At the core of the current minimalist conversation is “own less stuff so that your stuff doesn’t own you”.
I totally buy into this…
Much more importantly, I believe Christ actually taught this…
If you are not a Christ follower, Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates all seem to agree as well.
My take is that “stuff” can get in the way of relationships with those I love…Jesus, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my partners (see Value #1 below). So we need to get rid of obstructionary “stuff”.
Time to get rid of the quotation marks around “stuff”. Stuff goes beyond physical possessions. Our definition of stuff must include the activities that consume our time.
As we manage across all the areas of our life we need to curate our stuff so that we only buy/keep possessions and engage in activities that add value to our lives and the lives of those we love.
In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondō suggests we ask of each item “Does it bring me joy?”. I think this can be helpful.
However, I believe it is a bit overly simplistic.
Minimalist Management is about the pursuit of purpose. So I think we need a more nuanced approach.
My laptop does not bring me joy in-and-of-itself, in fact I hate it sometimes. It, and other devices, can be a curse just as they can be a blessing. That said, I sure need my laptop in order to pursue my purpose. The pursuit of purpose brings me joy…so I guess I need to keep my laptop.
I hate clothes and I wish I could wear my black polos about 344 days a year (on the other days I would be in my kayak and would look very strange in a black polo) but I can’t cut back to just black polos because the career I love frequently requires that I wear a shirt with more than three buttons. That said, if the shirt isn’t required for something that will lead to joy…it should go.
I must keep some things that I despise because they are required by or for people/activities I love.
If you work through the process of putting together a personal strategic plan it can serve as your guide to whether you need to own a possession or engage in an activity. Once you know your purpose and strategy you can ask “Will this thing help me achieve my purpose?”. Or, “Will this activity help me reach a goal that will move me closer to fulfilling my purpose?”.
If you cannot answer yes to at least one of the following it needs to go or you need to stop doing it…hint, the questions are not mutually exclusive.
Does This Bring Me Joy?
If something truly brings joy…and you are sure you are being honest with yourself and not just justifying…don’t over think it. Upon reflection, you will probably realize that it brings you joy because the thing or activity is helping you live out your purpose(s).
Does This Help Me Live Out My Values?
Values are our guideposts. I have decided to try to live by four (see above). If I own a possession or engage in an activity that does not represent meaningful relationships, growth, kindness, or impact then it needs to go.
Does This Help Me Employ My Strengths or Mitigate My Weaknesses?
If I am not being intellectually stimulated or intellectually stimulating others I feel like I am wasting time…literally wasting my life. So if I am not taking in or dispensing data/knowledge/wisdom for more than brief recharge periods I get frustrated and listless.
I need to put my strengths to work! Activities and things that enable the utilization of my strengths should be kept…but not hoarded…I probably only need one of each necessary thing*. Activities and things that distract me and do not recharge me need to be jettisoned.
On the flip side, when I try to spend time thinking about time management, organization, or am trying to lock in on details…I quickly short circuit. These things are important and I can force myself to do them for short periods when I believe they are important for executing my strategy, but I need things and people to help me here. I also need to occasionally invest time in making sure these weaknesses aren’t derailing me.
Does This Help Me Fulfill My Purpose?
“I exist to help people grow into their full God-given potential so that they can impact the world.”
That is my purpose at this point in my life…maybe for the rest of my life.
I am blessed to work in a profession that easily maps onto this purpose. But Minimalist Management spans across all the areas of our life. I am sure people who don’t know me very well …and maybe some who do…wonder why I invest so much in my kids activities (time, money, mental energy).
The answer is quite simple…
I believe based on my life experiences that what kids gain from sports and music will help them grow into adults that will impact the world (teamwork, perseverance, creativity to name a few…but that is a different post).
These are certainly not the only activities that could yield positive outcomes, but I believe they work and they fit with my values. So I happily invest in the things that facilitate these activities and in the activities themselves.
Does This Help Me Execute My Strategy?
Whether it is the high levels strategic goals or the shorter term goals that will lead to your strategic goals the lesson is the same…if it doesn’t help, it probably hurts.
We need to focus. Buying that gadget instead of investing in your growth or your child’s growth…probably not helpful. Sacrificing a vacation in nature where you can bond with your friends or family (if relationship is a core value) because you are constantly getting fast food…probably not helpful.
If we are going to maximize our motivation, capability, and subsequent impact…we need to be intentional in what we own and what we do. Anything else will limit our ability to have an impact.
If you have already put together your Personal Strategy, but haven’t yet started to prune back the possessions that aren’t adding value to your life then start today by getting rid of ten things that don’t help you move forward intentionally based on the above questions.
Or, commit to quitting one activity that is not purposeful and shifting that time to an activity that is.
There are a lot of great minimalist challenges and other resources out there that can guide you in pruning. Here are a few examples for those new to the idea of minimalism.
If you haven’t yet put together your Personal Strategy then I encourage you to do so. Once you put it together…own it…use it to guide you in your pruning and curating.
Move forward today!
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Collections are interesting, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with collecting as long as it is on purpose. I like to collect sports cards with my kids. We build relationship through the process and I think it teaches lessons.
If you are like me you hate when you are not working toward something meaningful and/or not living up to your God-given potential. I live with the desire to avoid these situations. Personal strategic planning is a tool that I believe can be helpful for each of us.
As I wrote in Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan, creating and owning a strategy provides many benefits to successful organizations and I believe many of these same benefits are available to each of us if we employ a tailored version of these same planning tools.
I was due for a plan refresh and decided that working through my personal strategy would be the best way to model a simple but effective way for people to build their own plan. I hope you agree.
Here is a link to the Personal Strategy Template. It should be downloadable and editable. This tool is simple, but much reflection is required to arrive at something that will be meaningful and motivational to you.
If you haven’t reflected on what you truly value then you have some work to do. I don’t like the idea that we should all run to some predetermined set of values and just pick a few that feel right to us. Although this might be helpful for some, I think it is most useful to put what you value into your own words so you know exactly what you mean.
If you don’t understand what you value then you cannot successfully determine your purpose or strategy.
Simply understanding what you truly value will lead you to clarity that will improve prioritization and decision-making.
Here are some questions and resources to use as thought starters.
These are all worthless if you are not honest with yourself. After you develop your values I suggest running them by someone who knows you well so that they can call BS if you are off base…the same is true of the subsequent parts of the strategy document.
What do you hope people will say about you when you die?
Write your own obituary.
What do you want carved into your tombstone?
When do you feel most like your true self?
When do you feel most alive?
Describe the personal characteristics of the perfect person.
What things or ideas would you never sacrifice?
What are your greatest aspirations?
Who do you truly love?
What do you truly love?
Strengths & Weaknesses
To be crystal clear…we all have both!
Mountains of research suggests that when you are working in your areas of strength you will be more effective. Also, and contrary to some people’s/organization’s beliefs, your weaknesses matter as well.
You need to bolster and work from strength while mitigating weaknesses so they do not become fatal flaws.
Once you understand your personal strengths and weaknesses you can better determine which opportunities are a good fit and what might derail your pursuit of a given opportunity. Furthermore, you will better understand which tasks you should take on yourself vs. those that require you to ask for help (delegate, partner, hire).
Questions and tools to help you determine your strengths.
What do people regularly compliment you on?
What activities lead to positive feedback?
What do other people see as your strengths (hint, ask them)?
What attributes do you have that are fairly unique (skills, degrees, experiences, certifications, personal networks)?
Questions and tools to help you determine your weaknesses.
What tasks or situations most frustrate you?
What tasks or situations lead you to most frustrate others?
What tasks do you hate?
When do you most lack confidence?
What do other people see as your weaknesses (hint, ask them and stress that you need to know the truth)?
What habits do you have that lead to frustration (missing deadlines, arriving late, being unorganized, miscalculating)?
I believe lives are clarified through purpose driven work. This can be work that is done for a business, not-for-profit, your family, or for yourself. When people have a sense of purpose they are more motivated and effective.
I believe that you need to have a purpose statement that is informed by your values and strengths then drives your personal strategy. Some people might prefer to call this a mission statement and that works too if it is authentic and/or meaningful to you.
The statement does not have to be fancy. It should be short and clear. People who know you should see it as authentic.
I believe we can all determine a purpose that is inclusive of our entire lives. However, it will take several drafts and will likely change over time as circumstances change and you better discern your values, strengths, and weaknesses.
Some questions to help guide you to your purpose statement.
What value do you want to provide (your family, your work, your community, the world)?
Which of your activities provide the most value to the people you care about?
What do you desire to do in and for the world?
I am a big fan of Collins and Rukstad’s, and Lafley and Martin’s work on strategy creation. That said, their full treatments are probably overkill for most beginning personal strategists. As long as you have discerned your values, strengths, weaknesses, and purpose/mission I think you can write your strategy statement with just a little further effort.
You need your object, scope, and advantage (Collins and Rukstad).
Objective = A specific and measurable goal that will drive you into the future.
Mine has two parts because it is mine and that is what I need, but don’t go much beyond two or three parts or it will lose its ability to provide focus. Make yours meaningful to you!
Scope = Where you will take action (context, “customer”, activity areas, market, industry, etc)?
Advantage = What unique contribution(s) will you make that will allow you to meet your goal? You have a contribution to make!
Then combine these into a concise statement.
What specific, measurable, and challenging but achievable goals do you need to meet in the short-term (one year) that will lead to you meet your strategic goal(s)?
These goals should guide your monthly, weekly, and daily (to do list) goals.
If these goals are properly aligned with your strategy you can monitor your progress via the completion of these goals. Three is probably not enough for me given my strategy, but I think that is a good starting point.
I hope this is a helpful starting point and I would love to help you continue on your journey. Please post questions and eventually your strategy statement as a comment to this post on the Facebook page. I would also love to hear about your successes and setbacks. I believe a Minimalist Manager Community would be helpful to people. Let’s get one started on Facebook.