Want to be Productive? Be a Minimalist

Want to be Productive? Be a Minimalist

I am a minimalist.

The central idea of a minimalist lifestyle is minimize on less important things in order to focus on things that really matter.

One reason is because life is short so no one should waste time on things they don’t really value.

But a very important reason for being a minimalist is because it allows you to be laser focused on your goals.


Losing focus is one of the biggest reasons people aren’t achieving their goals as fast as they could.

Think about it. Why do so many success / productivity experts talk about the need for time management? And why do most of these time management techniques all have the objective of making you focused on the task / goal at hand, despite differences in ways to motivate / discipline you?

Go through the list of Time Management techniques in Wikipedia and see if I make a point or not.

As long as you understand and adopt the idea to minimize on less important things in order to focus on things that really matter, how you execute doesn’t matter.

So I can’t teach you to be a Minimalist, but I can show you how I do it so you can create your own variation.

First off, my top priority between now (21 years old as of 2014 March) until I’m 35 (I’ll decide if I want to work as hard for career advancement or if I have other priorities such as family or work life balance after I’m 35 years old) is to maximize joy out of my B2B Marketing Career with Hilti (World’s Largest Construction Tools Company). I enjoy things most when I win, and I win things most when I prepare intensely.

In order to prepare, I intend to understand all Hilti products, all of Hilti’s competitor’s products, all the underlying technological concepts of Construction products, all of Construction Industry’s Key Players,  study a Part-Time MBA, subscribe to and study Harvard Business School Case Studies, study Business Books / Textbooks and write about my learning on this blog.

I also intend to work my ass off everyday from now until I’m 35 years old.

In order to make time and energy for my Marketing-focused goal, here’s how I automate / minimize other aspects of my life.

For my financials I dissect it into three sections – Transactional (Savings), Emergency (Checking) and Investment (Investment). All the money used to pay bills, receive wages or other transactions I keep it in my Savings account as it is frequently used and convenient.  My 6-12 month emergency funds are kept in my Checking account because I hardly write checks and it’s separated from my Savings. All the money used to buy and sell investments, I do it in my Investment account. The best part is I consolidate all three accounts under one Bank account so that I can manage all three on one online HSBC platform.

For my investments, I reference the famed Boglehead three-fund portfolio (33% US Bonds, 34% US Stocks, 33% International Stocks), and further simplify it into two-funds only (60% Vanguard FTSE Asia ex Japan Index ETF, 40% ABF HK Bond Index) because capital gains and dividend gains are tax-free in Hong Kong (saves me calculations and form submissions), Vanguard ETF has the largest exposure of national stock markets out of all ETFs available in Hong Kong and ABF HK Bond Index is the only Bond Fund eligible for Automatic Monthly Stock Investment Service offered by HSBC.

For my health, I just refer to HK Police Force’s Fitness Standards and aim for the most stringent standard for calisthenics (Full Marks in Male Recruit Police Constable is 20 Pull-Ups, 45 Squat Thrusts, 55 Press Ups, 60 Situps). The reason I choose calisthenics is because I want get my exercises done with minimal constraints (time, equipment, traveling). I chose HK Police Force’s Fitness Standards because not only they set standards that’s accessible by public, I figured if anyone must know a thing or two about standardized calisthenics training, the HK Police Force should be one.

For everyday tasks, I try to make doing them a routine as much as possible.It saves me time to think and makes mundane tasks an afterthought due to habit instead of wasting energy convincing myself to do them.

Whenever I receive an invitation, I always ask “will I / do I enjoy it”. If the answer is no, it stays that way.

For breakfast I only eat from 3 places, for dinner I only eat from 3 places, and I only order from maximum 2 options from each place.

For work, I only have 3 shirts, 1 pant, 1 suit and 3 pairs of socks. For leisure, I only have 3 shirts and 1 pant each for summer and winter, and 1 jacket and 3 pairs of socks for full year.

At work, I never do anything non-work related. Outside of work, I never do anything work related.

Once I leave home, I get to office as fast as possible. If I leave office, I go home as fast as possible. I only deviate from this course if I have other appointments.

Everyday (except Sunday) I wake up between 5:30-6:00 am and reference Robin Sharma’s 20/20/20 rule – 20 minutes Meditation/Listening to Music, 20 minutes Exercise, 20 minutes Review of Lifetime Goals, before going off to Shower and have a full Breakfast, all done before 7:40 am. When I commute I read a Book. I then arrive at office ~30 minutes earlier than official starting time, plan my work day out and ease into working mode.

Every Weekend, I reserve Saturday for learning something new while I reward myself on Sunday by waking up with no alarm and disconnecting socially (emails, Whatsapp, Social Media etc), spending lots of time getting sunshine and doing literally nothing (eg. daydreaming / thinking while looking at fish beside a mini waterfall in a park).

Every 1st Saturday each Month I backup my Computer, finalize and record my financial situation from previous month, pay rent, pay off credit card bills, and discharge my computer’s battery.

My life sounds very boring, but by minimizing on the boring aspects of my life, I can spend most of my time doing things that excite me most: Maximizing joy out of a B2B Marketing Career, creating art (Marketing Strategies, Business Models, and Writing) and enjoying art (Books, Stand Up Comedy, Music, YouTube videos).

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Voice_of_Fire_photo.jpg

*Disclosure* Besides Hilti where I will join as Management Trainee in 2014 June, I am not affiliated with any of the authors, textbooks or websites listed above.

by Stefen Zhao (I’m also known as Stef. Find me at reachme [at] technmark [dawt] net / twitter.com/technmark / google.com/+StefenZhao)

Stefen Zhao

Minimalist, South African-born Canadian, B2B Marketer at Hilti Hong Kong, HKUST Marketing major Senior, spending my pastime reading/learning (marketing, business models, investing), blogging, watching (sports highlights, sports interviews, late night talk shows, stand up comedy shows), playing soccer and walking in a park singing/rapping. You can find me on Twitter or .