics/warehousing in general can use both kinds of work. Same for call centers and trading, both of which I’ve personally observed improvements from schedule optimization and studying time.


“Advice not applicable to everyone” is not exactly shocking news. His advice about how to do deep work better is applicable to people whose jobs (or side projects) involve deep work.


FYI: My manager has let me come in an hour early (and leave an hour early), mostly because I am more awake in the morning so I am wasting part of my prime time commuting. That said, I know people in my company who simply can’t do this which is not Newport’s fault but the company/team culture.


I got rid of Facebook a year ago, and it was one of my top-10 all-time best decisions. I love not comparing myself to other people (who only display the best parts of themselves on Facebook), not being drowned by the time-sink that it is, and getting on with the important parts of my life! :smile:

Now, to use some of that time to actually read this book!


~5 years since I closed my account. Also ditched Twitter. And the top1 all-time best decision: no TV. As in: not at all, not that weird “cord-cutting” which means binge Netflixing instead of cable TV. Nothing at all. And: I am not less informed.


I’ve considered this in the past as well. What type of activities do you participate in during the “prime time” hours. You must have some enriching hobbies, I’m assuming.

  • A wonderful girlfriend, where every minute staring together at a TV screen is a waste of time.
  • Reading
  • Photography (well, at “prime time” it’s editing, printing or developing/scanning)
  • Listen to music instead of TV babbling
  • electronics projects
  • cooking
  • learning
    …and a lot more.


Never signing up for Facebook in the first place is my all-time best decision. :smile: #2 was never caring to follow or watch any sport. Modern culture’s two biggest time sinks.


Hats off to you, I think that’s great. I’m slowly cutting things out. Cal recommended going with a cold-turkey approach to cutting out social apps, but I found this really disruptive. Slowly cutting things out seems to give me the best progress in the long run.


When I was a sophomore in college I deleted my Facebook account for a semester. I had great grades as a result. Now I have made my Facebook account dumb by eliminating most stuff from my timeline. Mainly just use it for Facebook Groups I find useful.