3 Tips to Achieving Business Minimalism — Or Finding Your Business Zen

I’m an aspiring minimalist.

From the first moment I stumbled across Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus blog, The Minimalists, I was hooked. It was a definite aha moment in my life.

Here’s how they describe minimalism:

Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.

It was the middle of a recession, and we definitely took a hit. Who didn’t? To survive, I streamlined as much of my business as I could, and eliminated everything necessary. I felt like we were failing because we had to cut back.

But when I started reading about minimalism, I could see that streamlining wasn’t the same as failure. And when things started to turn around, I didn’t want to go back to spending money on fluff. That’s why I write about micro business essentials — cut out the nonsense and focus on what’s important.

My minimalism isn’t the same as yours. Joshua & Ryan describe how minimalism is different for everyone:

There are many flavors of minimalism: a 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist life. Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life.

That means that everyone can define their own version of minimalism. It’s not about giving up all your possessions and living out of a suitcase. It’s a philosophy and mindset that can be applied to any business. It’s figuring out how to run your business efficiently, effectively and affordably. It’s bootstrapping at it’s best. It’s understanding that striving for simplicity isn’t the same as being simple.

If you’re ready to embrace the concept of minimalism for your business, try these three tips to achieving business minimalism and finding your own version of Zen.

1. Start Saying No

Time is your biggest asset. To achieve business minimalism, you have to treat time like something tangible. It’s not an unlimited resource, as we only have 24 hours a day. It’s not something you can give to everyone. It’s not something we can get back once it’s gone.

Before you say yes to anything, figure out if it contributes to your goals or is an unnecessary time-waster.

Choose to communicate by email instead of meeting for lunch. Don’t join business groups if it doesn’t contribute to your bottom line. Don’t volunteer to be on a board if it doesn’t move your business forward. I like doing those things, but I don’t need to do them.

It’s up to us to figure out what our priorities are, and focus on those things first. If you focus on unnecessary time-wasters first, you won’t reach your goals. It’s really that simple.

Bottom Line: Say yes to anything that moves your business forward. Say no to everything else.

2. Break-Up with Stress-Inducing Clients

You know who they are. They make you cringe when you see who’s calling. You’ll do anything to avoid actually talking to them. They keep you up at night. They are the clients you wouldn’t wish on your worse enemy.

If you ever want to achieve Business Zen, you have to break up with these people. Distraction, stress and being overwhelmed are the silent self-employment killers. You can’t control every aspect of your business and some days will just suck. But you can control who you work with. You don’t have to deal with clients who only increase your stress, and make you’re life harder than it needs to be.

If you have a few nightmare clients, you can fire them (in a nice way of course!). I just wrote an article on Startup Savant called Anti-Stress Action Plan: Stressful Clients that will give you a few ideas on how to eliminate these clients. As business minimalists, we strive to eliminate clutter and keep what has the most value. Breaking up with these clients is essential to achieving peace of mind, and reduce your stress levels.

Bottom line: When you cut out nightmare clients, you free up time to focus on delivering value to clients who truly appreciate you.

3. Streamline Your Systems

Ever business is different and has different management needs. Finding ways to streamline your daily activities is a great way to achieve business minimalism.

Here’s a few examples:

  • Use a social media tool, like Hootsuite or TweetDeck, to schedule status updates across multiple platforms at once.
  • Start using an organizational app, like Evernote, to keep track of notes and files. You’ll reduce the amount of paper on your desk and spend less time trying to find important stuff.
  • Outsource everything you can afford.
  • Set specific times to check email and return phone calls.

Take a honest look at how you spend your time everyday. Only you can decide what’s important. But once you see where you’re wasting time, you can start to find ways to streamline the task.

Bottom line: Every system can be streamlined. Read The 4 Hour Work Week for more ideas and inspiration.

Becoming a Business Minimalist

Like The Minimalists said, my version of minimalism isn’t the same as yours. But our goals are the same. To cut out anything unnecessary, freeing more time to spend on our priorities. We didn’t start our businesses to spend time on tasks we hate. We started our businesses so we could spend our days doing what we love. Striving for business minimalism lets us clear out the stuff that’s holding us back, and allows us to focus on what really matters.

And isn’t that why we started our business in the first place?