Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown was one of those books that kept coming back to me in different ways. I first heard about it from my friend Shannon. A few weeks later, it was mentioned in a work-related training. And a month or so after that, I saw it mentioned on one of those “must-read” lists. That’s when I knew I had to read it. I mean, the Universe was begging me to! So, I borrowed it from Shannon early last week, started it on the flight to Detroit, and finished it on the flight back.
Like I said in yesterday’s post, if you take the time to absorb and use what’s shared, this is a powerful book.
First of all, McKeown states several times in several different ways that the way of an Essentialist is not about task and time-management. It’s way more than that…it’s a mindset shift. It’s about how you live your life.
The thing about the world today is that we celebrate those who take on more and more – do more, get more, fit in more. We are all obsessed with this pursuit of more. And this disease, as McKeown puts it, is only being aided by things like social media, smart phones, and consumerism.
I think we can agree that “having it all” is a big fat myth. Especially when you want it all at the same time. So, the only way to overcome this according to the way of the Essentialist is by only doing things that are essential and doing them well. Simple, right?!
Well, that’s where this book is great. It’s broken down into four different sections that explain what the Essentialist mindset is all about, how to spot the vital few, how to cut out the trivial many, and how to make doing the vital few things a bit easier.
My favorite examples from the book include –
If not a clear yes, then a clear no. Be selective in how you choose to spend your time. Know what it is you want, and stay true to it. Put another way, learn how to say no!
Live by the delayed yes. Basically, instead of saying yes right away, take a pause, think through what is being asked of you, and then respond. The pause will help you determine if something is truly vital.
Learn the phrase, “Let me get back to you.” Most things do not require an immediate answer.
Priority vs. Priorities. Even though it may not seem like it, not everything is important. Our lives are not made up of equal activities. We have to choose what is essential.
Find time to disconnect. Having downtime is key to the way of an Essentialist because that’s when the creative juices are able to flow. So, no phones, no TV, no computers, NO DISTRACTIONS. Allow yourself to get bored a little!
And the example that really made me think was this –
Look beyond the most obvious and immediate obstacles, and instead, look for the ones that are slowing down progress. By putting Band-Aids on problems/issues, you will only be able to make marginal improvements at best. But when something is important and essential in your life, you need to think beyond the quick-fix solutions and ask, “What is getting in the way of achieving what is essential?” This is basically a way to reduce your efforts and optimize your results.
The only con, if you can call it that, with this book and others like it is that some of the tips/examples/pieces of advice are easier said than done, especially in work situations. I guess when there’s a will there’s a way, but in my opinion, the art of being able to apply these principles is not something you can learn overnight. In some cases, it can take years of practice and experimentation. We all have to start somewhere I suppose!
Thanks for reading!
Have you read Essentialism? If yes, what did you think?
Do you have a hard time discerning the vital few from the trivial many?