minimalism goals

Minimalism Goals vs. Applying Minimalism to Goal Setting

“Ever tried cleaning out your closet, only to find a forgotten tuba from that one week you thought you’d start a band? 

Or a dozen planners, each heralding a ‘new year, new me’ resolution. 

Welcome to the clash of minimalism goals versus applying minimalism to goal setting.

However, this clash only appears as such on the surface, as you will learn in today’s article.

I’ll dissect the difference between setting out to achieve minimalistic living versus using minimalism as a tool to streamline your goals. 

I will discuss…

  • The difference between minimalism goals and applying minimalism to goal-setting
  • 11 Minimalism goal examples
  • Essential techniques for minimalist goal setting
  • Applying minimalism to goal-setting: an example


The Difference Between Minimalism Goals and Applying Minimalism to Goal Setting

The line between minimalism goals and applying minimalism to goal setting is fine.

You may read this article to learn about one of both.

Minimalism goals are the goals you want to achieve in applying the following minimalism principles to various areas of your life:

  • Intentionality
  • Simplicity (focusing on the essential)
  • Freedom from materialism (appreciating what you already have)
  • Quality over quantity
  • Living in the present
  • Clarity 
  • Sustainability
  • Self-sufficiency (depending less on external things for happiness)

Differently put, one of the minimalism goals you may have is to be able to enjoy one of the benefits of applied minimalism, such as:

  • Less waste overload
  • Improved financial stability (increased savings) and a reduced debt level
  • Enhanced mindfulness
  • Mental clarity, peace, decreased stress, and increased focus
  • Reducing your environmental impact
  • Reducing your risk associated with diseases of affluence (diabetes, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers)

When you apply minimalism principles and heuristics to your goal setting, you try to “declutter” and simplify them by focusing on the essentials.

Akin to a fractal, you could consider this a sub sub sub category of minimalism. 

In the same way, as you can apply minimalism to the digital world (digital minimalism) or relationships, you can apply this philosophy to goal setting.


11 Minimalism Goal Examples

Minimalism goals are almost the same as minimalist challenges you can partake in to implement minimalism into your life. 

I won’t go too deep into this, but I won’t keep you hanging, either.

You can basically take my article “53 Minimalism Challenges in 11 Different Categories” and change the term “challenges” into “goals.”

For example, take one of the physical decluttering challenges: one room a week.

As a participant, you must focus on revamping just one room per week.

Hence, the goal is to declutter one room a week.

I will leave you with 11 additional minimalism goal examples out of the 11 categories I covered in the abovementioned article.

  • Physical declutter goal: daily decluttering for 30 days (the first day one item, the second day two items, etc.)
  • Digital minimalism goal: No social media for one weekend monthly
  • Financial minimalism goal: Use only cash for one week
  • Wardrobe minimalism goal: Wear only two pairs of shoes for a month
  • Minimalism lifestyle goal: No TV, Netflix, or other monthly video streaming for one week.
  • Mindful consumption goal: For one year only, gift handmade things
  • Dietary minimalism goal: Eat only one meal a day for one month.
  • Relationship minimalism goal: Don’t complain for one day, one week, one month
  • Sensory minimalism goal: Walk barefoot for one day per week
  • Family minimalism goal: Don’t allow any devices at the dinner table for one week
  • Travel minimalism goal: Pack only half of what you have originally planned for the travel you do during one year.

Can you see the problem with the above goals? “What, there is a problem?”

For one, it’s just a wild list of goals from mixed minimalism categories.

And if you just pick one, it wouldn’t be too effective.


Well, it’s not your goal. 

You just take a goal from somewhere and think it’s one you should or want to reach.

However, the same happens when you want to keep up with the Joneses or Kardashians or lose yourself in social media doom and gossip-scrolling, falling into the envy and comparison trap.

Suddenly, you think the goal of getting a Yate for the three chihuahuas with six packs is worthwhile to pursue.

I know it’s unlikely. But you may feel like a failure when you don’t achieve this goal. However, that goal wasn’t yours to begin with.

It was like in the movie Inception. It got implanted from the exterior.

Where am I getting with this?

Before you pursue any minimalism goal, you first need to self-assess different areas of your life and identify issues that minimalism could resolve.

Based on the issues you identify, you can then define the goals to counteract them.

Usually, the issues you can resolve with minimalism principles relate to the negative side effects of maximalism and out-of-control consumerism, as outlined in this article.

So, I suggest you read this article first and then move on to the challenges article.

The article with the challenges you can use, like a menu of inspiration, to define your goals and then attack the issues in a targeted manner.


Essential Techniques for Minimalist Goal Setting

minimalism goals

Now let’s get into the sub sub sub category of minimalism: applying minimalism principles to goal setting or minimalist goal setting.

Let’s look again at the minimalism principles from above.

Which principle is the most practical to apply to goal setting?

You can only choose one; I’ve spoilered it already if you read closely.

It’s simplicity (focusing on the essential).

How can we simplify or focus on the essentials in goal setting?

First, we must look into effective goal-setting techniques and heuristics that help find the essentials.

After that, we bring them together.


The One Goal-Setting Technique According to Science

This article discussed what effective goal-setting looks like according to scientific studies.

Setting goals the right way can transform your life positively. 

The contrary is also the case if you have poorly designed goals. 

This can lead to burnout and stress.

According to the science discussed in the above article, hard goals improve performance more than easy ones, and specific targets work better than vague ones.

So, goals need to be challenging yet believable to be effective.

In addition, they should also be meaningful so they align with your desires and are thus more motivating.

Why all that?

You want to be sufficiently confident in achieving the goal, but this goal should also have a meaning. 

It’s not about the number of achievements but their meaning.

Also, you want to apply the 80% rule, and it’s not the Paretto Principles (I will come to that one later).

What is it then?

Well, you want to set goals where you have about an 80% success rate. 

The goal should neither be too easy nor too hard.

This implies that you make a guesstimate before you set the goal. 

The more you can approach objectivity in this phase, the better. Avoiding subjectivity here altogether is impossible. 

We are still only humans. Heck, even AI is biased (source).

When the goal concerns creative problem-solving, stressful deadlines can hinder the process.

What does this mean?

You want to work on goals without the pressure of immediate results, which is better for creativity.

Next, you want to visualize potential obstacles and plan to overcome them.

What does this do?

It helps increase your goal success rate.

Want to share your goals with others?

Don’t do that just yet.

No, it’s not that they interfere with the law of attraction (well, this is at least not scientifically measured yet).

It’s more that sharing your goals with others bears the risk that you substitute it for taking action.

So, it’s better to focus on taking action first.

You may also want to monitor your procrastination level to take action to reach your goals.

Why is that?

It’s often an indicator the tasks are unpleasant and there is a lack of daily accountability.

You want to break your goals into smaller, actionable steps to reduce this procrastination.


9 Heuristics to Find the Essential in Goal Setting

Remember, we want to apply the minimalism principle of simplicity (focusing on the essentials) to goal setting.

To do that, we can use heuristics, not just anyone.

It’s one specific heuristic that is most helpful in focusing on the essentials of your goal-setting.

But first, let me show you which heuristics there are (I know it’s a bit of maximalism, but I will reduce it to just one (the essential) later).

OKR (Objectives and Key Results): This approach sets clear objectives and defines key results that measure progress. 

It helps align individual and organizational goals.

Eisenhower Matrix: Also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, this heuristic helps prioritize tasks by categorizing them into four quadrants: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important.

Warren Buffett’s 25-5 Rule: This heuristic involves listing 25 goals and selecting the top 5 most important ones. 

The remaining 20 are considered lower priority and will be avoided until the top 5 are achieved.

ROAM (Risk, Opportunity, Alignment, Motivation): This heuristic encourages considering the risks and opportunities associated with a goal, aligning it with larger objectives, and assessing personal motivation before committing to it.

ABC Method: Tasks or goals are categorized into A (high priority), B (medium priority), and C (low priority) based on their importance, helping to prioritize and focus efforts.

Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule): This heuristic suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. 

It can help identify the most impactful tasks or goals and prioritize them.

One In, One Out: For each new goal or task added, one existing goal or task must be removed. This keeps the focus on a manageable number of goals.

Ivy Lee Method: List a maximum of six tasks or goals for the next day in order of priority. 

You want to focus on completing these tasks before moving on to other tasks.

Zeigarnik Effect: This suggests that incomplete tasks create psychological tension, making it more likely that they will be pursued to completion. 

It’s a reminder to maintain momentum in goal pursuit.

Now, of all the above, which one do you think is the most effective regarding focusing on the essentials in goal setting?

And no, it’s not the Pareto Principle…However, this one comes right after the one I will tell you now.

It’s the Eisenhower Matrix. 


This matrix is particularly effective in helping you prioritize goals (but also tasks) based on their urgency and importance, which ultimately aids in identifying what is essential in goal-setting.

And the Pareto Principle comes right after.

How so?

To measure the goal’s importance for the Eisenhower Matrix, you can ask yourself which 20% of the goals you consider will bring 80% of the results. 

The most important will be the one that likely brings most of the results.

However, since the Pareto Principle doesn’t go into various dimensions and doesn’t consider urgency, the Eisenhower Matrix wins.

So I suggest you combine both to get the most out of it.


Applying Minimalism to Goal-Setting: An Example

Let’s get a bit meta here.

I started this article by showing you minimalism goals.

Now, what if we did apply minimalism to minimalism goal setting?

We can do that now.

So here comes the example…

After an assessment of different areas of your life, you find out that you have screen time of six hours on your phone and have to search for one hour daily to find the right clothes before leaving the house.

If we look again at the minimalism goals I mentioned, you could use one of the physical declutter and digital minimalism goals.

Now, you need the science-based goal-setting approach to do it properly.

Summing it up, it was the following:

  • Hard goals improve performance more than easy ones 
  • Specific targets work better than vague ones.
  • It needs to be challenging yet believable to be effective
  • Make a guestimate and set goals where you have about an 80% success rate. 
  • Work on goals without the pressure of immediate results
  • Visualize potential obstacles and plan how to overcome them
  • Monitor your procrastination level to take action and break them into smaller ones if necessary. 


The Physical Declutter Goal

Since it’s not only your closet that is cluttered, you use the daily declutter goal for 30 days from above. 

One item on the first day, two on the second, and so on, is a hard goal and specific enough. 

It also feels challenging to you.

However, when you make a guesstimate, you feel that you will not be able to get rid of 20 items on day 20. 

To bring it down to an 80% success rate, you estimate that you will be better off by getting rid of 2 items daily for 30 days. 

This goal doesn’t give you high pressure for immediate results because you don’t have to get rid of 60 items on the same day. 

So, it’s all good.

You also identify a potential obstacle. 

That old piano from your ex you haven’t used for ten years. 

To overcome the obstacle of getting rid of this piano, you will use a company to help you move it and sell it.


The Digital Minimalism Goal

To tackle the issue with your daily phone screen time of six hours, you look at the suggested minimalism goals from earlier again and find the “no social media for one weekend monthly” goal.

You wonder whether it’s a hard enough goal, and you feel it’s not.

So you decide to alter it to a different one.

Instead of no social media, you use some digital minimalism tools and set the hard enough goal of only 30 minutes of social media daily. 

So, you limit social media consumption instead of eliminating it together for only two days.

You believe it is challenging to be effective, and you guestimate that you will have an 80% success rate with it.

In addition, you also avoid the pressure of immediate results, which would be getting rid of social media for good.

Then, you visualize potential obstacles and find that you may start auto-sabotaging and deactivating the screen-time limiting app on your phone and fall back into old behavior patterns.

To overcome this potential obstacle, you sign up for an accountability app where you have to pay $50 for each additional hour you may use social media.


Finding the Essential in Your Goal-Setting

Which one of the two above minimalism goals is the essential one?

Let’s use the Eisenhower Matrix and the Pareto Principle to find out.

The most obvious when you look at the two problems is the time you waste.

You spend one hour looking for clothes and six hours on social media daily.

So, applying the Pareto principle, you would save more or less 80% of your time by just tackling one issue. 

Which issue is it?

It’s the screen time issue that makes you spend six hours daily.

So, when only using this variable, the screen time issue is more important than the cluttered closet.

It also feels more urgent since, besides the time you spend, it doesn’t make you feel too good to scroll through Instagram.

So solving this problem is urgent and important, whereas the cluttered closet is also important (a little less, though) but not urgent.

Hence, you would categorize the corresponding minimalism goals as follows:

Minimalist Goal Setting



This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication per our editorial policy.