Minimalism can be seen as a design movement, a philosophy, a way of life, a set of guidelines or a combination of all of those. There's no hard and fast definition of minimalism, but there is one common principle that's shared wherever it's defined: focus on the essential and eliminate the non-essential.
So what's that got to do with your business, and making it better?
Well, it's about perspective. In a culture that's very stuff-oriented, examining a philosophy that's at least partially about "less stuff" can help you gain some fresh perspective.
Less stuff, more success
Let's start with the big one: reducing the stuff-load.
A common refrain in minimalist literature is the burden of all the stuff we accumulate. It costs us in terms of time, maintenance, energy and space. And those are just the basic costs. Our excess of stuff has spawned entire industries (professional organizers, are you out there?).
Organization is a great thing, of course. But sometimes what's needed is not more organization but less stuff that needs to be organized.
How does this principle translate to your business?
Less physical stuff cluttering up your work-space is a good starting point, but not necessarily the most effective minimalist strategy. Instead, try using the concept of "less stuff is better" and applying it to your idea factory. You know, the one that tells you to branch out, produce a greater variety, come up with a bigger marketing strategy, spread your resources in order to reach as many target markets as possible.
Keep the cost in mind: each new idea or strategy you choose to implement is going to cost you in terms of time, money, maintenance, manpower, energy and space. Decide on a few that are really worth the effort, and concentrate your resources on carrying those to completion.
Freedom instead of stuff
Next up, consider the minimalist concept of valuing freedom over accumulation.
On a personal level, many of us to seek to increase our wealth, our buying power, the size of our homes, the speed of our cars, the quality and amount of our stuff, and so on. Most of us don't stop to consider if we really want or need more. We just go for more.
The minimalist philosophy asks us to consider whether more of anything is really a good ultimate aim. Isn't freedom better, the ability to use our time as we wish, go where we wish, do what we enjoy?
Obviously, more money can buy more freedom; so can fewer obligations and fewer possessions.
Growth isn't always good
Here's the business translation: we take business growth as a goal, generally, without even considering whether growing our business is a good aim. In most cases, it is. But if your goal is to have a business you can run from home while securing a decent income and some personal freedom, growing your business to the next level isn't necessarily going to do that for you. Quite the opposite, in fact: a business of 20 employees will take more time to manage than a business of two.
In fact, if your business isn't built to easily scale up, you might want to step back from growth and simply look at ways to increase profit without drastically increasing the scope of your business.
Fewer responsibilities, more meaning
Pare down your responsibilities and focus on what matters.
The business application of this concept should be pretty clear to over-worked, overwhelmed entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can't do everything yourself, no matter how great your time management skills are. So you have two options: either leave it undone, or get somebody else to do it.
It's a great periodic exercise to look at your ongoing list of responsibilities and decide which are superfluous. Much of the daily work we do without consideration can be undone, at least some of the time, without any real damage. But if you stay in the rut of simply doing it at a breakneck speed, you'll never find out what tasks you can safely leave alone.
Take the time to eliminate the pointless, the superfluous, the questionable. Then decide what you can hire out or delegate. Then focus on the work that only you can do, that you can do best, and that you can do for the most impact on your business.
Now how about that? Minimalism and business success… and you didn't even have to sell your TV or clean out your closets.
Annie Mueller writes about all aspects of productivity in life and at work. Her work can be seen at numerous online publications. She blogs at AnnieMueller.com. Find her on twitter: @anniemueller.
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