• Anita Chastain

How to Apply Minimalism at Work

Updated: 4 days ago

Minimalism isn't just for your home. Learn how you can apply minimalism principles at work too.

Work desk and chair

I became a minimalist because I wanted to decomplicate my life.


In the beginning, my path to minimalism didn't begin with a desire to get rid of excess stuff. I just wanted my day-to-day life to be simpler and happier.

A wanted to find a better balance between work and my life outside of work.


The non-stop demands to stay on top of the unending goal creep in my job and an always-on corporate culture left me exhausted. I reached a point where I didn’t care about the money, the work, or the title. I just wanted out.


Fed up and tired, I gave it all up to write for a living.


I was thrilled and nervous. I was up for the challenge – or so I thought.


Change is hard. Even when we want it.

That first year was a disaster. I wrote for anyone who would give me the opportunity to string two words together. Days, nights, weekends. It didn’t matter.


I felt lucky to have work, so I accepted every opportunity that came my way.


But the unpredictable nature of the work and my constant worrying about making enough money to replace my paycheck took a toll on me. My stress level shot up and stayed up.


I was stressed out and on edge most of the time.


I couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep. Then I started having problems remembering things, so I went to the doctor. Many tests later, I learned that my stress was so severe it was hurting my memory.

I knew I had to learn to cope with stress better. That decision was the start of a conscious and intentional effort to change my work habits.

To learn that my out-of-control stress was causing holes in my memory was an eye-opener for me. I knew I had to learn to cope with stress better. That decision was the start of a conscious and intentional effort to change my work habits.


I decided I needed to minimize and simplify my life. I figured that if I could learn how to do that, I would be a happier and less stressed human - and one with a much better memory.


17 Strategies I Use to Keep Work Minimalist and Simple

After the stress diagnosis, my priorities changed. I revamped my work habits.


I made changes that made work easier and more manageable. Here’s what I do now:


1. I set boundaries. Real boundaries. As in, I will not accept projects that have unreasonable deadlines or expectations or that require me to work with unreasonable people.


It’s hard to avoid the challenging client, but there are boundaries that I won’t cross. The money just isn’t worth it.


If the client or some aspect of the project exceeds boundaries that I'm comfortable with, then I move on.


2. I control my time. I realized that I would have to make an intentional effort to control how I use my time. No one was going to do it for me.


I set work and personal hours that I can live with, and I make a point to limit my work to those hours.


Stress leads to burnout. Controlling my time helps control my stress, which helps keep me from getting burned out.

Unless I have a good reason to be in there, I don’t go in my home office except to work.

3. I separate my work life from my personal life. I have a separate room in my house that I use as an office. Unless I have a good reason to be in there, like cleaning up or paying bills, I don’t go in my home office except to work.


This is my home office equivalent of going home for the day. Staying out of the office unless I have to be in there helps me separate work time from home time.


4. I keep my work narrow in scope. I don’t want to be all things to all people. I tried that and it was exhausting.


Now I’m more selective in the projects I take on. That decision allows me to better manage the work I do accept.


I enjoy my work more, and I'm less stressed out about it too.


5. I prioritize my to-do list. I’m a list maker. I make lists for everything. That’s a good and bad thing. On the good side, it keeps me organized and I don’t forget things. On the bad side, my life sometimes feels like I'm running on a treadmill with no off button.

I overcome this problem by prioritizing certain tasks. The tasks that are both highly important and urgent float to the top of my to-do list. Those tasks get my immediate attention, and I work down the list from there.


I also look for pseudo-tasks that should never have been on the list to begin with, and I cross them off. (It’s one of the hazards of listifying your life.)

I try to compensate for the planning fallacy, which is the idea that we underestimate how long it takes to do things.

6. I build in extra time for tasks in case I’m running late. I try to compensate for the planning fallacy, which is the idea that we underestimate how long it takes to do things. I don’t like to be late on dates or deadlines.


Overestimating gives me wiggle room, so I can meet deadlines by working at a reasonable pace.

7. I single task my way through the day. I’m not a fan of multitasking. With technology and the way our lives have evolved because of it, I think we all multitask to a certain extent. But I feel like it makes me less efficient.


I make it a point to conquer my to-do list one task at a time.

I keep note cards or a junior size legal pad by my nightstand, just in case something comes to mind. If it does, I jot it down.

8. I make a reminder list at night, so I don’t forget things I need to do. This is my version of a brain dump. If it’s on my mind at bedtime, it disrupts my sleep.


I keep note cards or a junior size legal pad by my nightstand, just in case something comes to mind. If it does, I jot it down.


This simple habit helps clear my mind and helps me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.


9. I break large projects into smaller projects with individual goals. Big projects can feel overwhelming and stressful. To manage the stress and feel more in control, I break large projects down into smaller pieces. This helps me focus on completing the pieces instead of getting distracted by the thought of completing the whole.


This also takes some of the unknown away from the project, making it easier to work it in an organized and intentional way.


10. I prioritize quality work over quantity of work. I care about my work. I want to produce the best result that I can. That translates into choosing quality over quantity, even if it takes me a little longer to complete something than I originally thought. So be it.


This is also why I overestimate the amount of time I think I will need to complete something (see #6 above).

The most important work at any given moment is whatever I’m working on at that moment.

11. I focus on the present task. The most important work at any given moment is whatever I’m working on at that moment.


It’s easy to get distracted by things that are looming gin the near future. When that happens, I refocus on the current moment and remind myself that my first priority is what I'm working on right now.


12. I stop for lunch, even if it’s just 20 minutes. If I’m too busy to eat, there's a problem. I need to reassess what’s going on and adjust my schedule accordingly.


I need to take breaks at work (I think we all do), and lunch is an important break. I enjoy the downtime and come back refreshed and ready to deal with the second half of the day.


13. I start work when my energy is highest. For me, that’s usually around 9 a.m. Once I realized that my ideal and natural work schedule starts at 9, I adjusted my schedule to make that time work or me.


I start drooping in the midafternoon. By the time my energy is lowest, usually around 5:30 p.m., I'm ready to call it a day.


Sometimes I have to adjust my schedule to accommodate other demands on my time, but I default back to this schedule as soon as I can.


14. I keep my supplies and resources handy and within easy access. When work is going smoothly, I don’t want the disruption of hunting down pens and sticky notes and ink cartridges.


I reorganized my desk space so that I can reach all these things without getting up from my chair.


15. Be proactive to prevent problems. I make lists because it keeps me organized and helps me avoid missing important things. Lists don’t prevent all problems, however. That’s why I have plans to deal with certain “what if” situations that would wreck my day.


I can relax more knowing that I have an extra laptop, save my work on Google Drive, and keep a phone charger in my office.


Bad things might happen, but the major things, like being without a computer or being unable to retrieve my files, I can largely avoid.

I figure out what I need to do, I fully complete the task, then I move on. What's done is done.

16. Adopt a “one and done” approach to tasks. I want to get things done, do them right, and know they are off my plate.


I figure out what I need to do, I fully complete the task, then I move on. What's done is done.


17. Batch several small tasks into one larger task. Sometimes it just makes more sense to put all those little tasks together into one larger task or batch, then complete them all in one swoop. This makes it easier to complete lots of little tasks with less disruption in my schedule.


I don’t pay bills one at a time. I pay them in batches – at the beginning of the month and at the middle of the month. I delete files, manage email, and even clean house in batches. (To batch clean, I complete one area at a time. For example, I clean the entire kitchen before dusting the living room.)


Treating These Strategies Like a Practice

Just like decluttering and meditation, these 17 strategies are ongoing practices. I work on them.


If I get off track, I figure out what I stopped doing, and I add it back to my day. No shame. No beating myself up over it. I just add it back to my routine.


Conclusion

I have no regrets about leaving the corporate world. It was a good decision for me. Today, I feel balanced and my priorities are in order.


I’m happier and more focused on what’s good for me and my career. Minimalism and simple living concepts help me manage the day-to-day stresses of being self-employed. I’m better able to cope with whatever challenges come my way.


There’s no doubt in my mind that applying minimalist practices changed my work (and life) for the better.


I can’t imagine going back to my earlier life. No thank you. I’m happy right where I am.


Is a minimalist and simple work style something that appeals to you? What would you do to make it work for you?

NEXT: You might enjoy 23 Ways to Slow Down, Declutter, and Enjoy Life.


© 2020 by SIMPLE LIFE 365 Chattanooga, TN