Episode 10 | Digital Minimalism Book Club

Jan 23, 2023

Description: We’ve been reading the book, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, as a community. During this episode we break down its definition, Newport’s philosophy to find it, and our greatest takeaways. Whether you’ve read the book or not, we hope this episode brings some insight around the hot topic of tech usage.


Coconut Water popsicles + Recipe

Kerri’s favorite pens: Uni Ball Signo 153 + Pilot, Hi Tec C 05.5 mm pen

Jet Pens refills

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

More AI and Marketing Needs More Staff Shifts and Ethical Concerns

Age of Social Media is Ending by Ian Bogost 

We have an upcoming episode all about brands we love. We would love to hear what brands you love. Any brand is on the table. Please send us a voice message here >>


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Kerri: Hello and welcome to the Flourish & Friends Friends podcast. I’m your host, Kerri, and I’m here with my friend and collaborator, Esther. 

Esther: Hey friends.

Kerri: Our goal for this podcast is to hold space and community for important conversations that lead to more growth and more flourishing. 

Esther: Yeah, nothing is really off the table because how we lead our lives spills into how we lead at work, and overall, our brand reflects that, especially as creatives. 

Kerri: Today is our very first book club. We’ve been reading the book called Digital Minimalism and we’re excited to discuss it together today. 

But first, let’s start with some fun things that are bringing joy into our lives.


Kerri: Okay. Esther, what is your fresh pick for this week? 

Esther: Well, this week I am picking something very summery, so I’m sorry. I apologize for everyone that’s in the midst of winter, but we have discovered these coconut water popsicles.

You know how like most fruit pops, they’ll be like very sweet, but the coconut, coconut water is just naturally sweet. But yeah. I don’t know what else to say. They’re just really yummy and they’re bringing us life because sometimes our apartment gets so hot because our AC units just in our living room, they don’t have central heating and cooling most places here, so the way we’ve been cooling down is just, you know, have a, a good old Popsicle and that cools us down for about 20 minutes and then we’re hot again. 

Kerri: So are the popsicles flavored, is it, or is it just flavored, like coconut water or is it both? 

Esther: It’s just coconut water. So I don’t know, like we’ve been really into coconut water recently but yeah, really yummy. Fresh. Mm. 

Kerri: Well once it’s summertime, and if the US has coconut popsicles, which I hope they do, coconut water popsicles, I will check it out. 

Esther: Alright Kerri, what’s your fresh pick this week?

Kerri: Okay, so my fresh pick is my favorite pens. I’m a pen nerd. I have lots of different pens in all sorts of colors. And a couple of years ago on LinkedIn, I like had posted something about. Pens and people were very enthusiastic about their opinions on pens and their favorite pens.

So I thought I would share my favorite pens since that post, ones I’ve used consistently. I have a lot of specialty pens. I like to, you know, roll out with some like sparkles and stuff, but these are the two that I use like, Consistently every day and they serve kind of different purposes for me. 

So my first pen is the Uni Ball Signo, Broad Point Gel Impact Pen. It’s the Uni Ball Signo 153. So Uni Ball is a Japanese brand, pen brand. And why I love this pen is because it’s really thick, very fun to write with, like very broad strokes. And I personally like to journal with it because it’s very fluid.

I write in cursive when I journal, kind of a hybrid of cursive and regular print. . . But it’s just like, I, I think of the word like juicy. It’s just like juicy when you write, write with it. And it’s one of those pens where anyone who’s, who’s ever picked it up and written with it is always like, oh, like that’s a really good pen.

I’m like, yeah, I know. It’s one of my favorites. 

Kerri:  And one of the reasons I really like it is because we’ve been ordering the refills through a company called Jet Pens, and I feel a lot more environmentally conscious.

It’s still a pen. So it’s still plastic, but we’re, we like have the same, I don’t know, 10 pens here at home. And we just, because we do a lot of writing, we just put in the refills and so we’re not buying whole new pens. which is nice. So, and it comes with a lot of fun different colors and different thicknesses too.

But I really like the thick one. It’s like, I think one millimeter. So that’s the first pen. And then the second pen cuz I could talk about pens all day and we don’t have that time. But Second pen is the Pilot, Hi Tec C 05.5 millimeter black ink pen. It sounds like a lot of words, but it is . 

Esther: It is, haha. 

Kerri: This pen I have been searching for for years. So I first used this pen when I was interning in London in college many years ago, and it was like my favorite pen, but the cap had come off.

So the cap, like the name of the pen is on the cap. So I just always remember, I always just remembered what this pen was like, and that I just loved it. And I’ve been searching for this pen for years and I finally refound it. And this is like my everyday. Jotting notes on my to-do list, like writing wherever it’s my everyday pen.

Lot thinner than the first pen. And it also comes in some fun colors. I have it in a, like a bright pink that I like to write in, but it comes in like, you know, it comes in the rainbow, but I have lots of black ones too. So, it’s a really fun, good everyday pen. It just feels great in my hand. I don’t like super heavy pens or anything.

And then the click, like it has a cap, but when you take it off and then put the cap back on, it has this like click. That’s just very satisfying. So. 

Esther: Well, we’ll link those pens so that people don’t have to memorize or guess how to spell them. .haha 

Kerri: We will haha. Okay.

Esther: Yes. I, I’m excited to look them up. Maybe not as much as you do. But I like kind of like more felt pens. 

Kerri: I love a felt pen too. I love a felt, I love all sorts of pens, so maybe we’ll have to do like a pen of the month. Maybe not. But, this is probably enough talk about pens..

Esther: Haha we could, we could. 


Kerri: Okay. So we’re gonna break down our first book for our book club called Digital Minimalism. 

So whether you’ve read this book or not, I think that you’ll really enjoy this conversation. Because we’re just gonna talk about some of our favorite points from the book and some of our takeaways and. The core of what the author, Cal Newport, was really arguing in this book called Digital Minimalism.

So disclaimer to say, you don’t have to have read this book to enjoy this conversation, but we certainly encourage you to, because I think it’s a really good read and prompts a lot of really important things just to consider and to think about too. 

But before we kind of talk about our takeaways, I wanted to just summarize quickly what his definition of digital minimalism is, kind of the principles of it and what his philosophy essentially is. 

So digital minimalism is embracing a philosophy of tech use based in your deeply held values. And he has three principles. His first principle is clutter, is costly. The second principle is optimization is important, and the third principle is intentionality is satisfying.

On page 253, and I’ll just read this direct quote from him. He says, “digital minimalism is about quality of life, much more than a set of rules. It’s about cultivating a life worth living in the age of alluring devices.” So that’s basically the overview of the concept, and I think he certainly makes a good argument for this approach and philosophy to technology and digital use.

So I guess we can dive into our takeaways. Esther, do you wanna start with your first takeaway? 

Esther: Yeah. So right off the bat, I liked that. Newport ask. The really important question that kind of set him on this path was something that I think we should just ask ourselves regularly when something becomes increasingly more controlling in our lives in our mental states.

But that question is our being manipulated or are we given free choice? So he kind of lays out, especially in this first chapter, how big tech companies, how the attention economy, how all these things have been leading us down this path of really not having as much free choice as we think we have.

And how like people have been using psychology and behavioral science to kind of, Manipulate the user into staying on their phones or staying online a bit longer than they intended. So it’s, it’s moved. He argues it’s moved from being a tool to help us into an economy that is kind of like a cash crop.

Like get people, get their eyes on your website, on your app, as long as possible. And so they’ve kind of deployed all these strategies and yeah, it kind of compares these Silicon Valley tech giants to tobacco farmers, which I think was amusing. 

Kerri: Yeah, I think it’s also, I should have mentioned he’s a computer scientist, so it’s really interesting that he’s like writing this argument.

He’s also a professor at Georgetown, and so he. It’s not like he’s a monk, you know, not engaged in digital at all, but he’s like, kind of speaking from this place of you nailed it on the head. Like moving from that tool to it becoming not a tool anymore. It’s, it’s really an economy, absolutely. 

I really liked that after he explains what digital minimalism is, he talks about the digital declutter and it’s a suggestion he has where you basically, you have a full month where you don’t use tech for non-essential activities in, instead you’re what he calls quote, aggressively exploring higher quality activities. Rather than using these optional tech, 

So tech for work doesn’t count. And You know, you get to decide, you design your own adventure for the digital declutter. And I really liked his nuanced approach. I, I didn’t get the sense that it’s just black and white and we have to cut it off completely and that it’s evil, but more about our approach to it.

And I felt like that was a good approach and felt a lot more sustainable to me. . . And that he doesn’t, he intentionally doesn’t use the word digital detox because the point isn’t to never use, never to reintegrate those services or digital devices back into your life. It’s reintegrating them intentionally.

And maybe at that point you’ll choose not to, to use some services anymore. But the point isn’t, to completely go off the grid. It’s just to have some breathing room to reevaluate your time and what, what you’re using it and why.  

Esther: I kind of summarized his thesis. I felt like it kind of moved from just, yeah, acknowledging what the problems are and why we are so addicted to our phones and kind of the science. I appreciate him like bringing up a lot of studies. Throughout the book. 

But I would probably summarize it by saying, the way to live a more satisfying, enriched life is to eliminate low level entertainment or wasted time on your device and exchange it with more enriching activities, like spending time with people you love, trying new things, and then finding solitude.

All of the examples he gives throughout his book are people finding more enriching activities, more value in their life through yeah, like you said, limiting their amount on screens and even designating time for that and the rest of your time where you can just, turn it off, get another device that is more restricted.

Yeah, I think it’s really important to note that he isn’t anti-tech. And I mean, disclaimer, we haven’t read any of his other books. I’ve heard just through the reviews that Deep Work has a lot of similar ideas. So if you’ve read Deep Work, you probably can get the gist of like where he’s coming from.

I think he’s, after finding what it looks like to live a meaningful life as well, he quotes a lot of philosophers, a lot of theologians even. But yeah, I think it, it was a really good perspective and as people that use this as part of their work, I think a lot of our listeners use tech a lot for our work.

So I think just having this counter-argument on what its purpose is, just evaluating it objectively and evaluating its value basically is really good. 

Kerri: Yeah, I love that he talked about the concept of standard operating procedures with the tech use. So not just what tech am I using, but how and when, so how can we use this tech or this app, or searching the internet for a very specific purpose.

Only if that purpose is supporting something I deeply value. I haven’t done the digital declutter yet. I maybe will do it next month, but I’ve started to be more conscious and even this gut reaction to, I just thought of something, let me Google it really quickly, is like, okay, that’s not normal.

In any part of human history ever to have thoughts and then not just wonder and let the thought like roll away, but instead have to go down a rabbit hole of finding out more. Right? And then, and then you’re like, in this, you, you know, 30 minutes later you’re like, wait, how did I end up here? instead of letting myself go straight to Google, just for me, like writing down a list of things I wanna look up later on, like a notepad.

And then I’ll go back to my notepad and be like, why was I like, I don’t even need to note that wasn’t. Something that I needed to look up, so I’ll just scratch it off. Or I look at it, I’m like, oh yeah, that’s right. I didn’t need to look up that thing. In our, in our community or something.

And then I can look it up at a specific time. But instead of going down these rabbit trails, we kind of have a squirrel, squirrel brain where it’s like, oh, and it’s just there. So we just get it out, we whip it out, and we can look it up or ask Google we can pause and instead, not just immediately go access the entire world of information. 

Esther: That’s so true. And I think that kind of points to his whole chapter on solitude deprivation and how like, we’re filling every single moment with something that we’re not, like you said, allowing our mind to just wonder and even decompress from different things and different ideas that we’ve had throughout the day.

I think that his definition of solitude was really striking. That it’s not simply being alone, but it’s actually being alone with your thoughts, which I think is something that we need to be reminded of in this age of iPhones and you know, pocket devices that, you know, we, we might feel alone, but the practice of solitude is actually.

Exactly what I said a practice. So you actually have to be intentional about shutting things off and I think journaling is a really good way of practicing that because you can turn all your devices off and just sit with a notebook and kind of allow your thoughts to pour out on a page. 

His definition of solitude deprivation is the state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your thoughts, absent of any outside thoughts. So painting a very clear picture, he gave examples of going on a long walk or even just, you know, having. Time by yourself? It could be in a cafe. It doesn’t have to be truly isolating. I think with my own experience with solitude deprivation. I, I can feel it physically when I haven’t had enough time to decompress because I’m an internal processor it’s almost vital for me to have that solitude to just have a healthy mental state and have clarity. 

And so I think that’s something I’ve been practicing these last few weeks already, but yeah, like choosing that time to really set time aside and, and maybe not listen to that podcast that’s on your list. Sorry.

But yeah, like setting that time aside, having that intentional, okay, maybe my commute is good for podcasting, but maybe when I am home making dinner, it should be a time where I can just sit and and be able to decompress, you know?

Kerri: I love it. Yeah. Solitude, deprivation. I think that as soon as the computer came in our into the World’s Pocket, you know that just completely shifted the concept of time and waiting and the lack of waiting and being alone and being with your thoughts. So, it may have been a struggle before, but I don’t know.

I’m not of that generation. I’m of the generation where it wasn’t in my childhood, but it certainly is, you know, in, in young adulthood into adulthood you can tell people who’ve practiced this, you know? Mm-hmm. I feel really grateful to have a lot of people that I have relationship with who’ve practiced solitude.

You can tell in conversations you have, whether someone’s able to hold attention and be present without feeling like you need to be other places. And that’s not to judge in any way, if you’re on the journey and you’re not there yet, but just to say that in his argument, it’s like there’s something that’s being taken away from our fundamental humanity.

And our ability to be with ourselves and to be with others if we’re not actively doing this as a practice. And I know his concept of, he calls it high quality leisure time versus, low quality digital distractions. I think I really liked that because I feel like it gives you permission to.

Dream and be creative and actually commit to the things that we want to fill our lives with. Are we becoming the people that we wanna be with our time? Because like time is all, it’s not all we have, but time is how we live our lives. So if we’re wanting to do more creative things, what is the energy invested versus value received on this thing that I’m gonna do?

Or even, it doesn’t have to be a thing, it can just be sitting still and being still too. He argues with a lot of research, like, you know, the low quality digital experiences can leave you feeling worse while actually in, in real life, creative things, doing things, making things or being still.

Are really good for us. We know that even more so, certainly since the pandemic and everything went digital. So I really like that concept of high quality leisure time and what can we do to be creative with the time that we’ve given, even though that motivation, going back to our conversation with Maki, motivation versus commitment, you won’t always have the spark to do something at the end of a long day. And that’s okay. 

One of his examples was someone who lived on an acreage so they had to chop wood to heat their house. And I’m like, that’s great, but not everyone is gonna have to chop wood to heat their house or It was, it was something.

It’s something to that effect. Find the activities that bring you life that also help you decompress cuz it’s not like you have to go from working on tech to now building your own house or something. Cuz that’s not gonna be, yeah, it’s gonna look different for everyone and I think there’s freedom to define what that means for you.

Esther: I think even something as simple, he had so many examples of parents who were intentional about decluttering and how they replaced it with just simply being with their child. Like how much value that’s placing on both them as a parent and their child, that they have the ability to be there. And not be distracted, you know, like that, that alone is gonna make a difference, I think.

Kerri: Absolutely. And the tendency, or the notion that we wanna document everything, there’s a beauty I can see on the one hand, but on the other hand, some things we don’t have to document, some moments can just be, and that’s okay. we can find a way to have a standard operating procedure around, I wanna document in this way and then put it, put the phone away.

I think you talked about that over your Christmas break. You did something similar to that. So that was his, his kind of philosophy and practice. You were already doing it. 

He did have a lot of thoughts on social media specifically. And overall, I would say he recommended letting go of social media, especially with the research with like withdrawal levels. He, he did say it’s not technically addiction because, it’s not the level of a chemical substance withdrawal, but it is built to distract you. So I thought that was interesting.  

And he just talked about consider everything, blocked by default. And then, make those things available on a limited schedule. Reframe the narrative, give yourself back the control to use these for limited purposes, for specific purposes. 

Esther: Yeah. I love that suggestion. He did highlight in his leisure chapter that it does have purpose in bringing community together and there’s some beautiful things about it, but obviously it’s shifted into just like a lot of marketing and yeah. Which is something that we as creatives should evaluate and marketers of like, okay.

Are we feeding into that fuel or are we actually reaching the people we wanna reach? I think it, it got me thinking about how, as a, a marketer, what our role is in that. And yeah, that, do we want to feed into people scrolling or is there a better way to do it? I don’t know. 

Kerri: Absolutely. I think these are important questions and ethical questions that marketers and any sort of communicators will face. Are facing now, but into the coming decades.

I would not assume that a service like Facebook is going to be around forever. . That’s just my take. That’s like my hot take. I mean, yeah, who, who knows? , it seems like they will be, but it may not be there may be a different way of doing it and I think the world is probably saying there maybe a better way to do it.

And as creatives, we have the call and challenge to diversify. And I know this is really a struggle for people who. Are like influencers and have followings on platforms owned by other people to diversify. But it just reiterates that call to build your audience and have relationships on other platforms.

And also outside of platforms too. Yeah. Whether in real life or over, video calls, that sort of thing, bringing the humanity back to communication. 

We can have a whole episode on that. I’m sure I’ll write that down. We wanna close out with some questions that you are considering after reading this, Esther, you’re so good at reflecting, and I’d just love to hear some of the thoughts going on in your head. 

Esther: First off, I, I think it left us just evaluating our own lives, but I think it does focus a lot in the book on individual decisions, but, Should there be more regulations set on tech companies according to this attention economy in order to protect us as people and users?

And I think that’s a big question that tech companies should start asking, but also us as people should maybe start pushing towards that. Another question I had is just, is there more moral responsibility that tech giants need to turn the ship in a new direction. It’s probably safe to say that companies like Google and Facebook are probably not going to because their revenue is so intertwined with attention.

But are, there, other tech companies coming up that can make that decision and push and resist against that norm. I liked that he kind of brought up this aspect of. What makes us human? Does technology in any way hinder that humanity? Does it improve it? I think these are things that we can reflect on.

maybe we wanna do decluttering. Those are some questions that we should evaluate in our own lives, and in the end. It’s not about technology, it’s about quality of life. So if, if that’s true, how does that affect our decisions to live more digitally, minimal in our life? How does that affect the rest of our decisions?

Yeah. Those are just a few questions. If you don’t read the book, taking those questions and evaluating them in your own life,

Kerri: I would just add one more question, which would be how can, if you were thinking about applying a digital minimalist philosophy to your life, how can you also do that in relationship? So how can you share it with maybe a partner or a friend or in a community and build in that like quality time around a digitally minimalist approach?

Because I think the more I’ve talked with people about it, it’s, I think people are hungry for that reconnection. Kind of letting go of, of the tech. So what’s, what’s a way we can do it both in our individual lives, but also as a community, and maybe even in your workplace too? Who knows? 

Well, we hope you enjoyed this conversation around our first book, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Definitely check it out. Let us know what you thought about the book, and if you are implementing any sort of digital minimalist practices, we would love to hear from you. 

Also we have an upcoming episode about brands we love. We would love to hear from you what brands you love. Any brand is on the table. Please send us a voice message. February is around the corner so Tap the, tap the link in our show description to send in your voice message and or share with us on, Instagram.


Esther: Moving on to our bookmark segment. Is there anything we need to mark this week, Kerri? 

Kerri: Yes. So there is an article that I’d love for you all to check out from consumer consumergoods.com and the title of the article is More AI and Marketing Needs More Staff Shifts and Ethical Concerns.

And this is written by their editor-in-chief. And I think it just poses a lot of good questions about AI and the fact that it’s here and certainly ChatGPT, we all know this is a big story. What implications does it have on our profession and also thinking of AI-generated design and art too.

There are ethical implications there as well. So AI is part of an evolution and will continue to evolve and, I think that’s another thing as we talk about digital minimalism, how can we use it as a tool? How can we approach it intentionally and where can we make sure we still have humanity in it and be conscious instead of just..

It taking over and then all of a sudden we’re like, wait, how did we get here? I think it’s definitely something that has been on the horizon for a really long time, and it’s here now, and it will only continue to become more advanced and in ways that will be really good and in ways that will be very challenging for a sector like ours, which is a lot of digital things.

So there’s a lot of Work that we do that could quote unquote be automated. And again, there are good things to that and there are also things that will be challenging for that. So again, that could be a whole nother podcast conversation. I’d love to talk to like an expert on AI and brands and ethics.

That would be a fantastic convo, but just want you to check that one. Okay. Esther, what is your bookmark this week? 

Esther: Mine is digital minimalism. Just kidding. Yeah. I chose The Age of Social Media is Ending by Ian Bogost. It’s an article for The Atlantic. I just thought this was such an interesting take on how social media has shifted from a gathering place and user-generated content into a rising, like data-driven advertising. 

Newport kind of talked about it in his book, but this is just more focused on social media and its role in our society, how it’s shifting, how TikTok has kind of disrupted a little bit of that, and how it’s actually pushed things even farther that.

You don’t have to dig that far to realize that TikTok is very successful at keeping people’s attention for hours. But I think it’s just important to reflect on some of the things we’ve talked about today and in terms of social media thinking of it as not something that’s gonna be around forever and evaluating it objectively like you were saying.

We can’t rely on some, some of these platforms for us to just house everything that we produce. But I think, yeah, just our stance very much is that things like social media, newsletters, podcasts are all a tool.

They’re tools to spread our mission and ideas. So you can use all of these things, but being intentional about what their purpose is and how you’re using it I think this article will just bring a new layer of reflection on how social media has really just changed over the last 10 years since its inception.

So yeah, that’s my article. We’ll link it in the show notes, but it’s the Age of Social Media is Ending.  

Kerri: Such a good bookmark. It’s important to read. I think everyone should read it no matter what your role is. It’s really good, really good stuff. 


Kerri: Well thanks for joining us today. Be sure to check out Flourishcreative.co/podcast to see our show notes. 

Esther: Yeah, we’d love to hear from you. You can send us a note to hello@flourishcreative.co or tag us on Instagram. We’re @FlourishCreativeCo. And don’t forget to leave us those voicemails. We’re looking forward to hearing from you. You can leave a review wherever you are listening. This helps new friends find our podcast community.

Kerri: Until next time. Live well and flourish.



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