The idea of minimalism is something we often associate with design or consumption. We picture pristine IKEA homes, boxes of items set out for donation, a tight budget that cuts down on buying clothing or gadgets that we don’t really need. But minimalism is just as applicable to decluttering our minds, as it is to tidying up and streamlining our physical spaces.
Minimalism in the workplace can range from removing excess items from your work area, to thinning out tasks or habits that bog down your day, energy, and productivity. Below are some ideas for focusing your mind, ensuring you only surround yourself with what you need to complete your tasks, and learning which skills and practices most efficiently and simply help you achieve your daily goals and responsibilities.
- Streamline your day
Figure out the when of your day. When do I most efficiently and naturally do this part of my job and these tasks in my work? It will be up-front effort and time, but it will pay off big-time, once you have an efficient, intuitive routine. Step back and analyze what habits use your time wisely and don’t involve interrupting your work flow (even try timing how long you take to do something—see if that amount of time feels reasonable or surprisingly long). From how you sort and answer emails, to when you take meetings or respond to voicemails, map out your day so it flows most naturally for your mind, allows you to tick your essential to-do’s off your list, and doesn’t involve you jumping back and forth between tasks, unless that’s a practice that best allows you to complete your work.
- Make a list
Now that you know the when, write down the what. Lists are a well-loved tool of the organized, but they’re the friend of the minimalist, too. Once you’ve figured out when you best complete each task, now make a daily list—especially if your tasks vary significantly from day to day—so you save brain power and repeatedly asking yourself, now what? With that master list, you have an efficient daily plan to blast through your work and meet your goals.
- Focus on the essentials
What if, looking at your list, you see there’s not enough time in the day for everything you need to do, when you need to do it? Well, step back and take a hard long look at your tasks. Ask yourself if all of them truly are essential. Are there any repeat or one-time tasks you’re pushing too soon on your timeline? Are you prioritizing something that isn’t essential for your daily work and can be addressed periodically, when you have a break in the action? Whittle down your daily work to what is most time-sensitive and important for your responsibilities and deadlines.
- Take breaks
Seriously? After all this talk of making everything of every moment you have in your work day, we’re talking about taking five? Yes. Breaks are essential to decluttering your mind. Consider a five-minute stroll, a simple series of stretches, making yourself a cup of tea or coffee, even sitting or standing in silence for a five to ten minutes, simply to clear your thoughts, reset your mood, and bring fresh focus to your day. Breaks allow us to check in with ourselves and ensure we aren’t ignoring or glossing over needs we have, from food or a bathroom break, to a moment of rest. When we’re balanced, nourished—emotionally and physically—and given a moment to breathe and have peace, we’re better able to set aside distractions, focus on work, and knock out those daily essential tasks.
At its heart, minimalism is about eliminating activity, possessions, and thoughts that distract us from intentional living and working. Minimalism isn’t a pressure to be perfect or streamline every aspect of existence. It’s an invitation to relieve ourselves of meaningless practices and habits, to remove distractions and time-wasters that gobble up the precious minutes of our lives. Minimalism allows us to be intentional in our work and in our play—to leverage mindfulness to best carry out our professional tasks, so that when that last phone call ends and the laptop snaps shut, we can step away from work with the peace of mind of a job well done.