Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work, now runs a YouTube channel/podcast where he offers advice about how to live and work deeply and effectively in the digital age. I’ve consistently found his thoughts interesting, informative, and inspiring.
Last week, Newport released a fifteen-minute video on “overstimulation,” and talked at some length about the chemical dopamine, and how dopamine gives us the urge to do things we think will provide us with rewards. For instance, dopamine may compel us to take another inhalation of a cigarette, yank the lever of a gambling machine in Las Vegas, or even do something as apparently benign as refreshing your email tab.
While there are many opinions and resources on how to best regulate overstimulation and overcome digital addictions, Newport’s directive is refreshingly simple: get rid of those things that are overstimulating you. This includes primarily social media like TikTok and Instagram, which are designed to addict you. In order to focus and live without distractions, we have to cut out distractions!
“Don’t use things that cause overstimulation,” Newport says. “The dopamine system is powerful, so don’t give it the targets it’s going to fire up for.”
Newport also suggested cutting out online news scrolling in favor of a few curated weekly newsletters. The simpler, the better — this way you have the room and focus to replace addictive habits with enriching ones and have a better, more fulfilling life.
Watch the full video below.