My journey to minimalism wasn’t an easy sell. To be honest, I resisted it for the longest time, coming up with horrible excuses as to why I couldn’t minimize my life. My stuff wasn’t the source of my procrastination, laziness, or unhappiness. It was just stuff.
After realizing that I was going to have to move all of my crap again in a year, I decided to just go with it. Besides, how could my stuff really be tied to my productivity? Wasn’t minimalism just about getting rid of your things and living out of a suitcase?
Let’s just say I got into a groove donating all my things. The clarity I found in minimalism was life-changing, and suddenly I found myself in a new world of productivity. It was more than just getting rid of my clutter. I found an entirely new life living inside me and I started knocking out new goals almost instantly.
If you’re curious as to how minimalism can improve your productivity, here’s what I’ve learned over the last few years.
Clear space to focus
I used to dread coming home, which sucked because I had two cats that I loved to hang out with AND I was a homebody. It was a real internal struggle. Besides actually finding a desk in my room under all the clutter, my focus more than doubled when I spent time in my room.
At the time of starting minimalism, I was in my last semester of my first master’s degree while simultaneously taking an extra course to get ahead on my next one. As someone with a full-time job and balancing three courses, I really needed help. Somehow, I did all of those things, started a blog on which I posted daily, AND wrote a book in ten days. None of my work suffered.
Not only did having a clear space help me stay focused on my work while I was home, but I was also completing tasks in less than half the time it usually took me. All of my work was productive, and none of it ever became overwhelming. I was working on my priorities first and faster so I could get to more of the stuff I enjoyed.
Increased creativity, decreased stress
You know those doodles you make on sheets of paper when you don’t know how to draw but you keep scratching squiggles, spirals, and patterns into one giant mess? That’s my anxiety and stress level on a normal day. What minimalism did was stretch that out a bit until it became a slightly less crumpled mess and more of a really long squiggle with a bunch of knots in it.
No, minimalism didn’t cure everything, but it did help me release some of the stress I didn’t know I had. When I had space to breathe a little, I started filling that space with creation — in my case, that meant writing. I started a blog, discovered a love for writing, and decided to write a book. It’s now self-published with the second one on the way.
Clearing that path helped me get things done I never thought I was capable of doing.
Clear values and priorities
When you adopt a minimalist lifestyle, it’s more than just physical clutter. You learn how to apply it to everything you do, which starts with figuring out your values and priorities. When you clear the path to your answers, you learn how to live with intentionality.
Clear values help you determine your priorities in life. Knowing what you want to do and how you want to live helps you determine your priorities — the things you do first, the things you hold in higher regard, and the things you have to say no to. You learn to live intentionally, letting things into your life only when they serve purpose and value to you.
The minute I figured out my values, I started eliminating the things that pulled me away from my goals. I started saying no to meaningless tasks that got me nowhere and said yes to the things that furthered my life. I finally started working on things I enjoyed.
When you know your values, you know why you’re doing a certain task. I don’t always like social media, but I know that it’s critical if I want to succeed as a writer or promote my business. Because I know why I stay on the platforms, I still have the motivation to complete the work.
Tasks we don’t always like still get done because we are clear on our intentions and our values. We no longer procrastinate something because we dread it. We know the purpose behind the action, and since it furthers our goals, we are able to commit to the action and get it done.
Goal setting practice
Clearing all this space for your values helps you get clear on where you want to go. That’s a goal you strive to complete. Learning how to set these goals, and figuring out the work involved in making that a reality, is the perfect practice for doing so for the rest of your life.
Productivity is a result of making progress toward an end goal. Minimalism is perfect practice, not just for setting your values and priorities, but actually learning how to get it done. Using this lifestyle throughout your work is monumental for improving your productivity.
Just because minimalism makes productivity easier, doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are still days where I want to leave things all over the place and not do anything. But I ask myself whether putting it off is going to help me or harm the future me.
Honestly, if future me wasn’t always such a grouch about it, I might consider putting it off.
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler, Aesence