Minimalism is making a comeback. Today, it describes a mass movement of people seeking to reconnect with what matters – and cast away the possessions, behaviours and choices that stand in the way. Applying this outlook to the workplace can put goals centre stage, whilst reducing stress and boosting efficiency.
Constantly bombarded by consumer culture and frazzled by today’s ‘on demand’ lifestyle, several people are putting the brakes on and trying to reconnect with the things that really matter. These minimalists want to clear away the clutter and distractions that are stopping them from focusing on the things they find most important.
This lean outlook sounds like a breath of fresh air. But can it be applied to the modern workplace, which is often perceived as a hotbed of paperwork, never-ending to-do lists, and distractions? We look at five areas of working life, and how the concept of minimalism can help strip away the things that are stifling your efficiency and clouding your goals:
Workstation – Research has linked visual distractions to stress levels. So, our desks themselves could be stressing us out. Consider the clutter we surround ourselves with: from everyday stationery to post-it note reminders, desk ornaments to personal items. By clearing these away, you may find your mind feels clearer too. To achieve this, select the items on your desk carefully. Keep essential day-to-day items close, but do away with things that distract you. Studies also show that having a plant on your desk can increase productivity. However, don’t let this become another distraction – choose low maintenance plants such as succulents, so you don’t add to your to-do list!
Clearing your desk can help clear your mind
Uniform – Love them or hate them, wearing a uniform can be a great efficiency tool. By wearing the same thing every day, you save yourself the indecision of choosing what to wear. Even minor decisions such as these contribute to ‘decision fatigue.’ This phrase describes how, the more decisions a person has to make, the poorer the quality of the individual’s decision-making becomes over time. So, slip into your go-to workwear and you could save brain power for more important choices later on. In addition, even if you work from home, putting on a designated set of work clothes helps get your mind into ‘work mode’ kick-starting productivity.
Wearing a uniform could help your worklife
Software – In today’s digital world, we rely on a huge range of software applications, tools and systems. Some of these are essential. However, others may have overlapping functions or simply be inherited ways of working. Switching between applications, searching for files and logging in and out of different accounts all eat into your productivity. Consider whether all of these tools are truly useful, or whether a simpler setup could be used to achieve the same outcome. This way, you could pare down your digital desktop and streamline your working.
Are all your software tools really needed?
Resources – The typical UK office worker prints 6,000 pages per year, yet how many of these are quickly discarded or still clutter our desks? Many of us automatically circulate handouts at meetings, or print documents for our records which sit idle in drawers. Our colleagues probably wouldn’t thank us for cluttering their desks. Before sending items to print, consider whether hard copies are essential – or even useful. If not, go for the paperless approach and save a digital copy or circulate soft copies after the meeting. As well as cutting down clutter, this reduces waste – which is helpful for the environment and the business’ bottom line.
Are you wasting resources?
Activities – Why do you do things the way you do? If the answer is “because that’s how I’ve always done it,” then it may be time to take a fresh look. Consider this anecdote from Workplace Consultant, Michelle Kerrigan: “I replaced a director who left unexpectedly. I inherited a massive report he distributed every week for 20 years to 250 executives. One day, I just stopped sending the report. The upshot: Only one person called to inquire. Yes –One.” Are your day-to-day tasks all truly necessary? The way you do things should support your goals. If what you’re doing isn’t helping you achieve them, then there may be a more minimalist approach.
Consider if all your daily tasks are really necessary
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