Archives for September 2017

September 27, 2017

Wherever You Are, Be All There

Beware the broken promises of multitasking. Be present and focused to live a productive life.

Evident in almost every attribute of contemporary life, multitasking is the ability to perform multiple activities at the same time. In this day and age, it's hard to be a stranger to multitasking, since our daily business necessitates it, and our limited attention spans require it.

Wearing it like a badge of honor, we take pride in multitasking, accrediting our success to its mastery. We liberally add “keen capacity for multitasking” to our resumes. We freely endorse these skills for our friends in LinkedIn. We boast openly of our ability to cook dinner, watch TV, and read bedtime stories to our children while exercising on a stationary bicycle. While the bread is rising, we make phone calls to family, read blog posts, comment on social media, and organize digital files. We think: Wow! We're doing so much. Multitasking helps us be very successful. And, we're saving time.

However, studies show that when we needlessly divide our attention without clear goals, multitasking becomes rather questionable in terms of a valuable skill. We probably won't remember the name of the protagonist of that children's story, where we placed those files, or if we added salt to our meal. If we take on two unrelated tasks at once, it takes longer to mentally switch between these tasks. Like old-school computers, our minds have to close one program to open another, and this means we have to take more time to do things. Juggling programs also reduces the quality of our work, since we are not applying undivided attention to the task at hand. This causes us to waste time, and results in lowering our efficiency and productivity. Our over-stimulated brains become tired; consequently, we turn into poor decision makers. Our progress, our success, and even our relationships can suffer from trying to be more efficient.

Multitasking can lead to a variety of undesirable results. As our lives become more inundated with technology, we become increasingly distracted and more prone to mindless behaviors. Careless web-surfing, tweeting, and Facebooking can hinder our progress, cause depression, or destroy relationships. Media multitasking can even occur at the dinner table, where families no longer speak to each other. Instead, they silently tap into their devices.

Regardless of its bad reputation, this suspect skill remains in good favor by many. Studies show that people who multitask might be better at dealing with distractions and coping with chaotic situations. Switching between tasks may prevent boredom, and may allow people to succeed in pursuing multiple projects with multiple deadlines. This all sounds very good; however, just as many studies indicate, multitasking can minimize our productivity when misdirected (as it often is).

Since multitasking is part of our natural sphere of life, we need to understand how to use multitasking to our advantage, instead of our disadvantage. We need to be aware of when we are multitasking and if it is truly assisting our productivity, or if it is taking away from our quality of life. We need to understand the purpose of each of our activities, and set up targets for their completion. In this way, we form a meaningful connection between our daily engagements and our long-term goals. Our quality of life is directly linked to the fulfillment of our goals, but we can't accomplish anything of substance if our focus is fragmented. To truly benefit from our daily activities, our conversations, and our opportunities to connect meaningfully with one another, we need to narrow our focus. Regardless of what we are doing, to fully reap the benefits, we need to be all there.

September 20, 2017

Reducing Your Mental Clutter

Working toward a life where your mind is clear and focused.

Do you ever have moments where you feel like your mind completely overwhelmed? There is so much information being thrown our way on a daily basis that it’s hard not to feel like we’re losing control. Thankfully there are quick practices and reflection techniques that can limit these moments and allow you to perform and feel at your absolute best.

Anything is possible when you can control your mind but just as it takes work to go through your physical belongings and prioritize what you really need, effort and training is required to take control of your mind effectively. There are many mindful and reflective practices that can help you get started. Meditation, journaling and breathing are just a few simple options that can make a huge impact on your life. Top performers, leaders, entrepreneurs and elite athletes have been focusing on their mental fitness for years. The benefits are real and there is strong supporting scientific evidence, just ask your friend Google!

The key is to slow down and try something that fits within your current routine. Even taking five minutes a day to concentrate on your breath can change your entire day. Or taking a few minutes each Sunday to reflect on the week that just passed can dramatically up your game. Using a simple question is also an effective way to help bring order to your mind.

“What makes me happy?”
“What would make today great?”
“What was my biggest learning this week?”

Small practices like these over time can have such a huge impact in clearing your mind and allowing you to be more focused. Think, fitness for your mind, the more you train the more benefit you will see. Try something that feels right for you, start small and enjoy the benefits. For a look inside the mental practices of one of the founders of Minimalism Life check out our interview with Alberto Negro.

September 13, 2017

Interview: In conversation with håndværk

“We produce for the one that is truly thoughtful when investing in a product.”

We recently caught up with Esteban Saba—co-founder & managing director of minimalist artisan fashion brand håndværk—to talk fashion basics, thoughtful consumption, and the importance of quality.

Developing a minimalist design for fine fabrics is a unique market to become affiliated with. Why håndværk and what were your motives behind starting the brand?

We are a small, artisan label offering a thoughtfully curated collection of high-quality everyday essentials. Made from the finest natural materials and innovative fabrics, we specialize in the classics that form the backbone of a modern and timeless wardrobe.

We celebrate the ‘craftsman’, and proudly share in the understanding that making quality garments is a humble, and tedious endeavor, miles away from the hype of the fashion world.

My family has a deeply-rooted history in the textile and apparel industry, which extends over a century. After my career in investment banking, there was a natural draw for us to start a label that specialized in this niche segment of the market.

Our sense is that there are a lot of talented designers that are working to make their mark, and for that reason tend to over design—they have something to prove. We like to keep things simple. Our label is about exercising restraint, from branding to product design with a single-minded focus on important details that set our products apart.

We want to provide a high-quality product grounded on sourcing the finest materials and a differentiated manufacturing process—minimalism is a pure avenue as we are not keen on imposing a certain style upon the individual.

Håndværk appeals to minimalists through the brand’s clothing range. What is your most popular item and why do you think that is?

Our most popular items are our Pique Polo Shirts, and the Flex Sweats Series. These items do well because of their multi-functional nature. The Polo shirt is a casual piece that works extremely well as per of your off-duty roster, but given the visible quality difference it works equally well if you wear it to work or dinner.

The Flex Series Sweats are somewhat similar in that nature—they are so comfortable and soft that are perfect as a lounge piece but elevated enough to be worn to brunch or the gym.

Håndværk design perfect basics, using very high-quality materials from Peru. Why do you think minimalism enthusiasts or those looking to adopt a minimalist lifestyle should invest in premium garments rather than inexpensive high street brands?

Simply put we believe that it is best to buy less but better. We produce for the one that is truly thoughtful when investing in a product and appreciates the rigorous process required for high-quality manufacturing.

Thoughtful consumption has positive implications to the environment which is impacted by the manufacturing process and also the disposal of goods.

Imagine the impact on your quality of life, a closet packed full of low quality pieces vs. a handful of pieces that you actually want to wear… sort of a uniform.

Can you tell us of any challenges håndværk has faced when developing minimalist products into the global market?

Launching any sort of brand is full of challenges, figuring things out along the way is part of the excitement. Key is to understand your customer base, in essence your market. The other key component has to do with understanding what sets you apart, and making sure that you stick to your knitting, and not to try to be everything to everyone. Everyone is not going to like what you are doing, but that is fine.

Håndværk publishes newsletters along with journals on its website, illustrating inspirational minimalism from designers such as Dieter Rams and brands like Instrmnt. How important are these features in relation to customer interaction?

We tend to cover topics that are of interest to the team; we have a natural bias for features that touch on minimalism, which basically solidify the vision around the lifestyle. We believe that the key is to expand beyond the view that minimalism is only about aesthetics, and try to bring a more holistic understanding of what minimalism stands for—a viable option of how to go about life.

Håndværk was founded in 2013. Now the collections are available to a worldwide audience from New York to Tokyo. How do you see your brand evolving further?

We are a specialized brand, focused on the basics, therefore, we will maintain that focus going forward. We are working to continue to expand our wholesale business with the right partners, as it affords us the exposure needed for a small brand. We want to position håndværk as the go to brand for high quality basics with our retail partners.

As you mentioned, we have nice exposure in Japan, and in the U.S. and we would love to continue to expand in Europe. Today, in the U.K., Mr. Porter is our key partner; it would be great to expand into independent stores in the region as well.

We take a measured approach to our expansion.

Petra and I have been discussing opening up a small flagship store in NYC—there are no formal plans for it yet, but we feel it would be a great way to more holistically convey our vision. Everyone is quick to point out the perils of brick and mortar retailing, but we believe that if done the right way, it could help us build the brand.

The Minimalists and artists such as Dan Flavin have sparked popularity into the ‘quality over quantity’ ideology amongst global society. Why do you believe this theory has captured the imagination of people around the world today?

I feel that the ideology of ‘quality over quantity’ is truly in the early stages—it has captured the imagination of a small number of people. People are starting to better understand that a lot of mediocre things (or people) around actually takes away from your quality of life, in a way, it pollutes your day to day.

But I am not sure it will ever have a wide appeal. We are overwhelmed by a consumer culture, in the U.S. specially—fast fashion as an example… it feels like everything is over-hyped.

Personally, I need clean spaces, with a limited number of well thought-out pieces—in my life and work—otherwise, my brain simply cannot function.

During your experience with Håndværk, can you name three key recommendations to start-ups with minimalist aesthetics?

1. Fire the “designer”.
2. Stay true to your vision.
3. Don't chase, chart your own path.

September 6, 2017

My Humble Journey toward Minimalism

Now I believe that you can find happiness in owning less.

And it all started with a book.

Whilst waiting for my friends at the shopping mall I headed to the bookstore to kill time. As I was wandering aimlessly through store, my attention was drawn to a book entitled ‘Goodbye, Things, On Minimalist Living’ by Fumio Sasaki. I instinctively picked it up and read through its introduction.

“Is there happiness in having less?”

It was this sentence that struck me. At that point of time, I was a fresh graduate, and just embarked on my legal career. Since I had started working, I realized that I was unhappy and most importantly, feeling discontent all the time.

I always wanted more. I felt like I deserved to be rewarded with things because I had worked hard and I naively thought that the desire to own more would serve as a positive motivation to work harder and go further. However, it turned out that my inability to own all the things I craved for frustrated me. Instead of being a positive motivation, my desires and greed caused me to constantly compare myself with other friends of mine, who earn more than I do. I was unhappy, living in a vicious cycle of comparison and jealousy.

Then, when I saw that sentence, I instantly decided to buy the book. At the bottom of my heart, I was hoping that this book could be the solution, the guidance, the breakthrough to my quandary. And this is how I was introduced to the concept of Minimalism.

Through this book, I was taught that by de-cluttering my possessions wisely and effectively and embracing the concept of Minimalism, positive changes will take place in my life, I will stop comparing myself with others and most importantly; I will be able discover my priorities in life.

I started going through my wardrobe, makeup kit, books, old CDs, and loads of old gifts from friends. I gave away all my clothes, lipstick, nail polishes (no matter how expensive they are), determined not to fall into the ‘I might use them someday’ fallacy again. I put my books up for sale in second hand online book stores (save for some of my favorites) and threw away all the old CDs and memorable gifts from friends after scanning and storing them digitally. And it doesn’t take long for me to realize all the changes that have taken place so swiftly and naturally in my life ever since I have started de-cluttering.

I have discovered that there are so few things that we actually need or add value to our lives and align with our priorities. Nowadays I only buy things that I need, that add value to my life. I can't deny that there are still moments where I have the impulsion to buy a certain piece of clothing, but the difference is now I will question myself about the purpose that item serves in my life. Whether the act of buying is out of greed or necessity. Usually after asking myself these questions, I will be able to walk past those boutiques without any regret or discontent, no longer viewing those things as temptations.

Ultimately, through Minimalism, I've learned that life is not a competition of owning more. It forces me to think about my priorities in life: to spend time with loved ones, live healthy, work hard, contribute, learn, and experience.