Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Thoughts About Minimalism

Minimalism. It’s one of those words, and concepts, that is widely embraced and widely misunderstood. I won’t go into the arguments for and against minimalism — you can find those all over the web.

That said, I’m all for minimalism. Within reason, of course. As with many other things, it’s easy to take minimalism to extremes. But for me, minimalism isn’t simply about material objects. Minimalism goes deeper. It ties into one of the key ideas that prompted me to start this blog. That idea? Simplicity.

Minimalism, to me, is about focusing on the essentials. At a material level, it’s a focus on what you need rather than on what you want. Do I need that 52 inch TV? No. Do I want it? Maybe … But not having it makes things simpler for me. How? I don’t have to think about where I’m going to put that TV. I don’t have to worry about it breaking down. And I sure don’t have to worry about dusting and cleaning the darned thing. I have one less piece of clutter in my life, and I’ve saved some money that I can put towards more worthwhile things.

Minimalism is also a matter of clearing the clutter and cruft from your thinking or your processes. It’s asking yourself if there’s an easier, more efficient way to deal with a problem or to complete a task. Minimalism is about taking the most direct route to achieving your goals.

I’m writing this post in TextDrop on my Chromebook. Sure, I could use a word processor for that job, but what’s the point? A word processor is overkill for much of what I need to do. Going with something simple and which uses plain text works in this case. I can write quickly and efficiently, without a lot of cruft getting in my way.

A handful of my friends are adherents of GTD (Getting Things Done, a popular and with some people a borderline cultish method of personal productivity). One of them embraces GTD, along with the fetishism towards tools and processes and metric that it can unwittingly engender. Once, he showed me a diagram he created that mapped his productivity workflow. It was a very pretty, very colourful diagram. But it had too many steps and involved too many tools. Hardly simple, stress-free productivity.

A system like that is bound to break down, and my friend will spend a lot of time and energy trying to maintain it. Time and energy that he could better spend actually doing things.

And that’s the other rationale behind minimalism: getting the most out of something with the least amount of time and effort.

As I keep saying, simple isn’t a four letter word. And neither is minimalism. By boiling things down to their essentials, rather than embracing a myriad of hacks, your life can become less stressful and less cluttered. You’ll finish what you need to get done and have more time for other things.

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