Minimalism in the Workplace: Five Ways to Get More Work Done With Less Stuff

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers, American humorist.

For millennia, religious leaders and philosophers from Jesus to Buddha, Thoreau to Gandhi have sung the praises of living simply, with fewer worldly possessions. You can’t take it with you, after all. There are even native cultures in places like Papua New Guinea and the American Northwest where how much you give away to others is far more important than how much you keep.

Most Westerners, however, seem to operate on the philosophy “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Much of our economy is based on buying new stuff on a regular basis, even when the old stuff still works fine. Why? Partly it’s to show off what we can afford; partly it’s just to have more, more, more. We even consider the Internet a basic human necessity nowadays. Maslow would be astonished.

There is, however, a subculture that has embraced minimalism and doing more with less in their personal lives to keep costs down and pile up significant savings. But this concept doesn’t always extend to the workplace. However, that’s where it can serve you best—even if you’re not a minimalist otherwise. To accomplish more work with less stuff, try these five tips:

  1. Declutter. Clean your office, especially your physical and digital desktops. Limit the pictures, awards, and books. Remove and store anything you don’t use often, and get rid of things you rarely or never use. Maintaining an uncluttered workspace helps you focus on your work, as it limits visual distractions and makes it easier to find things, if you keep your storage systems simple and intuitive. If it takes you more than a minute to lay your hands on something, keep working on your systems.

  2. Embrace the Cloud. Store and back up digital documents on the Cloud, such as Dropbox or Hightail, so you can access your files anywhere. Wi-Fi is cheap and often free, especially in coffeeshops and libraries. Many smartphones include Wi-Fi hotspots that can connect you anywhere.

  3. Use a laptop instead of a desktop. If you haven’t already, stop using a desktop computer at work while also using a laptop. You can use the laptop everywhere. Also, it’s a lot easier to keep track of all your work files, because you maintain fewer machines to sync them across. Given the continued advancement of Moore’s law, laptops are just as powerful as desktops and weigh very little. Just pop it out, take it with you, and dock it back when you return to your large monitors and keyboard.

  4. Use more tablets. You can use tablets to read documents, annotate files, add to Evernote, and take care of emails anywhere if you have a data plan or can access Wi-Fi. While you may want a high-end tablet like an iPad, since there are so many apps for it, you can buy ten decent tablets for about the same price. Kindle Fires can be had for less than $50.

  5. Stop buying new stuff. As long as it’s not broken, you don’t need a new smartphone, computer, desk, or whatever. I have had the same scratches on my office desk for many years, and it’s purely functional. If it works well enough, why bother? Buying new electronics means greater expense, plus hours learning the new platform and transferring data to the new one. If you can demonstrate a productivity or efficiency increase, that’s a different story!

Too Much Stuff!

The late George Carlin used to do a hilarious comedy routine about having too much stuff, and how it quickly gets out of hand. Sound familiar?

At work, having more stuff can pump up your productivity—to a point. It’s great to have your own printer, since they’re cheap and save you time because you don’t have to run around picking up documents. But too much stuff wastes money and time, gets confusing, distracts you, and gets in the way. You can do more work with less stuff than everyone seems to need, especially in this burgeoning electronic era.

Now, if they’d come up with a computer with a built-in coffee pot, that’s something I could get beyond… though it might slow you down with more bio-breaks. Of course, we could always build certain facilities into our chairs… but as much as it might increase productivity, better not to go there!

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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