My minimalist desktop. Ahh, lovely without clutter!

One of my key organizing principles is “simplify before organizing”. I love to simplify my computer setup to something beautifully minimalist.

Why does this matter? When you have a thousand icons on your desktop (apps, documents, etc.), each one represents something you have to do. So there’s visual distraction and procrastination looking at you all the time. The same applies to a dock or taskbar — having a bunch of icons there simply distracts you from the task at hand. It makes you want to open something else, rather than focusing on what’s already in front of you.

In this post, I’ll share some things I’ve done to get a pretty minimalist computer setup. Please note that I use a Mac, so that’s what I’m familiar with … there are Windows & Linux equivalents for everything, but I’m not current with those systems. I encourage you to share those equivalent tools & tips in Slack.

  1. Hide the dock, use Launchbar. I love to use a task launcher like Launchbar (and other similar launchers) because you can launch any program or file just using a few keystrokes. I auto hide the Dock so that I don’t have to look at it all the time (things should be out of sight when you’re not using them), and in fact since using Launchbar I never use the Dock anymore. Using Launchbar (or other launchers) also means you don’t need shortcuts to applications on your desktop anymore.
  2. Clear you desktop of icons. I sometimes will save something to my desktop, but then very quickly will move it to another folder (usually in Dropbox). I like a clear desktop — it gives me a peaceful feeling, and helps me focus. If you have a bunch of things on your desktop, collect them into one folder and put them in your Documents or Dropbox folder. Use Launchbar to launch common files, folders or applications.
  3. Shut off notifications. Many people have notifications of emails, social media messages, etc. … but I find that too distracting. It means there’s always something trying to get your attention. Do your best to shut off all notifications (calendar notifications being a possible exception). If you have the latest version of Mac OSX, you can also open the Notification Center settings & turn off notifications for all applications.
  4. Simple backup. I like things to be backed up, but I don’t like to have to worry about a complicated backup setup. So I just save things in one of two places: Google Drive or Dropbox. It all gets synced by those companies, which have a pretty good record of backup, and I don’t have to worry about it. I have folders in Dropbox for photos, finances, important documents (like copies of passports & birth certificates), upcoming (for copies of tickets & boarding passes), and working items.
  5. Use Bartender to hide menubar items. I like to have a clear menu bar at the top of my computer screen, but I usually have a few utilities that like to sit in the menu bar (Dropbox, Mindful Mynah, etc.) … so I use the Bartender utility to hide everything under a single icon (a star in my setup). Now I just have a star and the time in the right side of my menu bar.
  6. Use a distraction-free text editor. If you’re going to write, close all other apps, and use a distraction-free writing tool. My favorites are OmmWriter, Writeroom and Byword, but there are many alternatives.
  7. Don’t fiddle. Once you have a fairly minimalist setup, you can stop fiddling with the setup. There’s a tendency to keep looking for other apps and utilities, better ways of doing things … that’s a waste of time. Set it up, and forget it.