52 ways to improve yourself with minimalism each week of the year
Personal development is an ongoing journey of opening yourself up to new ways of thriving and we give you several ways to do so in this year of simplicity challenge.
That said, with all the challenges and changes you experience in life, the last thing you want to do is complicate the personal growth process.
The best way to stunt growth is to lose motivation because you’re trying to commit to a complex regimen.
That’s why, despite there being many ways to improve, we subscribe to a minimalist approach.
We experiment with many different tactics as you may notice from my Self-Care and Simple Living editorials.
However, one of our favorite methods is to dedicate a block of time to a specific area of focus.
The weekly cadence is a great way to test out a variety of different ideas and insights and see how they work for you, particularly if you are new to self improvement.
It's not so short (e.g. daily) that it becomes an exhaustive exercise.
But it's not such a long period of time (e.g. monthly or more) that you get bored focusing on the same thing, or risk becoming distracted.
The contents of this guide summarize a subset of the lessons in The Minimalism Challenge — a one-year membership program that teaches principles of simplicity over 52 easy to implement weekly lessons.
You can explore a sample of the membership in this article and test out a few of the ideas that seem most interesting to you.
Or sign up to take the challenge for just a small investment and get the more focused and complete program that includes actionable plans, recommended reading, and other features.
However you choose to use this guide, just have fun with it.
Don't expect to master all 52 ideas, and don't think you've failed because you can't devote every single week to self improvement.
Do what you can, because small actions can have a big impact.
1. Overcome scarcity thinking
Stop assuming there aren’t enough resources to go around, and that you have to take from others to have for yourself. Get out of the fixed pie mindset and think more abundantly.
2. Be in sync with others
Learn how to listen and communicate better and don’t dominate interactions by focusing on yourself. You’ll make closer connections when you try to be more interested instead of interesting.
3. Know what you don’t
You don’t know everything so stop acting like you do. And guess what? It’s better to admit when you just don’t know, rather than put on a facade that someone might see through.
4. Eliminate clutter
Work on clearing both your physical and mental clutter. What are the unnecessary things, thoughts, activities, and people, you have in your life right now? It’s time to take inventory and keep only the essential.
5. Indulge in simple pleasures
Life feels richer when you stop to appreciate the little things. What you take for granted are likely to be the very things that add happiness to your life. Indulge in them often.
6. Think like a Stoic
A simple tip from the Stoic playbook: be realistic about what you have the power to change. It won’t be everything, so focus your energy and resources on what you can control.
7. Create a realistic routine
You don’t have to be subject to the whim of other people and their agendas. You can have a choice about how you spend your day. It comes down to one act: being mindful about what you want out of it.
8. Develop a life philosophy
If your life feels arbitrary there’s a way you can feel more in control. Determine what you will live by, and stand for, with a simple soul-searching strategy.
9. Elevate your mindset
You don't have to be a New Age disciple to believe in the power of thought. In fact, you can ignore all of the woo and look at science: positive thinking alters our brain and changes you for the best.
10. Consider meditation alternatives
Meditation has proven psychological benefits, but there are other activities that have calming effects. Expand your repertoire of mindfulness tools with simple activities like journaling, breathing, and walking.
11. Improve your relationship with money
The best way to do this is to distinguish money fears from money problems. Money problems are real financial threats (e.g. I can’t pay my rent) but money fears stem from negative self-talk (e.g. I’m a failure because I don't make over six figures) that’s often untrue.
12. Streamline your personal style
You’ve probably heard that many public figures wear the same thing all the time. Why? Because it eases decision-making and allows you to efficiently allocate your resources (time, energy, money) to more pressing matters. One of the best ways to build an effortless style is via a capsule wardrobe.
13. Learn how to be content
Perpetual dissatisfaction is the antithesis to minimalism because it’s the inability to be at ease with your current lot. We all want to thrive but should beware of our desires becoming insatiable. It’s the extreme quest for more that leads to discontentment.
14. Simplify your travel
Vacations can quickly become stressful especially when we complicate them. You can simplify your travel in three ways: learn how to pack light, don’t over plan your itinerary, relax your expectations and explore with an open mind.
15. Accept mediocrity sometimes
You can’t be the best at everything — and you aren’t a slacker if you accept that as a fact. Striving for excellence is a beautiful pursuit until you start believing you have to be perfect at all times.
16. Understand opportunity costs
Every action has a consequence, but you can be blind to the potential outcomes if you approach decision-making in a narrow-minded way. Sharpen you strategic skills so you have a good grasp of the real trade-offs you’re making when you choose one thing over another.
17. Master the art of procrastination
No, you can't give the middle finger to everything in your life – but when you have a strong resistance towards doing perhaps it's a sign that you should give in and just try being.
18. Simplify decision-making
Too many decisions take up our mental capacity and can be draining, if not debilitating. But knowing what matters most to you in life is ease the burden of choice. You’ll be surprised at how a little self-awareness, clarity, and focus, can chisel your decision-making skills.
19. Do absolutely nothing
I have a wonderful tip for moments when you are restless, bored, confused, or at a standstill. Keep standing still. Being still, with no particular goal or agenda, is a legitimate activity. And it serves as a wonderful means of balancing constant moving and doing.
20. Decrease so you can increase
The act of eliminating the inconsequential suddenly frees up time, money, and energy to go all in on what matters most to you. Simplifying doesn’t feel like a loss because of all you gain in return.
21. Appreciate what you don’t have
Focusing on what we don’t have tends to cause discontentment. But there’s a trick that can flip this tendency into a source of happiness. What are the things you don’t have that make life better? Reflect on those for a moment.
22. Create the perfect day
Block a day for “me time.” Make a list of all the things that make you happy (that you can easily do without much money, time, or energy). Then commit to only doing what's on that list. This exercise will teach you that happiness is always within your reach.
23. Organize your essentials
Your essentials are things you heavily rely on during the day. It can be an item like your bag or wallet, a space like your office, or even the app you use to take notes. Respect their utility by spending a few minutes each week keeping them in order — so they can continue to be of value to you.
24. Phase out superficial relationships
The ability to regard yourself highly, instead of depending on approval or acceptance from others, is requisite to living a simple life. If someone doesn’t add value to your life (and more importantly you don’t add value to theirs), it may not be a relationship worth having.
25. Don’t try to do it all
If you struggle with taking things off your list, use the Eisenhower rule to assist you. Create a 2x2 grid with the labels Important / Not Important (horizontal) and Urgent / Not Urgent (vertical). Allocate your tasks to one of the four buckets. Delegate anything that’s Not Important / Urgent and eliminate anything that’s Not Important / Not Urgent.
26. Say no if you must
We often get ourselves in trouble by gut-reacting with a resounding yes to commitments we haven’t properly assessed. Think before you say yes by not confirming spontaneous requests or making in-the-moment decisions until you’ve had time to evaluate their importance. And please, don’t say maybe when you really mean no.
27. Fix the nagging issues
Do you have a habit of ignoring little irksome things that are quick fixes? Ignoring these minor inconveniences won’t make them go away. In fact, many little tasks and issues can accumulate into one big problem if not addressed. The only way to avoid that happening is to get them done.
28. Know how to set a precedent
If you don’t set standards and priorities for yourself, someone else will. It’s easy to be impressionable when your personal or professional goals are unclear. Be it in love or business, lay out your own ground rules upfront so there’s no confusion about what you stand for.
29. Automate repetitive tasks
These are things that you must do on a recurring basis and tend to have a fairly fixed schedule and method for completing, such as paying bills. They don’t require much mental processing, but often consume a lot of time. Automation gets them off your to-do list allowing you to focus on more pressing matters.
30. Leave people to their own devices
We’re social creatures and it’s natural to concern ourselves with the doings of others. But don’t allow genuine interest in others to evolve into disingenuous behavior like gossip. Let folks live their lives so you can focus on living yours.
31. Avoid useless conflict
Don’t give energy to contentious and negative people, situations, or other things that don’t matter. Not only does it add zero value to your personal progress, all that complaining and criticizing stirs up toxic emotions that cause stress which damages your body and mind.
32. Slow your pace
Somewhere along the way “faster” became synonymous with “better”, but it’s a total misconception. For many things in life, endurance is required to obtain them. So don’t burn out before reaching your mark.
33. Ask for help when needed
There will always be times when you’ve exhausted your resources and have to depend on someone else to progress. Helplessness is a weakness, not occasionally and strategically reaching out for support. Know the difference.
34. Pre-plan your day
One of the best ways to start the day with a sense of control is to spend a few minutes the evening before putting a game plan in place, and then reviewing that plan throughout the day to stay on track.
35. Judge fairly and precisely
Avoid skewing the facts with exaggerations and stereotypes when it comes to analyzing people and situations. If you can’t refrain from judging at least be methodical in your approach.
36. Practice the 80/20 rule
Brush up on the Pareto Principle because its application can be life-changing. In terms of minimalism, you can view the rule as: of all the things you have and do only a few contribute significant value and meaning. Focus on those things over all others.
37. Elevate your surroundings
People underestimate the extent to which surroundings impact their mood, thoughts, and behaviors. This includes both the aesthetic and atmosphere (i.e. energy). It’s important to understand the type of environments that inspire you so you can choose where you spend your time wisely.
38. Don’t obsess over “happiness“
Even the pursuit of positive things should be done in moderation. Be careful not to let your quest for happiness turn into yet another thing you want that you don't have. Happiness shouldn't be seen as a final destination, but the outcome of intentional daily choices.
39. Minimize your environmental footprint
Global warming is a real threat to humanity, but it feels like a distant danger — and figuring out what actually helps can be confusing. Don’t let the complexities stop you from doing your part.
40. Be strategic in life
Incorporate strategic thinking into your day-to-day so you can push the things that bring success (and stop the things that aren’t working). Always think before acting. Execution is useless without the plan that rationalizes it, and process that guides it.
41. Manage your expectations
Do you tend to have very high expectations or make unrealistic assumptions? When there's a big gap between what you want or expect and reality, it causes anxiety, frustration, and discord. You can have dreams, hopes, and beliefs, but better that they are sensible.
42. Just sleep on it
Sleep works hand-in-hand with all of the other elements of health to keep your mind and body operating at peak performance. It must be prioritized, even if you have to change your mindset and routine to do so.
43. Have discerning taste
If it makes you cringe or evokes any type of negative feeling when you look at it, it should go immediately. If it doesn’t bring about a feeling of joy or other positive emotion, toss it. Work on refining your taste so the things in your life are curated around legitimate needs and wants.
44. Be observant
The ancient Stoics had a penchant for observing nature then applying the principles garnered to develop themselves. Seek wisdom through observation and you too will learn useful insights about yourself, and the world around you.
45. Don’t resist, flow with
Rumi sums is up beautifully: “Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”
46. Live a life of consequence
A life of consequence is one with clarity of purpose and a values-based plan for fulfilling it. Design your life and get personalized recommendations on how to find and pursue meaning.
47. Practice gratitude
You’ve heard this a million times before, ut that’s because it works. Gratitude is an incredible happiness booster and positive thinking restructures your brain.
48. Downgrade digital distractions
Be diligent in your use if technology. After determining your short list of minimal apps and useful online sites and services, cut out the rest. The pervasiveness of devices leads to an overload of stimuli that distracts and disengages.
49. Manage your “wheel of life”
The wheel of life helps you map out each area of your life and easily evaluate whether it's in line with your overarching vision. It’s an excellent developmental tactic that helps you identify themes that need attention so they don’t disproportionately distract or hinder your progress.
50. Be mindful and in the moment
You can’t change the past or predict the future, so try not to let what was or what could be disrupt what is. Live in the present and be appreciative of right now, since it’s what you can control.
51. Learn from the mistakes of others
You don’t have to put your hand in the fire to know you will be burned. A simple way to avoid setbacks is to watch those ahead of you. Sure, we learn from failure, but making avoidable mistakes isn’t a requirement for earning your stripes.
52. Do what you want (but do no harm)
Take the complexity out of ethical issues by granting yourself freedom to live by your own rules — so long as they don’t impede on anyone else. In most cases it’s a quick and sufficient mental check against amoral behavior.