Category Archives: Minimalist Meditations

On Productivity II — the power of focus

by Jessica Dang

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focus

So you’ve chosen the ‘right things to do’, now how do you get them done?

The answer is simple—focus on one thing at a time.

It sounds easy, but just think of how many tabs you have open right now. Even while you’re reading this, there are probably a dozen other things distracting you.

Your mind and body have limited bandwidth. Most things that need to be done properly require our full attention but very rarely do we give what we’re doing our fullest effort.

Instead, we spread ourselves too thin. I can’t tell you how many yoga classes I’ve had where I was supposed to be breathing with my movements, but instead I was thinking about work. Or how often I’m talking to someone but internally deciding what to make for dinner. Or when I’ve sat down to read a book but 30 seconds later I remember a text I’ve supposed to have sent…

Focus takes practice. It’s not something that you can easily switch on or off. You have to be willing to work on it and declutter distractions from your life—turn off notifications, cancel Netflix, outsource tasks, say ‘no’ more more often, delete those apps, lock the door, stay up later or wake up earlier to get quiet time.

When we try to do too many things at once, we do none of them well. Sometimes we’ll get by and no one notices our attempts were half-assed. But anything worth doing, the things that really matter, by definition are worth it because they’re hard, and need concentration, and the willingness to pursue them relentlessly.

So let us focus, not to get more things done, but to do things better. Life is too short to be mediocre.

‘On Productivity II’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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On Productivity — the difference between efficiency and effectiveness

by Jessica Dang

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Back when I was an aspiring career girl who thought the epitome of success was earning a Director’s title and a generous bonus package every year until I retired comfortably at 65, I used to be obsessed with productivity. How could I get more things done in less time? How could I fit more into my busy life?

After years of cramming more and more work and other commitments into each day until I barely had time to sleep, I became exhausted with the long hours and complete lack of free time I had to do the things I really enjoyed. I realised I had been going about it all wrong.

I used to think that doing more automatically meant living more, but that’s not true. Life shouldn’t be about fitting more of just anything into it. There will always be more things you can do to fill a thousand lifetimes. Instead, it should be about making time for the ‘right’ things and eliminating all the other stuff that doesn’t matter.

There is a difference between being efficient, versus being effective. One is about doing something that takes up limited resources (time, energy) with the least waste, and the other is about intentionally doing things that make an impact.

In other words, being efficient is about doing things right, while being effective is about doing the right things.

Productivity advice is too focused on the former instead of the latter. Doing things right is fairly easy. That’s what how-to books and productivity blogs are for. The harder thing is choosing the right things to do. We are swamped in work, meeting requests, invitations, the media, places to go, new things to try out, TV shows to watch… there isn’t enough time to do it all, even if you can do it all efficiently in the least time possible.

What counts as a ‘right’ thing? There’s no easy answer, but you’ll know deep down if what you’re spending your time on feels right. Is it important to you? Or important to someone you love? Are you enjoying it? Does it make you feel good? Are you making other people’s lives better? Is it short term or long term? Is it fun and challenging? Are you growing? Is it meaningful? What if you died tomorrow? Can you think of a better way to spend your time? Will you remember this day years from now?

If we pared down to the things that mattered the most then we would feel less FOMO, and wouldn’t need to be in such a hurry. There are some things that aren’t meant to be rushed. How unfortunate would it be if we didn’t have the time to take our time on things like making a delicious home-cooked meal, getting engrossed in a good book, or making memories with loved ones.

These moments are the stuff life is made of. Choose wisely, and enjoy every moment.

‘On Productivity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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On Maturity — What would I tell myself if I could go back 10 years?

by Jessica Dang

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It was my 27th birthday this month. Although I don’t feel that old yet, almost every day I’m reminded of memes I don’t understand, trends I haven’t heard of, or technology I didn’t know existed. I feel a big difference between myself and ‘kids these days’. In fact, I have a brother who is 11 years younger than me, but it often feels like he’s from a different generation.

Amongst all of this change in the world, I realise there has been a lot of change within myself too. I wasn’t always so comfortable with not being up-to-date on the latest fashions and gadgets. Like most teenagers, I overcompensated for my self-confidence issues by trying in my own way to be as cool as possible. For me that meant having cool stuff like the latest iPhone or laptop to show off with. People would gather around me and it would make me feel better about myself, but only for a while. Obviously buying stuff wasn’t a long term fix for my insecurities. Those times sowed the seeds for the minimalist lifestyle I developed soon after.

As a teenager I dreaded getting older, but a decade later I’m in a much, much better place. The biggest lesson I learned is to not give a f*ck. Who cares where I live, what job I do, or whether I have the latest iPhone? No one! Or at least, no one cares nearly as much as I thought.

Realising that and being okay with it has been huge. Once I let go of other people’s expectations of me, I was free to do whatever I want—it’s unlikely people care enough to judge me for it, and even if they did, who cares! Certainly not me.

Hence living minimally to avoid debt and save up enough to be able to quit my job in my mid-twenties to start my own business. Could I have done that if I was concerned about what people thought of me? Probably not. I would have felt too self conscious to say no to spending $100 on a night out, worrying about what outfit I was wearing, or which car I was driving, or staying in a luxury hotel so that I could instagram it, instead of saving up the start up capital I needed to be free of those kinds of traps.

Two years on, I only work a couple of hours a week but earn twice as much as I did in my soul-sucking job. I have the freedom to pursue anything I want to. I can sleep/read/travel whenever I want, and thanks to not being tied to a desk all day, my health is better than ever. On top of that, I can give more to people and causes I care about, because I have more to give.

It wasn’t easy getting here, but neither was it that hard to be honest. It was a series of small sacrifices and good decisions that paid off. I only wish I started started sooner. That is, if I could go back ten years and give advice to my 17 year old self, or indeed to my younger brother now, I would say, “Hey, you. Stop worrying so much about what other people think, they don’t know all the answers themselves. Breathe. If you do what you feel is the right thing, you’re going to find happiness. I promise.

‘On Maturity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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This year in review and the most popular posts of 2017

by Jessica Dang

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It’s the end of another year. As much as one can make the best of things despite all of the terrible things that have happened around the world this year, I’ve had a fairly good twelve months. I ran my third marathon in my fastest time, travelled to eight different countries, read 52 books, and doubled the size of my business.

During all of this, I’ve been able to keep up with writing at least one post per month for both Minimal Student and Minimalist Meditations, which wasn’t easy but I’m glad I did it. Here are some of the most popular posts of the year, plus the latest Meditations posts:

  1. Minimal Student is graduating
  2. Minimalism and the Pursuit of Perfection
  3. 5 Common Myths about Minimalism
  4. A Minimalist Guide to Money and Investing — Part IPart IIPart III

Minimalist Meditations — October to December

“As with most things in life, preaching about something only makes people more resistant to the idea.”
— How to guide people towards a life of minimalism: Minimalist Meditations on Guidance

“What would we do if we weren’t afraid of what other people think?”
— How to use power as a tool: Minimalist Meditations on Power

“Some of the happiest human beings are those who have the least.”
— You’re already born lucky: Minimalist Meditations on Generosity

If you enjoyed these, you can subscribe via RSSemailTwitter or Facebook. See you in the New Year.

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Minimalist Meditations — July to September

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from July to September:

“If only we could find strength and stability within ourselves, instead of relying on our belongings, other people, or things we can’t control, perhaps we’d be much happier people.”
— Invaluable practices for everyday life: Minimalist Meditations on Equanimity 

“Minimalism isn’t just about decluttering, it’s about learning to lower your materialistic expectations in life and being more grateful for the things you do have.”
— How to be happy now: Minimalist Meditations on Expectations

“Most things worth doing are hard, and hard things need your whole heart in it to do right.”
— What stops us from really living? Minimalist Meditations on Distractions

If you enjoyed these, you can subscribe to the new blog via RSSemailTwitter or Facebook.

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Minimalist Meditations — May and June

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from May and June:

Minimalism isn’t just about having less stuff. That’s only the beginning.
—Why we get rid of things: Minimalist Meditations on Opportunity

I was 300 metres away when it happened.
—Staying strong: Minimalist Meditations on Tragedy

We all need to find our own definitions for success, discover our own self worth, and learn how to balance all the forces that pull us in different directions.
—If I were a sin: Minimalist Meditations on Greed

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Minimalist Meditations — March and April

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from March and April:

How do you keep going when things get difficult? If you don’t have a good answer, you won’t last long.”
—Find your reason: Minimalist Meditations on Why

“You can own 1,000 or 10,000 things, so long as everything contributes to your life in a meaningful way.
—Debunking the biggest minimalism myth: Minimalist Meditations on Quality

“There are two ways to be rich—to get everything you want, or to want everything you have.
—There is such thing as a get rich quick scheme: Minimalist Meditations on Money

“Your net worth is not your self worth. Your bank balance has little do with what your true value is, or how rich you really are.
—When money costs too much: Minimalist Meditations on Wealth

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Minimalist Meditations — January and February

by Jessica Dang
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In case you missed the announcement, I have moved on from monthly articles on Minimal Student to weekly updates on my new blog Minimalist Meditations.

Here are the first few posts from January and February:

First post—Welcome

“Minimalism is more of a philosophy than just a lifestyle choice. It is a way of thinking that questions the way most of us are raised”
Minimalist Meditations on Meaning

“It’s a minimalist gift that keeps on giving”
Minimalist Meditations on Kindness

“To be comfortable with living with less, you have to believe that there will always be more.”
Minimalist Meditations on Abundance

“Minimalism is a discipline. It doesn’t come naturally to most people. But if it was easy, everyone would be happy. Happiness takes a lot of work.”
Minimalist Meditations on Discipline

If you enjoyed these, you can subscribe to the new blog via RSS, email, Twitter or Facebook.

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Minimal Student is graduating

by Jessica Dang
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I started this blog seven years ago at the beginning of my minimalist journey.

It was 2009. I discovered a lifestyle movement that talked about the joy of having less. I learned about how being obsessed with buying and owning material possessions is a recipe for an unhappy life, and it resonated with me. I began to write about it.

At first, I was mainly concerned with stuff and how to get rid of it. I wrote about decluttering and one bag living. It suited my nomadic lifestyle at the time when I was living, working, and exploring several different cities and countries.

Eventually I returned to the UK. I was approaching my mid-20’s, and everyone around me was settling down. I moved into my own apartment with the single suitcase I had been living out of.

I got a corporate job and it was everything I ever wanted—or at least, I thought I wanted. I was paid well and got promoted, but the environment was so tough I began to change as a person. I struggled to find balance. I started buying more things to make up for the creeping unhappiness I felt doing a job which I realised, deep down, was ultimately meaningless. It took a long time, but in the end I found the courage to quit. I ended up starting my own business which gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. I took back control of my own life.

At every stage of my life, my perspective on things shifted. The more I experienced, the more convinced I was that many of the conventional ideas we’re supposed to follow—such as working in a soul sucking job in order to pay your bills and buy stuff until you’re either 65 or dead—didn’t really stand up to scrutiny.

In turn, the direction of Minimal Student has followed me on my quest, moving on from ‘how to declutter’ articles to ones about the tougher questions—what is important in life? What does success really mean? How can I be happy?

I still have more I want to share with the world that isn’t just limited to young people or students. By trying to keep things relevant to the blog name, some of the articles I’ve written have been held back from being able to reach a wider audience. As my readers have grown, the blog has to as well. The Minimal Student community is made of readers of all ages, and from all walks of life. I want to reach out to them too.

So I have decided to start afresh. Don’t worry, Minimal Student isn’t finished. I will always be a student of life and will continue to study what it means to live. However, I will be doing so under a new blog, Minimalist Meditations (www.minimalistmeditations.com) which I am working on expanding the ideas for my book that I’m hoping to finish and publish this year.

To make the transition easier, Minimal Student with continue to exist for a little while, before all of the links will redirect to the new blog URL. All of Minimal Student’s social media will also be renamed.

The good news is that I will be writing a lot more often, and you can keep up with new posts I write and publish by subscribing via RSS or email, or following me on Twitter or Facebook.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers, and in no way have I reached ‘the end’, but I can reflect on what I’ve learned in the past several years and what I, no doubt, will learn in the future. Feel free to join me at Minimalist Meditations on this path towards finding a life of happiness.

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Minimalist Meditations — On Control

by Jessica Dang
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control

Minimalism is often misunderstood. On the surface, it looks like it’s just about decluttering your house, but that’s not what it’s all about.

Yes, having fewer things can improve your life. That’s not the end of the story. A minimalist lifestyle is not just about having fewer things, it’s about having more control in your life.

Think about it. What’s the point in having less? The answer is to have more of what you want—time, good relationships, freedom to be able to afford and choose to do what you want.

There is so much more to minimalism than getting rid of stuff. A minimalist lifestyle is a statement to yourself, and those around you, that you care less about what people think of you, and more about living the life you want.

5 ways minimalism helps you gain control

…of your choices:

Everyday, people let TV shows and advertisements manipulate them. They let marketing romance them into thinking they need the latest gadget, or that having expensive shoes makes them accomplished as people. They’re not really choosing what they want from life, they’re being told.

Minimalists aren’t so easily tricked. We know that in the long run, material things don’t make us happy. We choose what matters to us, and we choose to spend our time and effort on things that are meaningful. We make our own choices.

…of your time:

When people care too much about what society thinks of their job/house/car, they work too hard to prove their worth. Almost everything they do is in the name of appearing successful. Deep down, they know it’s not really worth sticking to a job they hate for the best 40 years of their life, but they do it anyway because what’s the alternative? To not have fancy stuff to show off with?

Minimalists have a sense of self-worth that is unrelated to how much we earn or own. We don’t let TV, neighbours, or society tell us what to do/have/aim for/live for to be successful. We already feel successful because we get to choose what we want to do with our lives. We have more to give. We don’t waste time on pointless things.

…of your finances:

How many people are living paycheck to paycheck not because they aren’t earning enough, but because they’re spending too much? In my last corporate job, almost everybody around me moaned about being ‘broke’ all the time when they were earning more than 80% of people in the country. It was sad. What were these people spending their money on? Expensive suits, branded perfume, overpriced drinks, phone contracts, dry cleaning their expensive suits… you name it, they spent money on it.

A minimalist’s resources are spent on better things than material gain. It doesn’t matter how much we earn, we buy only what we need. We respond to things that have value and tune out things that aren’t—whether it’s meaningful experiences via travelling, giving to those in need, or having the financial freedom to just work less.

…of your happiness:

People get sad or angry when they don’t get what they want. And if they do get it, it’s not long before they wan’t something else. It’s a constant cycle of desire for more that never leads to being happy.

Minimalists take control of their own happiness by appreciating what they have. We may strive for more out of life (minimalism doesn’t mean settling for less than we deserve), but at the same time we know that we’re lucky to be where we are today. Our happiness is in our own hands.

…of your legacy:

I quit my corporate job because the work was totally meaningless. I probably would have made more of an impact doing something like making YouTube videos or banging my head against the table. Will your life’s work matter in the end?

What you leave behind is up to you. Minimalism is about taking charge of your life, and your legacy. You can choose to care less about what others want, and more about living how you want. You don’t have to make a big impact on the world. Even if you just made one person’s life better, or one garden patch, as long as you lived life to the full, you will leave a good legacy.

It’s impossible to control everything. You can’t decide where the road leads, but you can decide which roads to take.

Direction causes destination. Where you’re headed now is where you’ll end up, unless you take control, and steer yourself towards where, or who, you want to be.

So in the last moments of your life, you can answer truthfully: Did you forge your own path or let others dictate it for you?

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Minimal Student has graduated! You can subscribe to weekly updates on the new blog Minimalist Meditations via RSS, email, Twitter or Facebook.