At the core of essentialism is doing less but achieving more.
I think we could all agree, that’s a pretty cool idea!
In the chaos of modern life, where busyness often overshadows productivity, the concept of essentialism gives us hope to regain our clarity and focus. Greg McKeown’s book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” provides a roadmap to declutter your life, prioritise what truly matters, and lead a more fulfilling life, both at work and home. In this book review of “Essentialism,” I’ll explore some key principles, practical strategies, and the beautiful simplicity of embracing essentialism. This is just my take on the book, so if it resonates, please grab a copy and check it out for yourself.
Knowing what’s actually important
If you feel like everything’s important, there’s a good chance you’ll get very little done and continue to feel frustrated, guilty and hopeless. If however, you can gain clarity on what actually matters… to you, then everything shifts.
Sometimes, we just have too many options. The essentialist recognises the plethora of choices we’re faced with, and instead of saying yes, they make time and space to explore what might be a good fit for them. They slow down the process, and invest time in researching, learning and analysing what feels like a good fit.
Think of this as a quick ‘no’ and a very slow ‘yes.’
The essentialist has complete clarity and certainty about what they are working towards and why. This means they can be comfortable saying NO, discerning about what meetings they attend and critical about what tasks even make it onto their to do list each day.
As a busy professional, if you just learn to say ‘NO’ kindly and sincerely, you’ll likely free up a massive amount of your time. (Imagine all those meetings you wouldn’t have to attend, let alone the weekend canteen duties at the kids football.)
The quote I love is “If it’s not a ‘HELL YEAH’ – then it probably should be a ‘no thanks’”
The art of becoming discerning
When you have clarity about what’s important, decisions become easier. While there will always be trade-offs and opportunity costs, when you know the end game, it’s easier to set aside the afterhours meeting in order to attend the kids basketball.
McKeown introduces the concept of JOMO – The joy of missing out. He reflects on the things that he’s said ‘no’ too, and what that time and space had given him instead. When we focus on what we’re missing out on, it’s likely we develop a habit of saying yes. But that trap leads us to the never ending cycle of feeling exhausted and achieving very little.
So, next time you experience a little FOMO – see if you can flip it into JOMO and embrace the things that are genuine priorities in your life.
Decluttering Your Life
Clutter is simply decisions postponed. Electricity bill on the bench, pay it, then file it. Staff member underperforming, have the conversation and move on. Every decision you don’t make, creates physical and mental clutter that undermines your performance, dilutes your attention and fogs up your focus.
Begin in a small area, clear it out, see and feel the difference and start on the next area. Personally, decluttering is one of my favourite things to do. It reduces the cognitive load and free’s up time and space for more important things. It also reminds me how little stuff I need (to have or do) in order to be happy. So it leads me to feel content with a slimmed down version of my life.
Embrace the small wins
When you notice the little positives that you achieve, you begin to build up your confidence and harness your motivation. Be sure to actually ‘tick the box’ when you achieve something rather than just moving on to the next task.
Build in a buffer
Just as you wouldn’t drive two feet behind another car on a freeway, so you should allow yourself a little more time and space in your day. Allow 15minutes between meetings, give yourself 50% more time to complete tasks and leave some space in each day to think through what’s working, what’s important and what you’ve achieved.
When you have a large savings buffer and the fridge breaks down, it’s not a disaster. When you allow an extra 30mins to get to a wedding, but hit ever traffic light, it’s OK.
Rest & Play
Play is vital for creativity and productivity. The essentialist knows that play stimulates innovative thinking, exploration of opportunities and gives us the time and space to mentally put things together. Teams that play come up with more ideas, opportunities and creative ways to solve problems.
Rest and sleep are also essential. In fact, after the ’10,000 hour’ rule that Gladwell popularised to lead to high levels of talent, the next highest contributor was sleep. Those who achieved more, on average, had an additional hour sleep every night. Sleep enables us to think more clearly, act more decisively and achieve more of what’s important each day.
In a world where distractions are plentiful, and time is a finite resource, “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown stands as a guidebook to reclaim your focus, make meaningful choices, and lead a life that aligns with your true purpose.
This book review of “Essentialism” has helped me appreciate the habits of living a simpler, more intentional, and ultimately more fulfilling life.