Mental Minimalism – Free up Your Mind

There is much talk about Minimalism these days. Tidying up your closets, room, houses,… That is all good and I fully subscribe to it. There is another, even more important area though that is much less talked about: Mental Minimalism.

Mental Minimalism – declutter your thoughts.

Our minds are always busy with seemingly important decisions or worrying about things in the past that we cannot change anymore or possibilities in the future that haven’t happened yet – and might never happen at all. We keep ourselves worrying and spending time and energy over decisions that don’t matter, don’t matter yet, or have already been made and are past.

Fretting about the past and future is a topic in itself. It is said that meditation helps to identify those thoughts and then gently letting them go, once spotted.

Simplify decision making

I want to focus more on decision making and which of those are useful. The short story is, if something is repetitive (what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, whether to go to the gym, when to leave for work,…) you should decide once and then just do it the same time every time.

Reduce decisions wherever you can. Create free space for your mind to focus on the important and unique things you really need to decide.

I reduce decisions wherever I can. I wear the same shirt and jeans (ok, not really the same one, the same style), take the same parking level and spot (even if I have to walk further), and follow the same routine and timing every morning. The idea of a work ‘uniform’ was famously introduced and evangelized by Steve Jobs.

Your personal Go bag

To further that thought, assemble you ‘Go bag’ and stick to it.

Get your base set of things you need, always have them, don’t change them. Refill immediately when you have used up a supply. You might carry a little more than what you need on a given day, but you save yourself the mental energy to decide what’s necessary and what’s not (and the frustration if your decision was wrong).

Don’t make it all the things you could possibly need. Identify the few things you truely need to cover the situations you most likely run into. And then stick to that.

A Go bag works for your day job, for your weekend pack, or even the set of things you need for a multi-week camping vacation in your trailer – which is where we are right now.

Know what you need. Refine that list, remove things if you didn’t actually use them for a while.

With my work Go bag, I can go on a moment’s notice anywhere and have everthing I need to be productive. To simplify further for my daily routing, I pack all the clothes I need for the coming week within 5mins on Sunday evening. And I if need I can go on a weeklong business trip without changing anything.

Building repeatable routines is cheap, making decisions is exepensive on your brain, mental power and ultimately your time. Be frugal with your brain power!

Digital Detox

We are out on our summer trip, road-tripping with our trailer and camping out in National Parks throughout the West, and life is good. Really good!

I was reflecting a little bit on what is different, what makes this feel so much different from the daily routines we are in.

There are several things. Obviously we don’t have to work or tend to our Honey-Do lists. We are a little further away from our worries, which helps us let go of them a little more often. We are forced back to a simpler lifestyle – camping and making do with fewer things – which usually makes us happier than juggling our possessions and toys.

There are many reasons and I could go on with my (longer) list. However, I think a big one is also to disconnect. We made it a point to disconnect digitally. To focus on the here and now, and not the far away, somewhere in our ‘social’ networks, or even worse in politics (official and personal).

Being in a National Park of course helps with that. There is only one spot that has the resemblance of connectivity and you actually have to drive there, limiting it to a quick sync once a day (if you’re lucky).

There are no annoying emails, no Facebook posts that you need to keep up with, no LinkedIn, no politicking in the neighborhood, no politics, no campaigning, no news, no disasters that quite frankly are usually too far away for us to care anyway.

Instead we enjoy nature. We play with the kids, we explore. We lay low in the afternoons after exciting and busy mornings and just enjoy life. We have camp chores, but they are just a part of the natural rhythm and don’t feel forced upon or draining.

It is bliss and peace. It is being in the real world, rather than the digital. It is being in the here and now.

I made a resolution for myself, to put in a digital detox day once a week when we’re back home to preserve and recreate this feeling in ‘normal’ life. I will also try to squeeze in at least half a day of ‘do nothing’ once a week. Bring your vacation insights back into ‘normal’ life and make them return further dividends!