Make More With Less: How Minimalism Can Help You Get More Done

Productivity is a popular topic in the Paperless Movement community. We love productivity methods, systems, tools, hacks, and apps. There’s a lot of information out there about how to become more productive, and a lot of it has to do with adding MORE to our already busy lives. For example: learning a new system, buying a new book, or getting another app. What if there was a way to become more productive with less? This is where minimalism comes in.

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What is minimalism?

Minimalism is a way of living life with fewer possessions, by thoughtfully choosing which things to allow into your life—and which things to get rid of. This includes the things in your home, office, relationships, food, schedule, downtime activities, and work.

Minimalism isn’t just about owning less (although that is the effect it has). Minimalism is about reassessing your priorities so that you can eliminate the things that don’t bring value to your life. It’s a mindset you use to frame your life so you only let in what’s important.

By deciding if something is absolutely essential to your daily life (or not), you naturally start to eliminate the things that don’t measure up to your standards.

Some people choose to eliminate almost everything they own, while others opt for a less extreme purge.

The natural result of eliminating so many things from your life is more time to focus on fewer things, and this is the magic ingredient when it comes to productivity.

How does minimalism help increase productivity?

Think of it like this:

You have a work task you need to finish so you’ve opened a blank document page in your browser. You have an hour to complete the task and you really need to concentrate. But you also have 15 open tabs behind the document you’re working in.

Suddenly, a little (1) appears on one of those tabs to inform you that you have an email waiting. That’s all it takes. Just one distraction to take your eyes off of your current task will send you down a rabbit hole.

That main document represents our life, and the 15 open tabs represent all of the things that are distracting us. We’ve all left tabs open to remind us of what we need to do next, thinking that it would make us more productive in the long run. But the fact is, getting distracted makes us less effective.

In a study published by the University of Chicago Press, Boyoun (Grace) Chae and Rui (Juliet) Zhu showed that undergraduates who were exposed to a messy office environment were 1.5x less effective at completing difficult tasks compared to undergrads who were exposed to an orderly office before attempting the same tasks.

Every object we interact with in our environment stimulates our mind. We can’t help it. That’s how our brains work.

It’s hard to focus when we’re continually distracted by the things around us.

When we remove the distraction of too many possessions, our environment is more orderly and requires less attention from us. Thus, we become more focused and therefore more productive.

This means that minimalism itself is a productivity tool. When you have a minimalist outlook you remove distractions, and keep only the tools that prove to be useful in your life.

Some of the benefits of minimalism that enhance productivity are:

  • More time
  • More space
  • More freedom
  • More financial resources
  • Less clutter
  • Easier to clean
  • Easier to organize
  • Easier to focus

How can you bring minimalism into your life?

It sounds nice to have only the essentials in a home and office that are clutter free and relaxing to spend time in. But the thought of where to begin can be overwhelming.

If you’re intrigued by the thought of using minimalism as a productivity tool in your life, here are some ideas to get you started.


12 thoughts on “Make More With Less: How Minimalism Can Help You Get More Done”

  1. Thanks for this article! It’s exactly what I’ve been working on for the last year, and I’ve even started documenting the journey. It’s awesome that we have a place to share these ideas and know we are not alone. Less but Better is the definition of Essentialism and is my motto. The book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, has really been impactful in my life.

  2. I am well on the road to minimalism and essentialism. I am as paperless as it is possible to be. I have a Raven scanner (thanks to your review) and a shredder that sits on the floor right in front of it. Scan and shred.

    I’m also keeping an eye on the new book scanner you mentioned. I have a Fujitsu MV 600 and while I have taken it outside my studio on scanning jobs, it’s heavy and awkward. I would love a light book scanner.

    1. Thank you, Grace, for this nice comment! I love the fact that you have the same Raven Scanner / Shredder setup/workflow like me. 😀 I hope I will be able to share more content soon about my paperless workflows in this area.

  3. I own a small CPA firm. We have a clean desk policy and our office is substantially paperless. The only paper is client documents being scanned. We scan client docs and return them usually before the client leaves. We are training clients to be paperless. Thanks Tom!

    1. Thanks, Dan for those very impressive insights! It seems that we can learn from you. Maybe one day I will give away PaperlessMovement certificates. Your company would earn it already. 😉

  4. I like the idea / attitude of Minimalism or Essentialism quoted by @Shannon or Simplicity (the ultimate sophistication said L da Vinci), I strongly believe in it – i would (may be) like to be in a “zen apartment” … but i confess my practice is mediocre not to say poor.

    In fact, since several years, I have significantly reduced the amount of useless things / devices, books, magazines, papers, … by adopting the paperless attitude; unless absolutely required in paper format all my “administrative papers” are now digital since about 5 / 4 years, I buy more and more books in digital format for my Kindle (Paperless Note-taking like a Pro is one of them :-)) but i sometimes like the the sensation of reading a real paper book that i have acquired at the book shop after talking with the vendor and i have the impression that a house without books (or records, DVD, … even VHS …) is lifeless. I subscribe to digital newspapers, but sometimes like to buy a paper or a magazine at the kiosk round the corner.

    I am conscious (and my compagnon Lady more than me) of being somewhat invaded by these books, magazine and news paper … so from time to time i give them to organizations that distribute books … I hate throwing a book, a CD, a DVD to the garbage, even if i perfectly know that this book / dictionary, moovie is available on line or in a public library.

    The minilalism attitude also applies to all aspects of our life; food, clothing, shoes, furnitures, flights … in short reduce our frantic adhesion to the Consumer Society (grr… the Black Friday, the Cyber Monday, Xmas…) … but its a constant “fight” against the attraction of this “new indispensable power bank” seen on Amazon (the Devil for Minimalists !). I stick with my Surface Pro 3 (its now 7), with my 10.5 iPad Pro, and with my “old” Mac Book Air … I don’t print any more !! And i like my reMarkable which is a good example of minimalism with respect to Notetaking distraction.

    Yes Tom you’re right! This is the best attitude to adopt, let’s give it a constant try, it is for sure good for ourselves and for the Planet but let’s keep ourselves happy and healthy.

    Enjoy Xmas and the jump from 2019 to 2020 even to the expense of some extras … that are not minimalistic :-).


    1. As usual, I love your very in-depth replies! Reading your comments really reflects the reality of most people. 🙂 Because if we are honest, we all are struggling to live the theoretical wonderful organized live. In fact, it is against the nature of the physical world to be organized. Without putting energy into it, no system will stay organized on its own. You might know the word “Entropy”. Here a good explanation for those who don’t know what this is
      I can explain Entropy very simple buy just looking into my children’s room one hour after we tidied up everything. 😀

      1. He he he … yes kids are second to none in maximising Entropy, which as you know, is the natural steady state. Frankly, i don’t need to take kids as a reference, i am pretty good at it as well even if i pretend to reorder everything from time to time, the “mess” is not far and attract me round the corridor … 🙂

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