Be a Quitter

Author Cal Newport gives several “rules” for rebuilding your focus and strengthening your ability to produce high-quality work. First, we must make space for deep work. Second, we can embrace boredom. Next, Newport advocates for people to quite social media.

Rule #3: Quit Social Media

Internet sabbaticals are overrated. Why? Because such sabbaticals aren’t training your mind to resist distraction (183). To help strengthen your mind to resist distraction, Newport advocates for quitting social media. Newport argues that we  need a better way of utilizing the internet and seeing these platforms as tools.

The typical way most people evaluate the internet and its tools is through the any-benefit approach. As long as a website or app provides any kind of benefit (no matter how small), we can justify using it. Rather, we need a craftsman approach. Craftsman are very selective in the tools they use. They want the best. So also, knowledge workers must evaluate internet tools the same way. What services will help us accomplish our goals and bring significant benefit to our lives (191)?

By applying Law of Vital Few

Most of the success we attain comes through a few, limited activities. We must focus our attention and effort on these vital few things. In order to do that, Newport suggest the following:

  1. Identify High Level Goals in professional and personal life: List only two or three goals. Make these the most important things in your life or work.
  2. List “most important activities” to help you get to goal: These activities will help you accomplish the goal. Don’t make them too abstract or concrete.
  3. Evaluate whether any “tool” helps you do those things: Does a tool provide a significantly positive impact on that goal? If not, ditch it. If it does, keep it. If you can’t figure it out, give it more time and then make a decision.

Most of the good things that comes to us comes from about 20% of what we do. So focusing on the most important things will create the greatest impact. And so the key principle is to take the time consumed by low-impact activities and reinvesting it and high impact activities!

By Quitting Social Media

One example of evaluating social media Newport gives is of one man who held a “packing party” for his physical items. He put all of his stuff in boxes and for thirty days tested to see what he actually used. When he need an item, he took it and put it back in it’s place. Doing so, enabled him to evaluate what he truly needed (284).

Newport advises to apply the “packing party” mentality to social media: Quit cold turkey for thirty days and see if someone reaches out to by other means to ask why you’re not on that service any longer.

After the thirty days, there are a could of questions that you can ask yourself:

  1. Would my life have been noticeably better if I used this service?
  2. Did people care that I wasn’t using the service page? (205)

If you answer “no” to both questions, then quit the service permanently. If your answer was a clear “yes,” then return to use in the service. If the answer was ambiguous, then you can just make the decision you want about quitting.

The internet also creates a few bad character traits in us as well. First, there is a fear of missing out. It can seem as if life is passing you by on the internet. Second, it creates a mutual-congratulatory feedback loop, “I’ll pay attention to what you say if you pay attention to what I say” (207). Such feedback is cheap and thus is not very valuable.  

By Not Using the Internet to Entertain Yourself

Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself. Put more thought into your leisure time. If you give your mind over to something meaningful, even in your relaxation, you will end the day more fulfilled. You will actually be able to relax instead of letting your mind wander into non-structured web-surfing (214).

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