Minimalism in personal development

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Minimalism in personal development
I hope that Saint Jerome not only read but also improved his skills in practice! Fragment of Antonello de Messina’s painting “Saint Jerome in his study”, National Gallery, London.

You want to take care of your development, but how to do it effectively? The secret is applying the skills into practice. If you limit yourself to consuming content and not trying, it’s a bit like learning to drive a car and just reading about how other people drive. Well, you cant learn this with just reading about it. Learning is a process in which, after getting to know the theory, there must be practice, then reflection on progress and further attempts. If you are just stuck in theory and keep reading things in fear that you know too little, you will not make progress. Or you may have problems with too many options, so you never get past the introductory phase. I have good news: applying minimalism to your personal development can help you in both ways.

Follow the rules

New, inspiring things? Great ideas? The world is full of interesting things, which doesn’t mean you have to stuff them all in your life (although you can try). Bulimic consumption driven by excitement: wow! this is fun and this is fun and this is also fun! can only lead to indigestion. And then you have a pile of books that you were supposed to read and now they are just lying there, looking at you reproachfully, skeins of wool in the basket because you were supposed to make those super blankets everyone shows on Instagram, and a calligraphy kit because you saw a cute bujo and you wanted that too. It is better to establish rules for development that help you stay focused by narrowing down your options. The most important rules that will be useful to you are:


Why do you need another training, course, book or hobby? what do you expect to achieve? If this is just having a good time, that is fine, but maybe you are preparing endlessly because you are afraid to put something into practice due to fear of failure?

Establishing the rules

You can deny this fact, but the day has 24 hours and you probably already have many things going on (for example, sleep ;)). How much can you add? when? how much time do you have at your disposal in total? how much money do you have? For example, you can set the rule “only one training per year” or “I give myself 12 months to find out if the topic is for me”. 12 months is too long? Give yourself a month. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and progress achieved.


You may enjoy variety, but dealing with many things at once will keep you away from making progress and you will end up frustrated. Are you doing a time management course? stick to the method they teach in this course instead of getting a PhD in all the time management tools the world invented. It is a good idea to learn a BIT of the theory and try to put it into practice right away. Josh Kaufman in the video below claims that the basics of any skill can be learned in 20 hours, on a minimum theory-maximum practice principle, so hey! this is the way to go!

Establishing rules for keeping clutter away

You were not born with a clutter; you acquired it through years of not paying attention. Simplification is not enough, you have to stop letting new things into your life. A simple tool for limiting the influx of clutter is the “30-day list” proposed by Leo Baubauta: you can buy anything you want, but before you do, you need to add each item to the list and wait 30 days. And then decide if you still want buy it. Many things lose their charm after 30 days! Or you can set the rule “I am not allowed to buy a new book until I read the pile” or “I can only schedule enough extra activities to take 3 hours a week.” If your problem is buying, check out this post as well .

How to apply minimalism to personal development?

This pile of books you will for sure read someday

Mark the expiry date (for example 6 months) and if you fail to reach them within that period, pass them to book crossing or resell them. I am aware that getting rid of books is a controversial topic and many people refuse getting rid of books. Myself I have about 50 books at home, and I had several thousand. What helped me get rid of them was calculating how long it would take to read them: almost 30 years if I hadn’t bought ANY one new book at that time!! This was for me a wake up call. I enhance you to perform similar calculation: How many books are piled to read? how many books do you read per month? how many new books do you buy per month? is there a chance to deal with this pile? no? you know what to do.

You are reading a book you do not like

Some people suggest the 100-page rule: put book away if after reading 100 pages you don’t enjoy the book. I am not so generous, I put it away faster and I encourage you to do so. Do not waste time!

Hobbies you gave up but hold on to accessories

Ingredients for preparing your own cosmetics, yoga mat, watercolor painting kit? Consider the cost of the purchase as an investment in self-awareness and understanding what does NOT suit you. You can donate the accessories; maybe they will be useful to someone. Do you deceive yourself that maybe you will come back to it hence you should not give it away? – see the principle of marking the expiry date. If you do not return to your old hobbies by the due date, you were clearly not meant to be!

Notes from studies and trainings

I highly recommend you to keep your notes and review them regularly. You can make notes in an regular, low cost notebook, it is not necessary to have a fancy application and a specialized notebook costing fortune, the name of the game is regularity and small progress. You can use expiry date marking for training materials. If you did not reviewed them by due date, apparently they are not that necessary. If you cannot let them go, you can scan them before throwing away (but watch out for the digital mess ;)). The heart of the effective note taking system is the categorization of notes and their continuous processing. If you want to become an expert in this area, you may be interested in the Zettelkasten method, which is complicated but provides great results.

I’ve carefully considered it all, but still have to force myself to act

Maybe you chose the incorrect area? think about what you are always interested in, what you are looking for information about, what are you good at, in which topics people ask you for advise – these are the potential areas for development, you will probably enjoy. Examples from my surroundings: a dedicated creator of tasty cakes runs a great Instagram with photos of her pastries. A zumba lover completed an instructor course and runs her own classes. An enthusiast of home made preserves started to prepare her own preserves and give them to her relatives for Christmas. The thing that all these stories have in common is that the girls focus on what they actually like and they are fine with making little progress.

There is nothing wrong with searching for your own area, just take care of balance so that you not only gain new knowledge, but also have time to put it into practice.

How am I doing it?

Are you interested in the areas that I have been working on recently? See how much time it took me to practice compared to the time I spend on theory. Josh Kaufman’s video (linked above) inspired me and now I intentionally emphasize practice to make sure I do not limit myself to reading about new skills instead of acquiring them.

Improving writing skills: It took me several hours to read about the basic principles that I need to pay attention to. Writing texts for a blog – about twenty entries (each took about 2 to 3 hours to prepare), in total, skill improvement took me about 60 hours. As a result, I feel comfortable while writing an article around defined topic and additionally learned what SEO is all about.

Productivity improvement: USD 13,99 to buy James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”, reading the book about 4 hours, listening to podcasts about the topic for about 10 hours, implementing habits – four months, including weekly reviews each one lasting about an hour. The results are better than expected: I spend my mornings in a way that ensures that I deal with the things that matter most to me and finally feel that I know how to build a habit!

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