Imagine what you could accomplish if you had focus. Extreme focus.
This seems elusive in a world full of distractions. Days go by and no matter how hard you work, you can’t seem to break out of the cycle of everyday tasks to make progress toward substantial goals.
There’s hope! You don’t have to become a minimalist to achieve the type of focus it takes to be masterfully efficient, but it helps to adopt a few compatible habits.
I’ve identified some traits of a minimal lifestyle that are aligned with the practices of time-management and personal-growth experts.
These five habits can be applied to the degree that works in your life to help remove the distractions keeping you from being productive.
These minimalist practices contain tried-and-true wisdom that can easily be applied to use your time more consciously and efficiently.
1. Eliminate the unnecessary
Minimalists have a keen sense of what is necessary because they’ve pruned away the things that aren’t.
This applies to belongings, commitments, tasks, or anything else that demands your time and attention.
It’s important to stop and consider what’s really adding value to your life. The act of doing something can become so routine that you forget why you even do it in the first place.
If you have trouble identifying habitual but ineffective routines, it’s time to do some reverse thinking.
Decide what it is you would love to accomplish if you had a day with unlimited time and no distractions. Work backward to identify the steps necessary, no matter how small, to make progress toward it.
If you don’t have at least a little time each day for progress on your larger goals after doing all the necessary tasks that keep things running smooth, then you need to eliminate some unnecessary ones.
It became easier to pinpoint the unnecessary once I made a conscious effort to simplify my life by getting rid of things I don’t need and saying no to commitments that weren’t in line with my goals.
2. Lose the news
This topic sparks debate. Keeping up with what’s going on in the world can be crazy addicting, plus it’s sort of an implied expectation of conformity in our society.
But the need to stay informed can put you at risk of information overload. You’re also exposing yourself to negative messages that are beyond your control.
Different forms of news have a way of becoming intertwined with your daily routines so they’re very difficult to shut out.
Have you ever tried to take a break from Facebook? You’ll receive a lot of enticing notifications of your friends’ latest status updates to lure you back in.
Social media adds a whole new level of staying informed. Being so easily accessible to everyone and bombarded with their thoughts and opinions completely derails my concentration.
Rather than weigh yourself down with the burdens of the world, choose a cause that you are passionate about. Let this be your focus and don’t distract yourself with things beyond your control.
You can be far more effective and start making a difference when you’ve narrowed your focus to just one cause that is within your realm of influence.
3. Be fully present
Only when you’re present do things become clear. When you have clarity, you know exactly what needs to be done next and this allows you to be efficient.
We’ve all heard that concentrating on one idea at a time is far more effective than spreading yourself thin. But this is difficult when there’s so much you have to juggle just to keep up.
So how do you get to this fully present state? You don’t have to be a Zen master to do it, but minimalists may get to experience it more often than others.
I think it’s because they’re good at creating space around them. They’re good at allowing things to come and go without forming attachments.
Maintaining this space means not allowing commitments or physical stuff to overwhelm you. It may take a lot of refinement and time to get to this point, but the reward is worth it and will give you momentum.
4. Store things where they’re used
There’s no doubt the innovators of the early 1900s were masters of efficiency. Henry Ford was able to accomplish great things because he was determined to do away with anything wasteful.
The processes in his factories were so refined that workers had everything they needed within reach. Ford placed tools and workers in proper sequence so that each component would travel the least possible distance.
That way, no step or space was wasted as the workers’ movements were reduced to a minimum. You can read more about this process in My Life and Work: An Autobiography of Henry Ford.
The best decision I made for my home office was to get a custom-built desk. Everything I needed to work, such as filing, printing, mailing, and so on, was within arm’s reach and I didn’t have to get up from my chair to do any of it.
You don’t have to have a custom-built desk to be efficient. An uncluttered home will provide the room you need to store things where they are supposed to be used.
5. Keep a tidy space
Clutter is distracting. It can pull your mind away from the task at hand.
As someone who’s bothered by things being out of place, I’ve spent a lot of time tidying. I thought if I could just figure out clever ways to organize our things, I could escape the endless cycle of stuff management.
I was stuck in this cycle until I realized the only way to spend less time straightening our stuff was to have less of it. Plain and simple.
For me, neatness affects productivity but I’ve read studies that support both sides. Some say that a messy desk promotes creativity if you’re artistic, but the fact remains that you need space to create.
While a messy room may not be distracting to everyone, there’s no argument that efficiency will increase when you free up time that was spent endlessly cleaning and organizing too much stuff.
So why wait another day?
Decide what it is you want to accomplish, get rid of the excess stuff and commitments cluttering your life and mind, and experience what it’s like to be focused and efficient.
You’ll still have distractions but they won’t be overwhelming. You may just find that your someday goals are within reach and can be accomplished a lot sooner than you thought.
Do you have any habits that increase your efficiency? I would love to hear from you!
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