Since reading ‘The Power of Less’ by Leo Babauta, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of minimalism in business, and life. Its promise: Do less. Get more done.

In music, design and architecture, minimalism is a method that strips things down to only their essential elements.

It is also applied to lifestyle. However, the big difference is that minimalists don’t focus just on living with less, they focus on making room for more – more time, more fulfilment, more passion and more freedom. Less ‘stuff’ is just one step in the process.

Before you picture me cross-legged on a polished floor with no furniture, green tea and 22 worldly possessions, know that I’m far from being a minimalist. However, there is a lot to learn from the ‘less is more’ philosophy.

The lessons that appeal to me most are: quality over quantity, defining what is genuinely important, eliminating anything that doesn’t add value, and focusing on the things that make the biggest difference in life.

Here are four to-don’ts that I’m applying to my business, and life:

1. Stop piling stuff in corners

Clutter and unfinished business. It’s hidden behind the office door. Filling the drawer under the printer. In piles under the desk. Lurking in dusty corners. Splattered in files on the desktop.

Committing to decluttering is the most obvious first step, but it’s also the fastest way to simplify, focus and re-energise.

2. Stop flogging dead horses

Troublesome clients, faltering projects, energy-sapping friends, cold sales prospects, flaky suppliers, non-flowering Frangipanis … there’s only so much pushing you can do. If it’s not working, it’s time to bring it to a head, fix it or end it. All these things drain energy that’s needed elsewhere.

3. Stop ignoring opportunity costs – set limits and say NO

So you have a product to create, a book to write, good friends you haven’t seen in weeks, a lucrative project to deliver, things that are important to your future … but you find yourself having coffee with a LinkedIn contact you met last week. How did they jump the queue?

By recognising that every single thing you say YES to unquestionably means saying NO to something else, you can set the boundaries that you, and those around you, will respect.

4. Stop chasing new shiny objects

New clients, new websites, new opportunities, new business ideas, a Newbery cricket bat … if your plate’s already full, don’t cram more on it. Either make room by getting rid of junk activities, or focus on completing your current objectives.

Each year at Flying Solo, we spend a day going through our objectives and projects for the year gone and the year ahead. Like all businesses, limited time and resources require that we’re ruthless about opportunities we take on as well as the opportunities we let go.

After some debate, we create two documents. One is the ‘work in progress’ where we list just three or four major projects that we’ll focus on for the year. Then we have our ‘future projects’ where we shelve solid ideas that didn’t quite make the cut.

While it is very tempting to start working frenetically on all the good ideas at once, fully completing a handful of quality projects adds more value over the long term, so that less becomes more.

That’s enough from me. What’s on your to-don’t list?

PS: Want to know more? Check out The Minimalists and Zen Habits blogs.

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