Minimalism, Productivity, and Efficiency

          I was out on a run early Sunday morning with a dear friend of mine. We were en route to the beautiful Balmoral Beach, briskly jogging along the Sydney Harbour Foreshore. When we were to arrive at Balmoral, our plan was to relax after our 9ish km run and enjoy a nice coffee over brekky. I had envisioned myself ordering a large coffee, but then another thought occurred to me – Do I need a large? Well of course not, a regular size coffee would do me just fine. And then, during this glorious morning run, I thought further. Perhaps there is a connection between minimalism and efficiency. Further still, perhaps by practicing minimalism, I can enhance my personal productivity. Then I came up with this equation:

Efficiency = Productivity x Minimalism

In simpler terms, efficiency is simply doing more (productivity) with less (minimalism).

Why Efficiency?

Why care about efficiency at all? Why bother with minimalism and just focus on producing more and more output only?

Because more and more output is not sustainable. The point of productivity is not about absolute productivity gains – working harder and harder without working smarter leads to burn out. If we can produce more output, with less input, then we can live a productive life with less anxiety.

Do More With Less

Given that most of my website is devoted to increasing or enhancing productivity, I will focus the rest of this article on minimalism. It is important to focus on minimalism because it enhances every area of our productive life. The more we train our mind to think how much do I need to reach goal X or how little can I use to complete task Y in all areas of our lives.

Practice Minimalism Everywhere you Can.

While its easy to see minimalism as an attitude or a perspective, I’d argue that its a skill that can be strengthened and developed. How? By practicing minimalism. Like any other skill, minimalism is a skill that can be learned and developed over time. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Here’s a couple examples of how I embraced minimalism in my personal life.

Example 1: For years, I was in the habit of ordering large coffee every time I ordered out. About a month ago, I asked myself the simple question – What if I just ordered a regular size coffee? And so I did. And ya know what, I really didn’t miss that extra three sips of coffee that came in a large.

Example 2: When working in Microsoft Excel 2013 about a year ago, it occurred to me that of all the buttons, widgets, ribbons, and menus, I only use a small percentage of them with any regularity (actually, this was just another example of the Pareto Principle at work, but more on that for a rainy day). I decided that I would only save the buttons (e.g. Sort, New Sheet, Group By, etc) I use often on the Quick Access Tool Bar and hide everything else. This enhanced my productivity because not only was a spending less time looking for useful buttons in a sea of pointless widgets, but I was wasting less mental energy having to decide which button to use. I am now doing more (more excel data processing) with less (less buttons to think about). I am efficient.

Trimming your budget is a great way to start practicing minimalism too. Why? Because money is tied to what we do. Do less = spend less. I know, rocket science right? But in the mass consumerism world we live in, it can be difficult to implement. “Would you like to SUPER SIZE this?” (say ‘No’).

So every time you are out and about somewhere in the world, look for opportunities to practice minimalism. The more you habitually practice minimalism, the quicker you will see how minimalism helps you be more productive in every other area of your life. Experiment and see if you find new minimalist methods in your life. Take the train instead of taking the ferry. Drink black coffee. Order your groceries on-line, but pick them up, don’t have them delivered. Use Ebay, Gumtree, and Craig’s List instead of paying retail.

Then you will start to think more about how to minimise the use of your time. I could spend 1 hour on this meeting with my co-worker, but honestly I could cover every thing in 30 minutes. I could spend 30 minutes on this report, but really if I focus I could complete my task in 15.

A Word of Caution…

I can’t every say what one person does or does not “need” in life. I can only ask that question for myself and practice it accordingly. However, I suggest not taking minimalism to an extreme – “I don’t need anyone or anything!”. We do have basic needs in life, even above food clothing and shelter. I would further suggest using Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of self needs as a go by – at the end of the day, beyond food, clothing, and shelter, we need relationships and the desire to love/be love by others. If you think spending no time with friends or loved one is a way to enhance your productivity, you’ll quickly found out the fallacy of that logic.

Efficiency is important – its how we get more done while expending less physical, mental, or emotional energy. But we can only become more efficient if we practice minimalism in all areas of our lives.

Happy Working,


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2 Responses to Minimalism, Productivity, and Efficiency

  1. Evan Lowery says:

    Great write-up Paul! There’s a card next to my desk that I look at everyday “Less is more”. Occasionally I’ll put that phrase into action and minimize different parts of my life. Some recent examples:
    – clean out my clothes and donate anything I haven’t worn in a year
    – plan out and track progress each week. This has helped me create more realistic goals which almost always end up shortening / minimizing the to-do list
    – Focus on one large task in the AM versus many. This concept comes from Gary Keller’s “The One Thing” which has absolutely helped boost productivity over the past 9 months or so

    – Evan

    • PaulYaco says:

      Thanks Evan! Yes, focusing on one big task in the morning has helped me so much lately. I try not to even open email for the first hour of the day, because it quickly detracts me from one big focus. Thanks for stopping by my site buddy!

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