Cal Newport is the author of several books that document ways in which we can maximize our potential at any stage in our lives and find success in our work. Therefore, it might be surprising to many people how much emphasis Newport puts on the necessity for high-quality leisure time and true relaxation when we aren’t working.
This week on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale had just finished up a brief vacation and wanted to address this very real need for true leisure in an age where we substitute relaxation with smartphones, other forms of work, or mindless activities.
“In recent years, as the boundary between work and life blends, jobs become more demanding and community traditions degrade. More and more people are failing to cultivate the high quality leisure lives that Aristotle defines or identifies as crucial for human happiness. This leaves a void that would be near unbearable if confronted, but that can be ignored with the help of digital noise,” says Newport. He is pointing to the digital information age that we live in where every passing moment can be filled by turning to a screen and burying our minds.
To avoid this turn to the digital, counterfeit version of leisure, Newport recommends five ways to “go analog.”
The first activity he recommends is reading 3 to 4 books in a month. While yes, there are digital forms of reading, he means putting down the phone or tablet and picking up a physical book. It doesn’t matter what the genre is, but stimulating the mind through reading is increasingly valuable in an era where attention is expensive.
His second recommendation is to “move.” Newport recommends leaving your phone at home and going for a walk for at least fifteen minutes everyday. Often, there are pressing and important issues in our lives that we cannot come to fully address because of the digitized reality we live in. By leaving our phone and physically walking away from it, we force our mind to think and touch base with the things facing us.
The next, and perhaps hardest recommendation as Cale suggests, is to try to connect with 20 people through real conversation in a month. While video chat, over the phone, or in person are all valid means of accomplishing this, Cale makes it clear that texting does not count. Hearing somebody’s voice and engaging in thoughtful back and forth is very different from intermittent messages being sent throughout the day or week.
The fourth piece of advice Newport offers to us to engage in high-quality leisure is to make something. By this, he means to participate in a constructive hobby in the physical world. It could be gardening, carpentry, hunting, drawing, or thousands of other things. “But the bottom line is screen-based activities don’t count. You’ve got to get the real analog benefit. [Newport] says ‘overcoming the resistances of the physical landscape that surrounds you.’”
The last recommendation Newport suggests is to join something. The reason he says this is good is because it forces us to abandon the anonymity of the digital world. While everything is anonymous, we often fail to fully think through the things we say, do, or make. That can turn us into a very different person. By joining something in person, we are socializing, working together, and meeting as social creatures were intended to.
For more on this topic, listen below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show on weekdays at 5pm CT