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5 Minimalist Habits for Optimal Focus at Home & Work

Neil Kollipara
6 min readFeb 21, 2024


Your house is always a mess…

You have 10,420 unread emails…

And you can’t think clearly to save your life.

You can’t get traction with any of your passion projects because you’re busy at your 9–5, then after work you have to get the kids to soccer practice, then it’s dinner time…

Your stress levels are at an all-time high, and that feeling of anxiety lingers around like an unwanted guest.

If any of this resonates with you, it might be time to adopt minimalism in the home and in the workplace.

When I say minimalism, I’m referring to an aggressive removal of distraction and clutter in the house, at work, and on our devices.

Today, I’d like to offer five minimalist habits that help me get out of overwhelm, and I hope they help you, too.

Let’s go!

1/ Be liberal with “no” and discriminate with “yes”

If you have a fear of saying “no,” it’s time to get past that fear.

Saying “yes” tends to be something people-pleasers do on repeat…

They fear saying “no” because they don’t want to let down their friends, family members, and co-workers.

But that reluctance to say “no” comes at a price.

When you don’t have clear boundaries, you begin taking on too many commitments, and that inevitably leads to anxiety, stress, and burnout.

In the short run, saying “yes” to everything might appear to cause less resistance, but in the long run, it’s not worth it.

You find yourself giving, giving, giving with no end in sight and your mental health begins to suffer.

Now don’t get me wrong: Generosity is a wonderful thing… when done discriminately.


Saying “yes” without regard to your own limitations will drain you of your energy, until you have nothing left.

When we adopt a minimalist mindset toward those things that occupy our calendars and to-do lists, we’ll start to say “no” to the projects, responsibilities, meetings, activities, and phone calls that don’t require our presence or input.

If you feel like your calendar is always jam-packed, it’s probably because you have a tough time saying “no.”

Learn to say “no” and you’ll alleviate a good deal of stress.

2/ Schedule a monthly donation pickup

If you’ve been practicing minimalism for any amount of time, you’ve probably pared down your possessions to the bare minimum…

And you might even say you’ve got only the essentials.

But I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of people who are seasoned minimalists could still benefit from a monthly declutter.

Said differently: You can certainly find some stuff lying around your home or office that could go into a donation box.

Minimalism requires maintenance!

Find a donation pickup service (if you don’t already know of one) and schedule a monthly pickup.

Even if you only have one box or one bag of old clothes and shoes, let it go… it’s cluttering up your space.

In the United States, you can head over to Vietnam Veterans of America and schedule a time for one of their trucks to come to your home and pick up your old stuff.

Toys, small home appliances, home decor… these are just a few of the categories of things we can get rid of to keep our closets, living rooms, and kitchens tidy and stress-free.

When you have an actual date on the calendar, you have a clear timeline you’re working with and you’re less likely to procrastinate on the compiling your donation.

And don’t cancel or reschedule that date…

Set it in stone!

3/ Keep your workspace ultra clean

Regardless if you work from home or at an office, the cleanliness of your workspace has an effect on your work habits.

Some people claim they can work well in cluttered spaces…

In fact, the presence of papers, books, and pens lying all around is proof they’re hard at work.

I’d call bullsh*t on that!

Not all of us can function like Steve Jobs in his seemingly-cluttered home office.

Steve Jobs in his home office. Photo courtesy of Diana Walker.

There are certainly periods of time where you might need to sprawl out notebooks and various other research materials if you’re working on a project.

But most of the time, the best way to operate is with an ultra-clean desk setup.

Matt D’Avella did a wonderful tour of his desk setup. Check it out for inspiration.

And, as a matter of fact, yours truly made a minimalist desk setup video a couple years ago.

There will be times when your desk becomes a catch-all for documents…

For instance, right now, I’ve got some medical bills (baby was born in December) and some tax documents piled up here…

But for optimal focus, keeping your workspace ultra clean will help you to reduce stress and enjoy your work more.

The best way to do this? Make it a must to clear your desk at the end of the work day.

4/ Read books on minimalism (to keep you motivated)

Anyone who’s practiced minimalism or tried their hand at simple living for any period of time knows how challenging it is to stay on the path.

Between junk mail, unwanted email promotions, “thoughtful gifts” that end up becoming clutter, and seasonal storage, we can easily find ourselves in a buildup of clutter…

And decluttering takes time!

Simplifying can be exhausting…

But not as exhausting as hoarding.

One of the ways you can stay the course with minimalism, at work and at home, is by reading some books on minimalism.

Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki is an excellent starting point. In his book, Fumio offers some ideas as to how we got here, and he also gives readers 55+ ways they can adhere to the minimalist lifestyle.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown is another title that’ll help you gain and maintain a perspective on simplicity.

And Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport offers a unique approach to the mindful use (and non-use) of technology.

There are several other books on minimalism out there. I’d recommend reading a bunch of them and once you find two or three that resonate with you, read them a few times every year so you can keep yourself on the path of simplicity.

5/ Clear out more than just the physical clutter

Here’s my favorite tactic in this article. :)

Minimalism, specifically when you’re using it to generate more focus, isn’t only about clearing out physical clutter…

But also auditory clutter.

“What are you talking about, Neil?”

See, lots of creators talk about how Hans Zimmer or lo-fi will usher in this type of unparalleled hyper-focus that takes you to new creative and productive heights…

Some people definitely find their focus when working alongside some kind of soundtrack…

But for me, I’ve found using Howard Leight earplugs is one of the quickest ways to hop in to deep work.

I wish I was clever enough to have found this out myself, but I actually stole this tactic from Alex Hormozi.

Silence the noise around you and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can improve your work.

(Side note: I am a happily-married man and one of the quickest ways I could destroy my marriage is by putting in earplugs when my wife is trying to talk to me. I’d never do that. I only use earplugs when I’m trying to get work-related stuff done.)

Minimize sound. It’s good for focus.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article! If you enjoyed it and want to see more of my stuff…



Neil Kollipara

Articles about self-improvement and simple living. I write a newsletter called Creator Chronicles. Check out all my stuff at