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.
Don’t try to fit into a mold
There is no “one right way” to do minimalism; It will look different for every person who brings this practice into their life. Be realistic about your life and your needs. Decide what your version of minimalism looks like, and use it as a guide moving forward.
Use the minimalist lense
Because there is no “one way” to practice minimalism, it helps to have a guiding principle when applying minimalism to your life. When applying the lens of minimalism to any area of your life ask, “Is this absolutely essential? Does this bring value to my life?” These questions will help you apply your values to your choices.
Decide what to keep and why
Now go through each area of your life and apply the focusing questions to decide which things are bringing value to you and which things are making your life chaotic or cluttered. Be patient with yourself. This process is personal and it may take some time.
Single task instead of multitasking
You’ve heard me say this before. Multitasking makes us ineffective and less accurate. Focus on only one task at a time. When eliminating excess from your life, focus on one area until it’s done. Focusing on one task at a time is also a way of practicing minimalism in everyday life.
Don’t just focus on possessions
When we think of a minimalist life, it’s easy to imagine stark white rooms with little-to-no furnishings. While this may be one side of minimalism, this practice doesn’t just apply to possessions. Use the minimalist lens to look at food choices, relationships, time commitments, entertainment, and activities. The minimalist point of view will help you make more thoughtful choices.
Use the best tools
To some people, minimalism means restriction. They think being minimal is to have no material desires or needs and to get rid of so many things that it makes life hard. This is not the case. Part of the magic of minimalism is to find tools that are so efficient, you only need one tool for many jobs. It can be easy to give in to acquiring more than you need, so when you’re choosing a tool remember this: Use things that make your life easier, not busier.
Minimalism and paperless living go hand-in-hand. Going paperless is one of the things that can have the biggest impact on a minimalist lifestyle. By going paperless you can eliminate sources of clutter and confusion in your environment. Paper, books, magazines, personal files, paper copies of photos, journals, checklists, calendars—anything made of paper, can be stored on a computer or mobile device.
In the end, the choice to practice minimalism is a personal one, and each person will use it differently.
At home and in the office, minimalism can bring you peace and order—which results in focus and productivity.