A look at Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
Right off the bat, I love the writing style with which the author presents this information. And regarding that information, adhering to the materials will have a profound impact on my life.
Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.Greg McKeown, Essentialism
How many days have I woken up with a general idea of what I would like to accomplish? How many times did I go into a weekday or weekend with an exhaustive to-do list? Since I build in planning time into my schedule for these two endeavors, daily and weekend, I say nearly all the time. But, and this is a really big but, how often do those items get crossed off the list? Unfortunately, not as often as I would like.
Too often things come up. I have a bad night’s sleep, I get lost in social media or unproductive reading, or I fail to say no to something that is not on the list. Tasks get pushed down the list, pushed off until tomorrow, or rescheduled into the next weekend. In essence, I procrastinate. I lose my sense of urgency and fail to accomplish the mission.
Because I am a fox and not a hedgehog, I never accomplish the one big thing. Sadly, I am a non-essentialist. I overachieve in the unimportant and grossly underachieve in the things that matter most.
Since reading Good to Great by Jim Collins and now The Essentialist, I have started asking myself these two questions every morning:
- What activity is essential?
- What is the one thing that I must work on that will get me closer to what matters most to me?
For any activity that falls outside of that activity, I must ask myself whether it is a part of my plan. I must weigh the activity according to its cost versus the benefits.
- What will it cost compared to other activities on my list?
- Will this detract from the things that matter most to me (family, personal growth, business)?
If the activity generates a greater cost than the benefits, why would I consider doing it? For example, I am a sucker for gathering knowledge for the sake of having knowledge. I used to tell myself this was for the purpose of being as well-rounded as possible. This was great in the past because I did not have a clear direction of where I wanted to go in life. But now that I have a very clear direction, how does non-pertinent knowledge bring me closer to my intended destination? It doesn’t. Therefore, my time would be better allocated to the pursuit of knowledge in my field. I would rather be a master of my craft (hedgehog) than a mediocre jack-of-all-trades (fox).
How do I do this? in a nutshell, I must determine what is essential. From there, I must learn to eliminate all the nonessentials. On paper, this is an easy formula for success, yet the reality is not so easy. It is a skill requiring vigilance and practice. If this is something I can master, which I believe I can, then my to-do list will have many less items on it and will be far more achievable. This will get me down the road and closer to my intended destination with less deviations along the way.
We can all purge our lives of the nonessential and embrace the way of the Essentialist—in our own ways, and in our own time, and on our own scale. We can all live a life not just of simplicity but of high contribution and meaning.Greg McKeown, Essentialism