Tasks piled up around me like dirty dishes.
Unsure what to tackle next, I let them accumulate, procrastinating on important projects.
I was undermotivated and overwhelmed. Sound familiar?
If you’re similarly stressed and seeking solutions or just want to improve your daily efficiency, let’s see how minimalist productivity might help.
As a freelance marketer, I had client work coming out of my ears.
Due to the usual feast and famine nature of the role, conventional wisdom dictated that I accept all offers to offset any future dry spells.
Limits are soon reached, however, physically and psychologically.
You’ve probably hit such working ceilings in your life too.
Perhaps you’re a parent who wants to create your own business around your day job and childcare.
Maybe you’re ambitious and career-driven, constantly competing against colleagues for the next promotion.
Or you might simply want to be more effective in actioning your daily to-do’s.
Many of us find that even after organising our diaries with military precision, there don’t seem enough hours in the day to make meaningful progress.
And despite valiantly trying to keep every ball in the air, you either become demotivated or standards start to slip.
A late pick up here, a missed deadline there.
Stress and fatigue set in, chronic symptoms of taking on too much.
You push yourself harder, admonishing yourself for poor performance, until you finally break.
Even if you pride yourself on being a productive person, efficiency tweaks don’t matter under unmanageable workloads or undirected action.
There’s only so much optimisation available before you reach capacity.
I won’t discuss shortlived productivity hacks here, but rather a sustainable framework for further consideration.
So let’s look at a minimalist productivity approach that can help.
1. Outline your goals
What is your overarching vision?
Minimalist productivity not only requires reflecting on your daily to-do’s, but correlating them closely with your goals.
For the majority of people, their actions are dictated by money and prestige.
Although these are completely valid aims, further reflection might make you realise you don’t want these things at all.
Instead of focusing on the external values which society promotes, perhaps you want to maximise intrinsic motivation instead.
Optimising for different outcomes in this way will naturally affect your priorities and lead to greater productive flow.
2. Strip away inessentials
I’ve never been motivated much by income or status.
When you adopt such a mentality, you can strip inessential tasks from your to-do’s.
Instead of grinding away trying to produce more meaningless money, you have extra time and energy for the few activities that deliver the maximum emotional return.
In this way, minimalist productivity focuses on doing less, but with a greater emphasis on quality.
For you that might mean dropping down to part-time work to make music or getting a remote job for greater family flexibility.
3. Focus on high-leverage activities
Once you’ve analysed your goals and assessed your actions, it’s time to get even more efficient.
The Pareto principle states that 20% input frequently yields 80% output, a pattern observed across multiple domains.
It’s time to identify these leverage activities which generate the majority your results and focus on those.
How you define those results is up to you – it could be how much progress you make on a project or the amount of joy you experience in the process.
For example, you might find that not only is running more time-efficient than cycling for the same energy expenditure, but that it’s more enjoyable and effective for weight loss.
4. Adopt systems-thinking
If you want a minimalist productivity approach, it’s essential to start thinking in systems and processes, requiring minimal cognitive load for maximum results.
It’s far better to tackle issues once, comprehensively, rather than solving the same problem repeatedly.
If it’s a recurring task, setting up systems bypasses future decision making, thereby conserving emotional and physical energy.
One example of this is automation, with digital tools and software providing new solutions to offload repetitive tasks.
This might be as simple as setting up direct debits for ongoing investments or organising regular home grocery deliveries.
5. Delegate where possible
There’s only so much one person can do.
We’ve already established that minimalist productivity is not about getting more done, but focusing on doing the right things.
Part of this process involves outsourcing tasks where possible.
The first thing to ask yourself is where your strengths and interests lie.
Unless you’re the only person who can do a particular task, or you derive significant enjoyment from it, is there any way you can acquire outside help?
Nowadays, there are plenty of online marketplaces providing peer-reviewed services.
If you can’t stand tidying your house, can you organise a deep clean once a week?
If you need help with your side project, can you hire remote assistance on UpWork?
This approach works because it doesn’t rely on some shiny hack or shortcut.
By analysing what’s important and mapping your goals against each daily action, you can focus on the essentials and ignore the rest.
In this way, streamlined simplification is the path to effortless productivity.