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Cal Newport on Digital Minimalism & why he doesn’t have social media

This week, I got the privilege of interviewing Cal Newport on my podcast. We talked about digital minimalism, deep work, teens and technology, and why he doesn’t have social media accounts.
a photo of Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Cal Newport on Digital Minimalism

I am super excited to bring you this week’s episode of the podcast… but I have to be honest and tell you that recording this episode was one I was pretty nervous about.

You see, unlike most of my other guests, I didn’t have any relationship with Cal Newport. I didn’t know anyone who knew him. I didn’t know his publisher. And I’d never connected with him on social media (because, as we’ll talk about on the show, he doesn’t have social media!)

It Never Hurts to Ask

When I read his book, Deep Work, at the beginning of 2019, I knew immediately that I wanted to try to have him on the podcast. But since I had read his book and knew how carefully he guards his time and commitments, I figured it would be a long shot for him to even consider coming on my little show.

However, I decided to get brave and send him a compelling email pitching him the opportunity to come on my show. What’s the worst that could happen? He could not answer or he could respond and say no.

To my surprise, not only did I get an email back, but I got an email back with a YES! I was ecstatic and excited and quite nervous to do the interview! But I’m really, really happy with how it turned out (and I don’t even think you can tell I was nervous!)

What We Talked About

I loved the insights Cal shared in this episode! We talked about:

  • What Deep Work can look like for us in our everyday lives (including some special insight for busy moms!)
  • His thoughts on why he doesn’t use social media (which I find fascinating!)
  • How we can make technology serve us well and enrich our lives
  • Why technology might be hurting our kids and what practically we can do about it.

It’s a really important conversation and I highly encourage you to find 30 minutes sometime in the next few days to listen in.

a photo of Crystal Paine with a Contigo cup

(My water tumbler that I talk about on the show.)

In This Episode:

[02:53] – This week, we talk about water tumblers, drinking a gallon of water per day, and inflammatory issues (it sounds like we’re getting old!) in the What’s Saving My Life segment.

[06:55] – My book pick is one that I actually recently re-read (I rarely read books more than once, so you know I really liked it!) and recommend the book, the audiobook, AND the movie!

[09:35] – Did you know you can earn cash back for shopping online? I’ll tell you how!

[10:28] – I introduce today’s guest, Cal Newport and ask Cal to define the difference between Deep Work and Shallow Work. He then talks about how busy women and moms can find time for deep work.

[13:16] – We hear an example of what deep work looks like in practical terms for an everyday woman.

[15:15] – Cal has never had a social media account. He explains his reasoning behind this choice. It’s pretty fascinating!

[18:36] – I ask Cal to share some advice for people like me who don’t ever plan to give up social media but who also find the idea of being a digital minimalist appealing.

[23:08] – We talk about how to raise kids with a healthy view of technology and social media and I share a recent example of a choice we made with our oldest and how that played out in a surprising way!

[26:41] – The question of the week is this: “What’s your easiest tip for saving money?” I talk about saving money on groceries. Jesse talks about goal setting and saving for bigger purchases. And we both discuss budgeting.

[30:54] – Speaking of questions, if you have one you’d like us to answer, email me at! (Also feel free to get in touch if you have suggestions, thoughts, or comments. I love hearing from you about the podcast!)

Links and Resources:

How to Listen to The Crystal Paine Show

The podcast is available on iTunesAndroidStitcher, and Spotify. You can listen online through the direct player we’ll include in the show notes of each episode. OR, a much easier way to listen is by subscribing to the podcast through a free podcast app on your phone. (Find instructions for how to subscribe to a podcast here.)

Ready to dive in and listen? Hit the player above or search for “The Crystal Paine Show” on your favorite podcast app.

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  • Carol says:

    I will have to tune into that podcast! I like the idea of digital minimalism, but as a self-published author, cutting out social media would kill my business. Plus, I have my whole author community online, since I don’t have a local support group. I’d love to know if he addresses social media for marketing and networking. I also keep up with friends and family that I don’t see often through Facebook. But I do realize the privilege can be abused. Like I said, I’ll have a listen!

    • He’s a super successful author, so he definitely disproves the theory that you have to have social media to be successful online/as an author. However, he also acknowledges that many people need to use social media for work and he gives some great ideas on how to do that well… he shares some of them on the podcast and even more in his book.

    • Michelle says:

      I enjoyed this interview! I just wish it had gone on longer and been more in-depth. I feel like it only scratched the surface.

      • Yay! That makes me so happy as it’s always my hope that people will wish something was longer than too long! 🙂 If you want to read more, definitely check your library for his books! They are SO good!

  • Archie Davis Jr says:

    The ideas the guest had were great. My question would be what is a person using Social Media for who are not using it for business. For me I use it to connect with family and people I went to college with and most have the technology to keep in touch. I know people abuse Technology but there are ways to not to make Social media take over your life.

    • I love his suggestion to set up good boundaries for yourself for social media. Figure out what would work best for you and serve you well and then set that in place so you can enjoy and love and benefit from social media!

  • Heather says:

    Is there a way to get the show transcript? Thanks!

  • Diana says:

    This sounds fabulous! I loved Digital Minimalism. The intentionality and methods for making your technology use work *for you* makes it doable for anyone, in any stage of life.

    I have a question, though: many times I use social media (FB for me, but Instagram could work this way too) as a mini-escape to catch my breath before jumping into the next phase of the day with little kids. I have curated it to where most of the things that show are from cheerful people and companies/issues I know personally and care about. The appealing thing about this is that I can check it and feel finished in less than 5 minutes. If I read a book, or work on a hobby, call a friend, I could definitely stop after 5 minutes, but I don’t *feel* done. I feel interrupted. Are there any non-tech things that might give the same sense of catching my breath but could actually be completed in just a few minutes of time? I would love my kids not to see me using screens for a break all the time, and yes, I do get distracted sometimes with this method but I’m having trouble coming up with a replacement.

    Also, I’m excited to listen to this because when I read the free Kindle sample of Deep Work I was wondering how it was supposed to apply to a life situation where constant interruption is actually part of the job description 🙂 (mom of little kids!) Our library doesn’t have it, so I’ll have to find a way to get the whole book.

    • Meg says:

      Have you tried breathing exercises or meditation? It works wonders for me! I just sit and close my eyes and focus on my breathing for about 5 minutes. It’s a total mental reset for me! Or maybe try making a hot beverage and sitting to enjoy it and jot down a few things you’re grateful for in a gratitude journal? Those are some of the things that work for me! -Meg, MSM Team

    • One of my favorite ways to wind down is literally to set the timer, lie down, close my eyes, breathe deeply for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. I’ve found that this simple act can be so restorative.

      And I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with taking little breaks to enjoy social media here and there — so long as it’s serving you and actually refreshing you!

      • Diana says:

        You and Meg must be on to something with the breathing exercises 🙂 I’ll give it a try!

        And right–using it sometimes is my goal, but it seems like it’s the only thing I do for a little break and variety would be good. Thanks for the input!

  • lyss says:

    I am SO with you on having to have complete rows of apps on my phone! It sounds so OCD or something, but having an extra one hanging there drives me nuts! lol

  • Archie Davis Jr says:

    Again the Podcast was great. Keep up the great work. I started reading a book called Free To Focus by Michael Hyatt. I am not sure if it came out yet but his group sent me a copy and it would help people who want to focus on things that are important. Great book.

  • Cheryl says:

    Totally off-topic but I love your gray shirt! Caught my eye immediately.

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