When you hear the word minimalism, what comes to mind?
To many, minimalism implies living without or even not having enough.
But what does minimalism actually mean in the context of day-to-day company life?
It’s hard to imagine stripping away everything with running a company successfully, isn’t it?
But what if I told you that you can use minimalism to drive business growth and productivity?
What minimalism means to me
For me, minimalism is more than just having less stuff—although it often has to come down to that.
As a consumer, minimalism means to me having only what you need to live productively—because let’s face it, we are drowning in stuff.
A little over eight years ago, my wife and I (along with our two kids) packed up a small percentage of our belongings to travel the world. We sold most of our things and put a few keepsakes in a small storage shed, only taking what we could fit in an SUV.
Since beginning our travels, we’ve returned for visits to the United States every 18 months (give or take). Every time we returned, we would revisit the storage shed, and every time we found ourselves parting with more and more things. As we looked at whether to keep sentimental items, it became more and more clear that our goal was to live a happy, productive life, and it wasn’t in these crates of stuff.
Take my collection of baseball cards. Sure, collecting the cards brought me joy when I was a kid. But upon reflection, I realized that I’d never spent time looking at them, enjoying them, or even showing them off. They simply became something I owned, not cherished.
Besides the fulfillment of having collected them, did the cards bring me any joy? Did I need them? Were they worth keeping?
They weren’t, and they’ve now been sold.
It wasn’t long before I learned a fundamental truth (at least for me anyway). The less stuff you have, the more freedom you have. With less stuff to care for and maintain, you have more bandwidth, and the world opens up a bit more to you. You can better care for the needs of others and have the mental space to give back.
For me, minimalism started out of necessity. But for us, as a family, it has turned into an appreciation for what we have and own.
Three ways to apply minimalism at work
Part of the appeal of minimalism is a combination of how I’m wired and how I’ve experienced the freedom of living with less. So what does this look like in a workplace setting? We’ve weaved in minimalism without necessarily branding it as such—as a method for serving our customers in the best possible way. Here are three ways you can incorporate a minimalist approach to your workday for positive results on both your energy levels, productivity, and bottom line.
1. Keep your work routine lean
I was reminded of the idea of necessity by my son on one of our trips. We’d stopped at a toy store in Central America, and after spending half an hour literally looking at a LEGO set in the box, he put the box back on the shelf and told me he was ready to leave. He did not want us to buy the new set (contrary to my expectations). He said, “I like what I have better.”
When we talked about it, he told me that he had spent the time playing with the set in his head (imagining how he might play with it once he built it) and thinking about how much joy it would bring compared to the set he already had. After much thought, he’d decided against it.
I was impressed by his ability to resist shiny new items and his feeling that what he had was better.
More is not better.
I try to follow the same principle in my daily work routine. I use a minimal subset of tools, both hardware and software. I’ve seen that fewer tools and distractions result in more ability to focus. I keep my workspace limited to what is needed so I can get more done without getting distracted by tinkering with new, unnecessary things.
This also shows up in my communication preferences at work. I prefer to use separate tools for synchronous and asynchronous communication and only use apps like Slack for a specific purpose (getting my attention for urgent or quick items). This provides me, and those I work with, with an environment that is very intentional and minimizes distractions.
2. Say ‘no’ often
As a relatively lean company, Hotjar tries to align our time and resources with our priorities. For me, that means I’m picky about which events I speak at and even how many people I network with. Doing this might be seen as anti-social, but it is very deliberate on my part, and it allows me to make deeper connections with fewer people as opposed to shallower connections with more people. It also allows me to learn more about and from those I connect with.
As a company, we constantly say no or delay working on very good ideas. We intentionally say no so that we can stay laser-focused on shipping the highest priority updates as soon as possible. When we’re done, we’ll start working on the next highest priority item and get that shipped. In doing so, we are actually shipping more value to our customers by doing our best to do fewer things simultaneously.
Another thing we’ve learned to do is to say no to things we’ve developed and are even proud of.
At one point, our team developed a mobile app in response to suggestions from our team and our customers. After launching it, we realized that it wasn’t as impactful on a large scale. The cost in time and resources to maintain and update it regularly was too much. We got rid of the app soon after. We had to say no to it.
3. Make decisions and policies that improve productivity
When I started working at Hotjar, we used a homegrown solution to help us process customer billing. Over time, as Hotjar grew, this solution did not scale with our needs.
Our first impulse was to build an upgraded version to scale our operations.
But did we need to build our own billing software? Would extending our resources to build software that isn’t in our company’s core competency be the most productive direction?
In the end, we decided to invest in finding the most effective billing software already available, which was certainly a better decision than building our own, given our scale and complexity.
We also focus on what’s necessary as we create company policies to support productivity. For example, we have no-meeting Wednesdays, so I batch my meetings for the first two days of the week and use the rest of the week for deep work.
Even when we’re invited to join meetings, we encourage our team to double-check that they’ll be productive attendees—otherwise, they probably should not attend.
Less can be more
My experiences in my personal life and at Hotjar have shown me repeatedly that less is usually more. In fact, in 2020, we retired two out of the seven initial Hotjar features. They just weren’t hitting the mark for our customers, and they were slowing us down from increasing the effectiveness of the features that were.
Everyone running a business cares about the bottom line, and removing those features also improved our business. Minimizing our offerings maximized our productivity and led to measurable growth in our revenue.
Honor your company’s values and serve your customers first, everything else is expendable.
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