How to Start Practicing Minimalism: 3 Simple Steps

With more and more people opt to become a minimalist as a getaway from the increasingly distracted world, it’s easy to see that minimalism creates an undeniable impact in our lives.

At the same time, minimalist-focused products are slowly becoming more than just a trend. I don’t use any minimalism products in particular (except my simple, minimalist, plain t-shirts) but I do consider myself a minimalist.

The truth is that minimalism is not about design, but instead, it starts from the state of mind.

Start practicing minimalism

Last week, I talked about the benefits of becoming a minimalist. If you’re thinking about becoming one and on the fence to buy something that claims they are the [insert product] for minimalists, hold it there. Read further and think again.

Environmental Minimalism

The most common type of minimalism is what I call environmental minimalism. However, it’s far from about getting and using things that look simple. Instead, it’s about not getting and using more things in the first place.

  • You don’t need an extra minimal notebook when you don’t even take note using pen and paper anymore — stick to your digital devices.
  • You don’t need a minimal shoe when you already have a pair of sneakers, a pair of sports shoes, and a pair of dress shoes.
  • You already have a smartphone, why the hell do you need a minimal phone? If you really want a minimal phone with bare functionalities, simply delete all the apps on your smartphone.

The purpose of environmental minimalism is to add an extra layer of mindfulness about how you design and develop your environment. You want to maximize functionalities instead of having something which looks minimal.

Simple and minimal design is not always the best option. Instead, we should always keep the objectives in mind when we decide what to own.

If your objective is to get less distracted by your phone, it’s outright dumb to go buy an overpriced minimal phone (this one for example) — because there are better options, like deleting all the distracting apps (that’s what I’m doing).

Information Minimalism

The next area you can implement in the concept of minimalism is your information consumption. In fact, I suggest you start by practicing minimalism in this area before you start throwing away the stuff that you own.

  • Stop reading the newspaper or watching the news. If you have to, focus only on the section that you need (or enjoy the most). For example, I don’t need to but enjoy checking out the market news; I do that by subscribing to the Morning Brew digest.
  • Unsubscribe from the content and newsletters that you don’t read. A great place to start is to make a wishlist of things you want to buy and then unsubscribe from all promotional newsletters. Instead of checking out the offers, buy only the things you truly need at the time when you’re ready.
  • If you constantly get distracted by social media, block them by using web apps or extensions. I used BlockSite and DF YouTube to block content I want but don’t need to see.

In the book The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss mentions that there are two types of information: Just-in-case information and Just-in-time information.

“I used to have the habit of reading a book or site to prepare for event weeks or months in the future, and I would then need to reread the same material when the deadline for action was closer. This is stupid and redundant. Follow your to-do shortlist and fill in the information gaps as you go. Focus on what digerati Kathy Sierra calls ‘just-in-time’ information instead of ‘just-in-case’ information.”

Instead of consuming and learning everything, focus on just-in-time information because often, we never get to use the just-in-case information or we need to refer back to them again when we need to use them.

In many cases, you don’t need more knowledge to accomplish great things. What you need to do is take actions and implement what you’ve learned. This realization adds a new layer of mindfulness to the information you read, watch, and hear.

Decision Minimalism

Your brain is the most energy-hungry part of your body. It contains only 2% of the body mass but takes 20% of the total energy to function optimally. Out of the many activities we do with our brains, thinking and making tough decisions is one of the most energy-consuming tasks.

To preserve your energy and attention, make fewer decisions. It’s also what I call Decision Minimalism. Instead of making every single decision — big and small, focus only on things that are important and ignore things that are not.

  • Steve Jobs chose to focus on one product, the Mac, and make it the best in the market instead of offering a wide range of products.
  • When a reporter asked Mark Zuckerberg why he wore the same t-shirt every day, Zuckerberg said he did that so he could focus all of his energy on his mission, instead of thinking what to wear for the day.
  • When Buffett’s personal pilot asked him the secret to success, Buffett shows him the 25/5 Rule that eliminates 80% of the priorities. He stressed that the key to success is to focus on the top five goals.

Decision Minimalism doesn’t only apply to big visions and missions; it works the same for average people in one’s everyday life.

For example, instead of trying to lose fat, build strength, improve mobility, and practice for a sport altogether, focus on one goal so you can make related decisions based on that one objective.

It’s easier said than done but the idea is simple. It’s about reducing the numbers of objectives and goals you have, and then find ways to eliminate, automate, and delegate unrelated projects and tasks. This way, you could start to be fully present at what you’re doing.

Start Practicing Minimalism Today

Again, being a minimalist is not about using things that are simple. No, it’s about being mindful and making conscious decisions on what to do and utilize what you have.

If you’re thinking about becoming a minimalist, here are the three ways to get started:

  1. Be mindful with items and tools you add to your work and life. Focus on your objectives and always strive to maximize functionalities.
  2. Limit your information consumptions by eliminating information outside of your circle of control. Then, think about implementing what you’ve learned instead of learning more without taking actions.
  3. Focus on making important decisions. Eliminate, automate, or delegate unimportant decisions in order to preserve your attention and energy.
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