My ideal working space used to be my home office surrounded by posters and artwork: my desk with piles of my favorite books and magazines: pictures and postcards from my trips hanging around and so on. I thought I was extremely productive because I always got the job done on time. It wasn’t until I started reading about minimalism that I began to pay attention to the things I was doing and the correlation with everything around me. I realized how many distracting factors I had around me and even though I was doing “ok,” I could’ve done much better.
From a working perspective, minimalism can help you improve productivity, focus, stress management, finances and it can even be beneficial for your happiness. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t consider myself being a true minimalist. I still have my favorite books and art pieces around. But I began to perceive several benefits after I opted for having a more minimalistic workstyle.
Having dozens of things laying around means there are dozens of potential distractors. I didn’t notice this at first, but looking at a book I like, a picture or even at another project was enough to create new thoughts in my mind that were translated into taking longer to finish the task I was initially working on.
A clear desk with only my laptop and my water bottle didn’t work for me. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to stay on a task, it was just not possible. You need to know that every object leaves an impression in our mind, and those impressions cause distraction. If you are like me and cannot focus on a completely minimalist space, it could be good to realize which objects give you comfort without distractions. That is why I decided to keep some of my favorite things on my desk, just not in sight.
Focus on The Essentials
The main idea behind minimalism is to remove things instead of adding them. This not only applies to physical stuff, but it also applies to activities, goals, projects, and much more. A good way to focus on essential tasks and activities is to make a to-do list at the beginning of the day.
I love lists and I am sure that I make lists for everything both at work and in my personal life. And I always thought I was great at it until I heard of the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. This principle basically states that 80% of our results come from only 20% of our effort or actions. The key here is to identify these actions and focus on them.
Since I love lists here is what I do. I first write down my to-do list. Immediately I identify 2 or 3 tasks that are essential on that day. Then I tried to look for non-essential tasks that I can take off the list, like meetings that could turn into emails. After I do this, I finally arrange the rest of the tasks by priority. This method works wonders on my productivity.
Focusing on a single task instead of multitasking was particularly hard for me. I used to love doing multiple things at once. Not only on my work but also in my daily life. I used to read a few books at the same time: I listened to podcasts while replying to emails: I video called my family while reading the news and so on. Then, I realized I was not paying enough attention to any of the things I was doing. I noticed that it took me way longer to finish a book; that sometimes I would write down on an email something I just heard on the podcast; and that I was zoning out while talking to the people that matter the most to me. The same thing happened at work. I found myself giving information to the wrong person, asking questions that I already got the answer to, and so on.
Once I started focusing on one thing at the time, I began to feel more focused and in control, I got more clarity and for sure I got less stress. I learned that sometimes less is indeed more.
These simple changes have had an enormous impact on my overall productivity. I would suggest you find your balance and what works best for you. In my case, having a “minimalistic-ish” style in my working environment has made me more productive and with higher quality output. Remember, the most important thing is to have a working space adapted to you and not the other way around.