How Minimalist Principles Can Boost Your Business
The minimalist movement
I was doing some decluttering around the house (video house tour of my latest purge) and was amazed at how good it felt and how it positively affected my work. I felt more clear headed, less distracted, lighter, and happier.
I was surprised at the effect that my possessions had on my life, even my business. The connection of these two things really intrigued me and I started learning more about the minimalist movement. One of the books I’ve really enjoyed is Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki. Here’s what he says:
Minimalism is a lifestyle in which you reduce your possessions to the absolute minimum you need…Reducing the number of possessions that you have is not the goal unto itself. I think minimalism is a method for individuals to find the things that are genuinely important to them…In today’s busy world, everything is so complicated that minimalism, which began with objects, is spreading to other areas as well. It’s an attempt to reduce the things that aren’t essential so we can appreciate the things that really are precious to us. It’s a simple idea that we can apply to every facet of our lives. The only way to focus on the important things is to reduce the things that aren’t important.
I think that’s such an important lesson to apply to our businesses.
Coming from a procrastinator, perfectionist, easily distracted, to-do list kind-of-person - learning to focus on only the most important thing was a game changer. It’s the core principle of one of my favorite business books, The ONE Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan. It was monumental in changing how I worked and boosting my productivity. One of the things they hammer home is that you have to let go of all the other stuff.
You have to be okay taking the unimportant things off your plate in order to be great at the important things. What an awesome tie-in to minimalism!
Steve Jobs, the perfect minimalist
In the book Goodbye,Things, Fumio Sasaki called Steve Jobs the Perfect Minimalist.
Jobs didn’t like things that were excessive or complicated and minimalism guided every aspect of his life. He even applied his minimalist mindset to his past self and past decisions.
If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you've done and whoever you were and throw them away. - Steve Jobs, Playboy, 1985
In business, it can be paralyzing to dwell on our mistakes and take things too personally. It’s definitely a personal struggle for me. Getting past this allows us to take bigger risks and achieve greatness. By looking forward and only focusing on what you want to take into the future with you - whether that’s belongings, mindsets, and goals - we can apply the minimalism mindset to progress forward and grow both personally and professionally.
Steve Jobs & Mark Zuckerberg’s minimalist wardrobe
You probably know about Steve Job’s minimalist wardrobe (aka. self-imposed uniform). He wore his black turtleneck, Levi’s, and New Balance sneakers all. the. time. He didn’t change it in over a decade!
Mark Zuckerberg used to do the same thing. He told Business Insider in 2014, I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community…I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.
He posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, First day back after paternity leave. What should I wear?
You may have heard the term decision fatigue. It’s the idea that over time the quality of our decision making deteriorates. Eliminating the need to make unnecessary decisions - like what to wear that day - can reserve your decision making focus and mental power for the important things - like your business.
Freeing up our mental capacity can translate to other areas of life as well by living a minimalist lifestyle. Even I debate which of my mugs to use every morning! How to choose?!
How Apple used minimalism to develop big innovation
But back to Jobs. The book went on to share examples of how he applied the minimalist mindset, not just to his wardrobe, but also to how he ran Apple. It was fascinating and once I heard it, it made so much sense that Jobs was a minimalist!
Here are some key ways Steve Jobs integrated his minimalist principles into the company culture and it’s innovation:
Apple products have always been very minimalist by nature. From the buttons and input ports (or lack thereof) to the packaging and instructions - the products are focused on providing what you need in a simple way.
He got rid of all of the old documents, machines, and anything else that wasn’t important to focus on producing products.
He made sure that only the people necessary were in meetings and included in decisions.
He simplified processes and focused on bringing ideas to life so they didn’t get watered down by getting passed around to too many departments.
He focused first on what not to do - what to get rid of.
In 1997 he said at the Apple Worldwide Developers' Conference, People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.
How Lionel Messi used minimalism to become a soccer superstar
According to Wikipedia, Lionel Messi is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward and captains both FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team. [He’s] often considered the best player in the world and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
In fact, he was just named the world’s highest-paid athlete on Forbes' 2019 List Of The World's 100 Highest-Paid Athletes with $127 million in total earnings!!
Messi’s known for running much shorter distances than other soccer players during games (8 km vs. 10 km average). He’s often found walking in instances where other players run.
According to the book’s author, he believes that Messi’s minimalist style is why he is the top player in the world. He has a clear picture of the crucial moments when he needs to go full force to surpass his opponents. To him, scoring is his top priority. He’s reduced everything else to save his energy and focus on what’s truly important: those crucial opportunities to score.
Focus on only the important things
This was a great reminder to someone like me to likes to go all-in on things and perfect every little detail. If I do that, I’ll have nothing left in my tank for the moments that matter. To be great at what I do, I need to be choiceful about where I put my focus, my time, and my energy.
Same could be said for my possessions. I could get better quality, longer-lasting items (and focus more on the things that matter) by investing in only the key things that are important to how I live my life. Instead I spread out my resources across a whole lotta things that don’t really matter and it spreads my focus too.
How minimalism helps you get into flow
You’ve probably heard about getting into a state of flow. It’s this idea that we get so engrossed and engaged in something that you lose track of time. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied how this intense form of concentration is linked to contentment, joy, and happiness with its ability to make us temporarily forget our problems and our ego. No wonder being in flow (and after) feels so great!
The ideal scenario is to be in a state of flow with our work as often as possible. According to Sasaki, it can be impossible to get into this state of flow until you’ve eliminated all distractions and unnecessary things (probably why I got such a boost from decluttering!). One of the reasons for this is because he believes that our things send us silent messages.
What our possessions are saying to us
This sounded a little woo woo to me, so I did an experiment and walked around my house, paying attention to what I heard. Low and behold, I was bombarded with messages from my belongings. The ones with negative things to say were the loudest - reminding me of my insecurities.
Here’s a video confession of some of the messages I was getting.
Here are a few examples:
Way to waste your money on me and all my accessories. You used me a handful of times and then just let me collect dust. You should manage your money better. -My GoPro
Why haven't you read me yet? Maybe your business would be growing faster if you did and put my principles into practice. -Unread Business Books
Maybe if you finally lost that weight you could fit into me again and wouldn't feel so guilty about splurging to buy me. -The Dress I can't fit into anymore
Eat me. Eat me. You know I'm delicious. -Junk food in the pantry
Why decluttering makes us feel better
I didn't realize it but these silent messages are one of the many reasons I feel better after decluttering. It's one of the reasons I'm considering taking it further and becoming a minimalist. The more I declutter, the better I feel because the less I'm reminded of my insecurities when I see these objects and hear their silent taunts.
In business, this can translate to things on your desk, things in your workspace, notifications you receive, technology, emails in your inbox, stuff in your tote bag, your to-do list, anything!
How do your home and your possessions make you feel? Be honest. What is that little voice saying when you look at your belongings? Is it a positive thought or a negative thought? Maybe it's time to part with the ones that send out negative vibes.
IN A NUTSHELL: Minimalism & Your Work
Decluttering can make you feel more clear headed, less distracted, lighter, and happier.
According to Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki, Minimalism is a lifestyle in which you reduce your possessions to the absolute minimum you need…[it’s] a method for individuals to find the things that are genuinely important to them…It’s a simple idea that we can apply to every facet of our lives. The only way to focus on the important things is to reduce the things that aren’t important.
Mark Zuckerberg and Steve jobs both had a minimalist wardrobe. They’d wear the same thing every day. Zuckerberg told Business Insider in 2014, I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community…I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.
Remove the need for certain decisions my minimizing stuff helps prevent decision fatigue - how our decision making deteriorates over time.
Steve Jobs integrated his minimalist principles into Apple’s company culture and innovation, and is one of the reasons it’s been so successful.
Lionel Messi is one of the greatest soccer players of all time and has a minimalist style to his game-play - only running when it’s absolutely necessary so that he saves his energy for those crucial moments when he has a chance to score.
You are more likely to get into a state of flow when you’ve eliminated all distractions and unnecessary things.
Our belongings send us silent messages that can remind of us our insecurities, give us a silent to-do list, or distract us. This is why decluttering can make us feel so much better in our surroundings.
Other ways to boost your business
Snag my free checklist below of some of the other things you can do to set your business up for success.
I’m Stacy Kessler, an entrepreneur, strategist, and adventurer dedicated to helping you figure out how to craft a unique, compelling, and profitable business you love around your expertise and passion.
You are meant to do important and amazing things in this world and I’m here to help you do just that.
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