I wouldn’t call myself a true minimalist. At least not like the guys from the awesome Netflix documentary ‘Minimalism’. I’m more like an amateur minimalist. But still, I immediately experienced huge benefits from adopting a more minimalistic life- and work-style.
In fact, not only is minimalism very beneficial for your happiness, stress management and finances – it also helps with improving your focus and productivity, as I’ve experienced myself. And that’s what I’ll focus this article on. I won’t go into the other (amazing) benefits of minimalism too much. Instead, I’ll explain how minimalism will help you work with more focus and impact, so you can actually achieve your life- and business-goals a lot faster.
Fewer Distractions = Better Focus
Having an unorganized, messy work-space is definitely the #1 killer of your focus. Each file or object laying around that has nothing to do with your current task at hand is a potential distraction. One quick glance at a file of one of the other projects you’re working on is enough to create new thoughts in your mind, which then turn into distractions occupying your valuable mental resources.
In fact, if you’re continuously being distracted (even if it’s just a very short interruption), you won’t be able to get into the optimal state of focus. This will lead to lower quality output and less productivity. Not something we’re after..
Whenever you’re distracted, it takes (on average) 25 minutes to gain back your full focus on your task at hand. 25 minutes! This is because of a concept called ‘attention residue’, which essentially means that some of your attention is still left behind at the previous task or distraction. Only after 25 minutes will you have your full focus back again.
A study from Princeton Neuroscience Institute found that a lot of visual stimulus in your work environment competes for your attention, leaving less mental resources available for optimal focus. Meanwhile, Harvard research found that those with a clean workspace were able to perform a challenging task for 1.5 times longer than those in a messy environment.
Therefore, resolve to minimalize your work-space. Resolve to make your work-space your sacred temple of high performance, productivity and focus. Remove everything from your work environment that could potentially distract you. Make it only about you and your task at hand.
When I need to do work with optimal focus, there’s literally no object in sight on my desk except for my water bottle, my earbuds and my laptop. This helps me work with complete focus and I hardly ever get distracted anymore.
Again, realize that every object leaves an impression in your mind and that those impressions create thoughts which then can be distractions. Really be strict about this if you want to perform at your highest possible levels.
Better Focus On The Essentials
In the process of minimalism, you are continuously removing. You are dropping instead of adding. By doing so, you force yourself to only stick with the essentials – those things you really need and value. But this doesn’t only relate to physical stuff. It also relates to your activities, your goals and your projects.
So when it comes to your work, critically look at what tasks, projects and goals are truly essential. What activities or projects are the most valuable? What activities or projects contribute to the most impactful results? Those activities are the ones you should focus most of your time and attention on. All the others can basically be dropped or outsourced. Essentially you’re using the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule here!
As you’ll be forced to focus more on the essentials, you’ll focus more of your time and effort on those projects and activities that truly move the needle. This way, you prevent falling into the trap of productive procrastination (which is when you’re working hard and you’re feeling productive, but you’re basically doing tasks that are not that valuable at all – thereby you’re still not being truly productive).
Ever since I applied this in my own work life, I have so much more clarity on what activities and projects are the most important and most valuable for my business. Using this knowledge, I can spend my time accordingly. I don’t bullshit myself anymore by feeling productive because I’m tackling a lot of easy, low-value tasks. Instead, I plan my days and weeks around my most important activities and I make them my priority.
So, apply minimalism in your work life by taking a critical look at how you spend your time. What activities are you working on? What projects are you working on? And how valuable and important are they actually? How much do they contribute to the achievement of your goals? Then, resolve to focus more on the essentials and drop (or outsource) the non-essentials. This single decision alone has contributed to making this year one of the most productive years of my life.
Single Task Instead of Multitask
Studies have found that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by 40% -especially for complicated or unfamiliar tasks- because it takes extra time to shift mental gears every time a person switches between the two tasks.
So, therefore, make sure you minimalize on that too. Stop doing multiple things at the same time and start single-tasking instead. This way, you’ll have better focus, more clarity and less stress.
Less is, indeed, more..
Now Do It
Start applying minimalism in your work life in order to reclaim your focus and productivity. Personally, these simple changes have had a huge impact on my productivity levels. I can get a lot more done in less time, and I notice the quality of my work increases as well.
So, first of all, resolve to make your work environment free of possible distractions by keeping it clean and removing anything that doesn’t have anything to do with your task at hand.
Second of all, take a critical look at how you’re spending your time. Reduce the number of activities and projects you’re working on and stick only with the essentials. Spend more of your time on fewer activities, but make sure that those activities are truly the most valuable and impactful. Again drop or outsource those that aren’t really that valuable at all.
Last of all, stop multitasking and instead focus on one single task at a time. This will make you more productive and lead to higher quality output.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab
Ps. A lack of focus due to too much stuff, information, entertainment and other distractions is one of the biggest reasons why people procrastinate. If you’re interested in learning exactly how to overcome procrastination, check out my free guide ‘7 Strategies To Stop Procrastinating‘!