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Nothing Personal

I wrote last week about how reading Cal Newport’s books Deep Work and Digital Minimalism had inspired me—well, that and nearly carking it over Christmas—to think carefully about how I’m using my time every day.

I asked the good folks on my email list the questions:

What high-value activity, that only YOU can do, could you focus on for a block of time every day?

And also, what lower-value activities can you drop?

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours over the weekend reading their ideas and replying. A lot of people coming to similar realisations at the same time, it seems.

However, one of the replies was different:

“Not trying to be funny, but soliciting replies like this seems like the absolute antithesis to the spirit of your epiphany. I’m really lost how to reconcile digital minimalism with a broadcast call for people to tell you about themselves.”

For context, he wasn’t having a personal dig.

But it got me thinking.

First, if you haven’t read Digital Minimalism, you might think it’s a manifesto to delete your social media accounts, burn your mobile devices, and head off to live on a remote farm where the internet will never find you.

I admit, I did before I read it.

But no, that’s not it.

The point of Newport's book isn't to stop using digital technology.

It's more about being mindful of spending your precious time on what's truly valuable, and dropping what's probably not.

For me:

Not very valuable: hours of distracting social media; mindlessly consuming rather than creating.

Highly valuable: direct, personal relationships with my audience and customers (priceless, in fact).

In fact, the latter has been the case since I first started my online teaching business four years ago.

Of course, I’m not saying that what’s valuable to me should be the same for you.

Nor am I saying that I’ve decided on only one valuable focus: for me, it’s also creating content and products.

But it’s worth pointing out that the spirit of both of Newport’s books is not about being anti-social or cutting yourself off.

And it’s not even about deleting your social media accounts. If you get a ton of value from the time you spend on them, and it consistently moves you towards your most important goals, have at it.

But whatever your own situation and business model, I’d take a guess that focusing on building and nurturing an engaged audience is worthy of consideration as being pretty high on the list.