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The art of professional minimalism

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Following the fallout and panic of the pandemic, a new identity crisis has emerged in post-2020 life, as contagious as any virus: busyness. It consumes everyone, every day.

Today, our work and home lives are more blurred than ever before. That once beautiful dream of a work/life balance now seems like a cruel joke.

People around the country are working more, and living and laughing less, consumed by concerns about job security, money, debt, career progression, overwhelming life admin, and a distinct decrease in happiness – all fuelled by the growing fallout of the pandemic, Brexit, and a demoralising spike in the cost of living.

There is no escape from the relentless pursuit of modern professional life. And no cavalry is coming to save us.


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While working from home or isolating indoors throughout 2020-2021, more than 40% of the UK managed to free itself of clutter, the unused and unloved stuff inside their homes. However, what was lost in material possessions was gained in a new, even more back-breaking burden: being busy.

According to data from the business support company NordVPN Teams, we are now logged on and working two hours extra a day since the pandemic. The average working week in the UK has now risen by 25%.

Another survey conducted by Wildgoose indicates that many remote workers never take a full lunch break, or one at all. And as our work and home lives blur into one, people are regularly working through sickness, whilst displaying the troubling always on behaviours we’ve been warned about by wellbeing gurus and academics.

We are in this state of perpetual busy-ness, and I've got news for you. This is not sustainable.

We cannot do it all. Has the hustle culture turned toxic? And, is always being busy the new lazy?

A few years ago, I discovered this new minimalist way of living that really helped me to focus on the physical, digital, and mental aspects of my life that were actually important, and subsequently let go of the things that were not.

A good declutter and a refresh of how and where we spend our resources really does have a positive impact on our health. Being more minimalist allowed me to author a book, change careers, save more money and be a happier, better version of myself.

It was not just me that benefited, my friends, family, community and even the environment was better off with less consumption. Less really did become more. So, it made sense to try to replicate all that minimalist positivity into a professional approach, letting go of that relentless pursuit of more and the need to be at every meeting and answer every email.

At first it started with an experiment to find out what tasks were important and a realisation that some of the things we do just are not as urgent or impactful as we may have been led to believe.

Decluttering, or letting go of, those legacy labelled tasks free up the ability for critical thinking. A skill in high demand for future workforces. Plus, it gives people a refund on a currency that we all want more of, time. Time to stop. Time to think. Time to plan and prepare and work on the real urgent and important tasks.

So now it is time to implement a novel approach to succeeding at work. A focus on less but better and becoming a professional minimalist could be the new normal we are all searching for.

 

Chris Lovett is an author, TEDx speaker and simplicity coach