Do you always feel like you have more things on your plate than you could handle every day? It could be your cluttered life that’s the culprit. Physical things around you, recurring thoughts, or even unwanted emotions can seriously put a hamper on your ability to move forward, decreasing your productivity without you even knowing it.
Practicing a “minimalist” lifestyle can help to declutter your mind, workspace, and life, in general, to make you more productive. I’ve witnessed this first hand ever since I stopped trying to accumulate things, and instead focus on downsizing and reorganizing what’s left in my life.
Here are my 8 favorite minimalism tips to declutter your life and, in turn, gain it back.
Decrease your electronics
In this day and age, everyone and their mother is bogged down with a multitude of distracting digital devices, such as:
– desktop computers
– Amazon Kindles
– Bluetooth speakers
Not only do the sheer number of these electronic devices take up more space than they are worth, but they also fight for your attention. Human beings are internally wired to strive for satisfaction via dopamine, a hormone that’s fired within our brain in response to reward-centered behavior. In short, we crave dopamine because it makes us feel important and wanted.
The fact is, most of these devices are a waste of time. In fact, a 2017 survey via Statista found that the average American watches an average of 24.4 hours of television per week. That’s time that could be spent doing so much else!
Constantly checking the multitude of electronic devices marrs our attention and bogs our productivity. Therefore, a great starting point to increasing your productivity is to minimize the amount of electronics you own. Furthermore, you can increase your productivity by keeping the remaining devices out of the room whenever you are working.
Decrease your wardrobe
The eternal struggle has always been, and probably will continue to be, “What do I wear?” Whether the affair is a formal dinner party, a first date, a casual night out, or just you staying at home, there is an outfit for it. However, with so many clothes comes so many choices, and standing in front of your closet eats away at the time that you could be spent doing something else.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, famously wears the same bland gray or blue shirt to work everyday. A peek into his closest shows a large collection of the exact same wardrobe. The reason? Selective Minimism to boost productivity.
A great way to make this work for you as well is to decrease the number of clothes, shoes, and other accessories that you own. Try keeping three or four sets of a few key outfits, such as:
- formal wear, for dinners
- formal wear, for work
- gym wear
- lounge / ‘sloppy’ clothes
The rest you can say goodbye to. Decluttering your life will increase your productivity tenfold!
Decrease and organize your material possessions
Like electronics and an excess of clothes, an excess of stuff will fight for your attention and take up mental space like everything else.
Distractibility levels were explored in depth by Halin et. al. The researchers had two groups concentrate on two separate tasks, one easy and one hard, with both background noise and silence. They found that when set with an easy task, a majority of the participants performed better with silence, while more difficult tasks required more background noise.
Therefore, when we think about the kind of work that comes home with us on a regular basis, it is not hard to figure that our minds prefers silence when at home. Decluttering your house — by, for example, discarding something you have not used in three months or more — is a subtle way to increase your productivity at home.
Consequently, the same methodology can be done to your office space by getting rid of anything that is not essential to your job, then reorganizing what’s left. Focus on accessibility and workspace ergonomics. For example, my desk only contains the bare essentials I need to get my work done, such as the keyboard, mouse, a notepad, my cell phone etc. Everything is positioned based on how frequently I access them, with things that tend to distract me purposely placed out of arm’s reach, especially the productivity killer, my phone.
Decluttering and optimizing your workspace will not only help ease your mind but will also decrease distractions and increase your productivity.
Eat similar meals each week
Eating the same meals each week is not necessarily fun, but it also takes a lot of stress, time, and planning away from your weekly (or biweekly) grocery shopping. When you need to plan for a new meal every day, it increases the amount of work that needs to be done. Writing a list, spending more time searching for and purchasing new foods, and finding new ways to prepare these foods all eat at time that could be better spent doing anything else.
Therefore, you can increase your daily productivity by making a list of a few simple and easy to prepare meals that you rotate through every week. These meals should contain all the essential vitamins and minerals by incorporating lots of fresh and/or frozen vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins, and satisfy any cravings.
A great example meal plan could look like:
- Breakfast Choices: Yogurt with granola and berries. Egg omelette with whole grain toast and avocado. Oatmeal with berries and peanut butter.
- Lunch Choices: Turkey sandwich with carrot and celery sticks. Spinach salad with cranberries, grilled chicken, low-fat cheese, added vegetables, and vinegar. Vegetable soup with whole grain crackers
- Dinner Choices: Grilled pork chop with green beans and baked sweet potato. Lean steak with spinach and whole grain couscous. Broiled salmon with rice and a vegetable medley
Try finding foods that you enjoy and that do not take too long to prepare, and be amazed with how much more time you have in a week!
Get out of debt and start saving
Getting out of debt is easier said than done, of course, but the burden of owing money takes its toll on any human being. What’s more, being in debt adds a load of stress to each day, which can weigh down the mind and, in turn, make it harder to complete tasks.
In fact, millennials alone spend an average of four hours per week figuring out and worrying about their personal finances. That’s approximately 57% of young adults in America. In addition, nearly four out of every ten millennials claim that personal finances distract them from their working jobs and everyone in three claim that their productivity at work severely decreases due to financial strain.
Getting out of debt, then, is a guaranteed way to gain both your life and your productivity back. There are a few ways to achieve this:
- Get on a budget — Budgets help you to stay on top of your finances and, in turn, reduce the stress that being short on money causes.
- Build an Emergency Fund — Even a small amount per paycheck can go a long way. Start saving little by little whenever you can to keep yourself out of financial trouble later on.
- Create a Game Plan — Sit down with a financial advisor or draw an outline of how you plan to pay off your loans, and in what amount of time, to help reduce stress.
Block your time
Do you really know what you spend your time on each day? Little odds and ends per day can add up to hours of wasted time.
Try sketching out your calendar for a week and see just where the majority of your time falls. Ideally, you want your daily schedule to be full of productive and helpful tasks, however, that may not always be possible. Whenever you find that you are spending far too much time on something unproductive and nonconducive to your overall growth, strategize ways to minimize this time. Focus on more important tasks per day and watch your productivity increase!
Set “SMART” goals
A goal is something that you strive to achieve. A “SMART” goal is a much more cemented goal, and it stands for:
Setting a “SMART” goal is a great way to make sure that you are optimizing your time throughout the day. Setting a calendar and striving for a goal each day focuses your time to make sure that you stay productive throughout the day.
A great way to set a “SMART” goal is to concentrate on what you do each day, and then redirect to what you would like to accomplish each day. Make sure that your goal is both specific and realistic, and that you set a time frame that makes sense. For example, a great “SMART” goal could be: “I will send five emails to prospective clients every day for the next month.” Now it’s time to set yours!
Plan time off
Even the most productive person can experience “Burn Out”. You’re tired and overworked, stressed, and have no desire or motivation to keep pushing towards your goals. No matter how efficiently you strategize your productivity, without some scheduled time off you, too, can experience “Burn Out.”
A great way to combat “Burn Out,” and therefore increase your overall weekly or monthly productivity, is to schedule yourself specific times where you do not work. This allows the body and mind to recharge. Time off can be done for as little as a half hour every day or as much as an entire week’s vacation since each individual is different.
Plan your break to be as productive as possible, though. Clouding your mind with electronics, television, or other “distractions” will actually keep our minds focused on content-consumption instead of relaxation, which can actually enhance “Burn Out.” Instead, plan your breaks to include as little noise as possible and your work will thank you.
Less is more
The old adage “less is more” forms the basic principles of minimalism. By practicing to live a more minimalistic life, you start to shed the things that are holding you back, letting you move more swiftly towards your goals, both at work and in life.