Essentialism

Author:
Greg McKeown

Description

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?

Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?

Are you often busy but not productive?

 Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the EssentialistThe Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not  a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter. 

By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism  is a movement whose time has come.

Notes

Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

Essentialism is about deliberately distinguishing the vital few from the trivial many, eliminating the non-essentials, and then removing any obstacles so the essential things have a clear, smooth passage.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

The Paradox of Success: the more options we have, the more we feel distracted from what would otherwise be our highest level of contribution.

To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”

The way of the essentialist is about pausing constantly to ask, “Am I investing in the right activities?”

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

The Paradox of Success 

  • PHASE 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it enables us to succeed at our endeavor.
  • PHASE 2: When we have success, we gain a reputation as a “go to” person. We become “good old [insert name],” who is always there when you need him, and we are presented with increased options and opportunities.
  • PHASE 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, which is actually code for demands upon our time and energies, it leads to diffused efforts. We get spread thinner and thinner.
  • PHASE 4: We become distracted from what would otherwise be our highest level of contribution. The effect of our success has been to undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

 

In the same way that our closets get cluttered as clothes we never wear accumulate, so do our lives get cluttered as well-intended commitments and activities we’ve said yes to pile up. Most of these efforts didn’t come with an expiration date. Unless we have a system for purging them, once adopted, they live on in perpetuity. Here’s how an Essentialist would approach that closet.

1. EXPLORE AND EVALUATE

Instead of asking, “Is there a chance I will wear this someday in the future?” you ask more disciplined, tough questions: “Do I love this?” and “Do I look great in it?” and “Do I wear this often?” If the answer is no, then you know it is a candidate for elimination.

In your personal or professional life, the equivalent of asking yourself which clothes you love is asking yourself, “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution toward my goal?” Part One of this book will help you figure out what those activities are.

By applying tougher criteria we can tap into our brain’s sophisticated search engine. If we search for “a good opportunity,” then we will find scores of pages for us to think about and work through. Instead, we can conduct an advanced search and ask three questions:

  • “What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and
  • “What am I particularly talented at?” and
  • “What meets a significant need in the world?”

 

2. ELIMINATE

Let’s say you have your clothes divided into piles of “must keep” and “probably should get rid of.” But are you really ready to stuff the “probably should get rid of” pile in a bag and send it off? After all, there is still a feeling of sunk-cost bias: studies have found that we tend to value things we already own more highly than they are worth and thus that we find them more difficult to get rid of. If you’re not quite there, ask the killer question: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” This usually does the trick.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply determine which activities and efforts don’t make the highest possible contribution; you still have to actively eliminate those that do not. Part Two of this book will show you how to eliminate the nonessentials, and not only that, how do it in a way that garners you respect from colleagues, bosses, clients, and peers.

 

3. EXECUTE

If you want your closet to stay tidy, you need a regular routine for organizing it. You need one large bag for items you need to throw away and a very small pile for items you want to keep. You need to know the dropoff location and hours of your local thrift store. You need to have a scheduled time to go there.

In other words, once you’ve figured out which activities and efforts to keep— the ones that make your highest level of contribution— you need a system to make executing your intentions as effortless as possible. In this book you’ll learn to create a process that makes getting the essential things done as effortless as possible.

Essence: What is the Core Logic of an Essentialist

There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist:

  • “I have to,”
  • “It’s all important,” and
  • “I can do both.”

To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths:

  • “I choose to,”
  • “Only a few things really matter,” and
  • “I can do anything but not everything.”
  • “If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?”

The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away—it can only be forgotten.

Trade Off

We can try to avoid the reality of trade-offs, but we can’t escape them.

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?”

Escape

In order to have focus we need to escape to focus.

Newton was asked how he had discovered the law of universal gravitation. ‘By thinking on it continually’ was the reply.… What he thought on, he thought on continually, which is to say exclusively, or nearly exclusively.” In other words, Newton created space for intense concentration, and this uninterrupted space enabled him to explore the essential elements of the universe.

By abolishing any chance of being bored we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process.

 

Sleep

He likens sleep deficit to drinking too much alcohol, explaining that pulling an all-nighter (i.e., going twenty-four hours without sleep) or having a week of sleeping just four or five hours a night actually “induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1 %. 

 

Think about this: we would never say, ‘This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!’ yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep for work.”

 

Select

In a piece called “No More Yes. It’s Either HELL YEAH! Or No,” the popular TED speaker Derek Sivers describes a simple technique for becoming more selective in the choices we make. The key is to put the decision to an extreme test: if we feel total and utter conviction to do something, then we say yes , Derek -style. Anything less gets a thumbs down.

The 90% Rule

If something (or in this case someone) is just or almost good enough— that is, a 7 or an 8— then the answer should be a no. It was so liberating.

As you evaluate an option, 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 it.

If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.

Then Nancy read Jim Collins’s Good to Great, in which he contends if there’s one thing you are passionate about— and that you can be best at—you should do just that one thing.

Clarify

“If we could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”

 

Uncommit

You can apply zero-based budgeting to your own endeavors. Instead of trying to budget your time on the basis of existing commitments, assume that all bets are off. All previous commitments are gone.

Before the words “That sounds great, I’d love to” fly out of your mouth, ask yourself , “Is this essential?”

 

Limit

Another quick test for finding your deal breakers is to write down any time you feel violated or put upon by someone’s request.


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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things