I was recently discussing my voyage into a minimalist lifestyle during a job interview. It’s a topic Minimalism is a topic I never thought would come up in that context, but thanks to my faux-magazine on minimalism (MinnieMag), I found myself discussing some of the benefits and pitfalls of the lifestyle trend.
I mentioned that minimalism in terms of objects and clutter is an impossible guideline to follow personally. I place memories on objects and have a sentimental connection to many of the items I own.
But then we got on the topic of minimalism in terms of how you think, how you spend time and money, how you navigate the world. And in that respect, minimalism has been impactful on my professional life without me even realizing it.
When I was considering how to design MinnieMag in an impactful way that encompassed both minimalism and youthful fun (you can read about the whole branding and design process here), I did some research on what minimalism, at its core, really is.
It’s easy to look at it as the solution for a cluttered home, and workspace in disarray, twenty coffee mugs for one coffee drink, clothes you haven’t worn in four years but you still hold on to because what if one day you want to wear them again? While the physical aspects of minimalism are still an important part of what it means to bring simplicity into your life, the lifestyle is much more than that.
According to Joshua Becker, a writer for Becoming Minimalist, minimalism is “intentionally trying to live with only the things you need.” From my perspective and through the research I’ve done on the topic, minimalism is being intentional and thoughtful about your possessions on many levels: objects, thoughts, finances, and time are all aspects of life that someone can approach from a minimalistic point of view.
While I can acknowledge that I attribute feelings and memories to many of my possession and, in that respect, can never truly be a minimalist, I have tried to take a minimalist viewpoint in other aspects of my life (especially the minimalist pillars of mindfulness, intentionality, and clarity) and none have been more impacted, interestingly enough, than my professional work.
Pre-minimalism exploration, the way I approached work could be described like this: Things need to be finished eventually, and I’ll just do them as they come. This mindset seems like a laid-back, happy-go-lucky way of looking at projects, but it hurt me and my work for many reasons. I left everything until the last minute. I never planned a project. I never proofread a project. My only priority was getting a project finished and moving on to the next one. I never knew how to prioritize my life: Should work or friends or family come first? Usually, I was doing other things when I should have been focusing on a project. Not only did this process create a personal burnout, but it also lowered the quality of the work I was doing.
After I started thinking about how minimalism might be able to impact how I work, I realized the process could be easier on my personal life, allow me to fully start and finish a project, and up the overall quality of my work. Using the minimalist principle of clarity in intention created clear lines of priority and allowed me to use my time more effectively and efficiently.
Being mindful about the process of a project and what I need to finish every day to stay on track, while still considering my personal life (taking time for myself and my friends), has led me to a weekly planning process that gives me time to work on projects in a manageable way that leaves time for other aspects of my life that are important to me.
My favorite way to complete projects now is to split them up into bite sized pieces and work on small parts every day until I’m finished (instead of doing it all in one sitting. Like I used to do. Yikes). When I know I have big projects, I plan the process weeks ahead and include things like outlining and proofreading that I used to leave out in my old process.
Working on tidbits of projects every day makes it easier for me to prioritize my work without feeling like one thing is getting finished while another sits idle. It allows me to touch each of my projects every day.
Being mindful and intentional about my work and the process also gives me room to decide that I’m not in the right headspace to work on a certain project at the moment. Or it allows me to work ahead on a project if I’m on a roll.
Planning my projects like this allows me to be intentional about how I spend my time and when I should be working versus playing. It allows me to think through my priorities ahead of time but also give me room to make changes that make sense in the logical progression of a project. Most of all, it allows me to follow through with thoughtful and well-rounded projects in a way that is much less stressful than my old habit of leaving things until the last minute.
I used to think I work better under pressure, but I’ve found that it showed in my work when I would sprint through a project without really being intentional about its process and goals.
Now, intentional work is the only kind of work I do. My mindset toward projects is no longer the dread of an entire day of mediocre work. Now, it's eagerness to see a project grow every day without worrying about whether it will get finished or not: I know it will because I planned it that way.
My method may not necessarily be simple, but it has given clarity to a work process that never really felt right or fulfilling for me. My work is better for it. My life is better for it.