What is minimalism?

Minimalism is efficiency. Some people think that minimalism is about throwing everything you own away and being able to live out of a backpack... Not necessarily, it is mainly about having the essentials with you and having everything that you own have a purpose in your life. Minimalism can be a tool for you to find freedom; freedom from overwhelm, freedom from depression, freedom from guilt and fear as well as freedom from the trappings of consumer culture.
It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with owning material possessions. As long as those possessions have a purpose and align with your values then you can be a minimalist. Values can be sorted into various groups:

  • Foundational values - these are needs that are critical to your identity and are non negotiable
  • Core values - These are also important but can be met in a variety of ways
  • Tertiary values - These don't carry the same weight as the other values but still bring value to your life
  • Imaginary values - these are things we pacify ourselves with and usually they serve little to no good and often cause harm.

Take a few minutes out of your day to find your values and sort them into these groups. You might be surprised to see how significant your values are.
Like everything else in life, there is a spectrum to minimalism, you can have the people that just live out of their backpack, only have 2 or 3 changes of clothes and don't have a permanent home. And then you have others who do have a permanent home, have a family but have minimalistic mindsets and tendencies.

How can minimalism help with decision making?

Every day you make decisions big or small, you can't go a day without making one and like any activity, you can end up having decision fatigue. This can be where you make so many choices you end up being clouded and may not make the best choice at the time. You can cut some of that fatigue by following what a few successful people, the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama, do every day.
Here is a picture of Mark Zuckerberg's closet

As an entrepreneur, you will always be tasked with having to make some difficult choices every day. Sometimes that process of making decision after decision does get overwhelming; you have to stop and think, “does this help my personal and businesses mission?”
If it doesn't affect that then you have to think “is this hindering my other decisions?”, if so then find a way to eliminate it like Obama and Zuckerberg do with their clothing and food choices.
So by taking away all of the non-essential decisions in his life such as what he wears and what he eats, Zuckerberg has more mental energy to make better and more decisions that affect his work and his life overall.
The war on choice
Contrary to belief, choice isn't always good. Here are two points on willpower:

  • We use willpower to do everything (make decisions, focus, be creative, etc…)
  • Our daily willpower is limited (use too much and you function like a drunk person

Making decisions every day uses up your willpower and the more decisions you make, the more willpower you use.

Making pointless decisions cripples performance

“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” - Barack Obama
Just like Mark Zuckerberg, Obama adopts the same mentality over making decisions. They don’t dress the same because it's fun, they dress the same because it works and they are able to defeat decision fatigue.
Now we aren't in the same situation as Zuckerberg or even close to Obama but decision fatigue affects our lives. But by minimising the number of choices you make during a day you will be able to make better decisions. It's very simple, all you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Track the decisions you make during the day for a week or two
  2. Find the non-important ones, review those decisions you noted whilst tracking and then ask yourself “Does this help my overall mission?” (You will notice that many of them will not actually help with your overall mission)
  3. Evaluate how to be more efficient on those decisions and use the 80/20 rule, find out the 20% of tasks that are using up 80% of your time and find a way to cut them down or minimise that 20%.

Here are some changes you could make:

  • Eat the same few meals - This is a 2-in-1 tip, not only will this help with decision fatigue but it can also be a good dieting tool and it boosts adherence. By doing a meal plan at the beginning of every week, you know what you'll be eating every day as well as minimising the time you spend grocery shopping. You can take this one step further if you like with meal prepping, a technique that has become increasingly popular recently, where all your meals are made on Sunday for the entire week.
  • Design a morning routine - The morning is one of the busiest times for you to make non-impactful decisions such as what to wear and what to eat. By having a routine, you are not having to use some of your mental energy and saving it for later.
  • Set your objectives and tasks for the next day - Deciding what you are going to do in the next day not only cuts down your decisions but it also makes you more productive and by having a task list, you are more likely to get things done
  • Simplify your wardrobe - on average, people only wear 20% of their wardrobe 80%+ of the time. By simplifying your wardrobe you will give yourself fewer choices and less clutter. Another way to think of it as described by Melanie Pensak was if the clothes don't make you feel great don't keep them… simple. You don't have to sacrifice your style and expression to be a minimalist

“We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can… The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.”  - William James