In a world filled with constant attention grabbers, having the ability to direct and refocus your thoughts is increasingly more valuable. Especially if we consider our current tendency to over-compensate for not getting our daily dose of human interactions by being constantly connected to social media platforms. Our senses end up bombarded by information and as amazing as it is to be able to keep up with events worldwide, it can be equally draining and demanding.
On that note, I want to present a few ways that mindfulness and minimalist approach to your workflow can help you. While I am in no way a minimalist expert, I have noticed its value in making life simpler and taking away from the overthinking that usually goes on.
We cannot talk about minimalism without touching on decluttering. Now, I am not saying bag up everything that is not essential for you to exist and get rid of it. No. Instead, look into organizational systems that can take away the mess of things from your desk and immediate surroundings. The messier my space is, the more I have trouble focusing when I try to get some intellectual work done.
Find a balance between accessible and tidy that works for you. Keep the things that serve as helpful tools or bring you joy. The rest you can either get rid of if you never use it, or organize it neatly, so it is accessible when you need it, yet out of sight, so it doesn't overwhelm your senses when you work.
While I have been referring to physical decluttering so far, there is also a lot to gain from taking the same approach to your digital devices. Every notification, email, ad and app is fighting for your attention.
And those are all very effective marketing practices. But do you really want to spend that time scrolling through social media, or interrupting your workflow to swipe away a game notification? If not, maybe you need to consider applying a healthy practice of digital minimalism.
Consider turning off notification to all non-important apps. Also, sort your files inaccessible ways that allow you to find things easily. You can dedicate time in the day to catch up on communication, get through your emails and browse social media. But make sure that when you dedicate your attention to those activities, it is because you want to, and not because of the constant flow of well-designed distractions.
You do not have to be extreme with it, just evaluate what is important and what isn't. Minimize the level of stress by taking back the choice when to get distracted.
Do you have a long list of work you are expected to get done? Is it overwhelming to tackle the pile? Probably. But any assignment can be broken down into smaller pieces. Here's an example: getting more water requires you getting off your desk, taking your bottle, walking the distance to the water dispenser, placing the bottle, filling it to the top and walking back to your desk.
And once you have broken it down, you can sort all of the tasks in priority order. Then just start with the first item. And only move on to the next when you are over and done with it.
You can use Kanban or Scrum Methods if it fits your personality. Or it can try complex Bullet Journaling - this worked great for me for a while. Or a sticky note system. Or any system that works for you. But every once in awhile, take a moment to think if it is really adding value to your work practices. Or does it take too much effort to upkeep that you could be directing towards the work itself?
Sometimes the simple solution is the best one. You might be surprised how much you can achieve with a simple to-do list. You do not need a format. Just write the date and then one after the other the tasks you have for the day. That's it!
But keep it short, the more you pile on, the less effective the method is. You can always add more things once you have completed all items on the list. But if you set an unrealistic expectation and ultimately fail to complete them, will deeply hurt your productivity, sense of accomplishment and overall satisfaction with your work.
Since I have been working closely with developers, I should start by saying that, in this field, multitasking can be vital to the work. Especially when your work demands switching between different tools and doing research as you go. This is not what I am referring to here. But rather the things that are not adding value to your current work process.
Sure, the idea of getting so much done all at once is amazing, right? You can get some work done, and have a good time listening to music, and listen to the newest office gossip with one ear, and keep an eye out to the chat you are having with your significant other.
But is it really doing it all at once? In reality, multitasking is merely task-switching. But every time you switch from one thing to the other, when you go back you need a second to remember what you were up to. Maybe you need to re-read the last few messages to respond adequately, or you need to take a second look at the code you are writing.
In any case, at the end of the day, you are not only less effective, but you are wearing down your nervous system. And from personal experience, I can vouch that burnout from overwhelming yourself constantly is not a condition you want to allow yourself to reach.
Minimalism is all about intentionality. Evaluate where your energy, focus, attention and intent go and decide if this is really what you want. If not, take a step back and choose what brings value to your life and what overcomplicates it unnecessarily.
Guard your attention and bring more dedicated focus to your activities. The benefits will be not only in professional aspects but also will help you maintain strong mental health, allowing you to chase your goals.