In Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, Greg Mckeown teaches us to hone our decisions making and time management skills in order to achieve more to do less and to do better, to filter out the noise and distractions, to find out what we really want out of life and pursue our dreams the most effective and disciplined way possible.
The essence of Essentialism
“Less but better” embodies the ethic of Essentialism. Essentialism is a way of thinking that drives success, that replaces false assumptions that we can do it all, that being busy means being productive, that we must accept every single opportunity that comes our way. Essentialists understand that:
- They have the ability to choose before they feel helpless and let someone else make decisions for them.
- Hard work does not necessarily pay off or lead to great results. Essentialists therefore learn to distinguish among all opportunities the best and most appropriate, most essential.
- Decisions are made by design and not by default. They focus their energy and time on a small portion of activities, and refuse those that achieve their goals.
The exploration and selection process
Essentialists give themselves the liberty to explore everything and anything before making a decisions on what to focus their energy, before committing to one option. To do so, they:
- Set aside time to think, to focus on different possibilities, to create space for intense concentration, to read, to meditate.
- Visualize the bigger picture and notice the larger issues that matter.
- Listen deliberately and observe intensely.
- Write a journal, with restraint, until it becomes a habit to keep track of the small changes implemented and to memorize the important events and information.
- Take time to play. In the workplace and in adulthood, playing has become trivial and undermined. However, playing sparks creativity, opens people up to see more possibilities, “challenges old assumptions and makes us more receptive to untested ideas”, alleviates stress, improve overall corporate skills.
- Make sleep a priority to counter-intuitively remain productive, to increase creativity and sustain a healthy mind.
- Apply the 90 percent rule, if unsure of a decision, to avoid committing to too many options in our personal and professional lives. “think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject”. For example, the 90 percent rule is useful to hire the right people and make sure that they are fit from the start.
- Say no to the unwanted opportunities that come your way.
- Fight the fear of missing out.
The elimination process
Furthermore, Essentialists find the courage, strength and conviction to firmly and resolutely say no to external pressure when they believe it is right and eliminate the nonessentials.
They clarify their goals, their personal and professional mission statements, make them concrete, measurable, meaningful and memorable, identify the activities that align themselves with their mission statements.
Clarifying their goals and missions improves their relationships, their motivation, sense of cooperation, sense of purpose, their jobs, roles. It also helps them focus their energy and time in one direction and therefore increase productivity. In the workplace, employees without a clear mission or values tend to play politics.
Often Nonessentialists are afraid of missing out on an opportunity or are afraid of conflict, of not being conform to expectations, to social norms, but saying no will increase your effectiveness and the respect level. Nonessentialists would be better off if they:
- Separated the person from their decisions.
- Found different ways to say no politely but firmly. It is critical to be prepared for reactions of annoyance, disappointment or anger from the other party. However, respect usually replaces those emotions in the long run.
- Traded the denied nonessential opportunities for better ones.
- Realized that respect is more valuable than popularity.
- Exercised discipline to remove distractions, cut their losses and stopped investing time, money and energy in nonessentials, dead-end activities.
- Broke free from a false sense of ownership to a project and object.
- Avoided staying somewhere just because they are afraid of wasting time, losing their investment and ownership.
- Admitted their mistakes.
- Avoided trying too hard to fit in.
- Challenged the status quo.
- Took a break before responding to someone and taking on a new commitment.
- Set boundaries and viewed them as liberating. Essentialists write down their red flags, deal breakers, lay down their priorities and take heed of negative people.
The execution process
It is critical to come up with a system to execute your essential activities, the right things the right way.
To prepare for wet days or to allocate time to respond to the unexpected, Essentialists create a buffer. The buffer is a contingency plan for difficult circumstances, works as a risk management strategy, ensures some wiggle room to execute their activities. To create a buffer, Essentialists:
- Accurately estimate the time of the activity by adding half the time that is expected to accomplish your tasks.
- Identify early all obstacles in their plan and remove them beforehand.
- Take small steps, increase positive interactions and congratulate themselves and their team for small wins.
- Design a routine to improve their ability to execute the essentials, to render the process easy and unconscious, to remove obstacles, to save their energy in the long run, to enhance their creativity and innovation.
- Stay in the present, avoid doing too many thing at once as opposed to doing many things and focusing on one thing at a time.
the pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure. Put another way, success can distract us from focusing on the essential things that produce success in the first place.
Discerning what is essential to explore requires us to be disciplined in how we scan and filter all the competing and conflicting facts, options, and opinions constantly vying for our attention.
By definition, applying highly selective criteria is a trade-off; sometimes you will have to turn down a seemingly very good option and have faith that the perfect option will soon come along.
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.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less by Greg Mckeown is destined to overachievers, to ambitious people, and to those who feel like they are spread thin in their personal and professional lives.
Indeed, when we want to be successful, we have a tendency of accepting every opportunity that comes to us, we fear that we will be missing out and we worry about everything. Greg Mckeown shows us that we have the power to choose, that it is OK to turn down a mediocre option, with the faith that a better option comes around.
Also, this book administers practical advice, applicable to leaders, illustrated with great examples, and made me realize the number of things that hinder my productivity and my time management.
At last, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less cannot be compared with New Years resolutions but provides a new way of thinking, a new way of life.