Reflection: For some time, I’ve been following Greg McKoewn’s blog posts on the concept of Essentialism. So I was delighted when he released his book, ‘Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’.
It’s a provocative read. Amongst the ideas I found of greatest interest are these:
- Shifting to an essentialist viewpoint means we need to discard these three assumptions: I have to. It’s all important. I can do both. Instead we need to adopt these three assumptions: I choose to. Only a few things really matter. I can do anything but not everything.
- The word ‘priority’ used to mean just one thing. In the last century we pluralized it to ‘priorities’. This caused us to believe we could actually hold a number of things at the top of our list and in our attention at the very same time.
- We’re fooling ourselves if we think we don’t have to make a solid choice between competing activities. Choosing ‘both’ is a recipe for spreading ourselves too thin. We need to make trade-offs. The shift in mindset is thinking not so much about what we must give up, but rather, what do we choose to go big on.
- Don’t be afraid to pull the plug on a project or commitment you’re already involved in. Think about it from a square one point of view. If you weren’t already involved, what would you give up or how hard would you work to get involved. Just because you are part of an active initiative doesn’t mean it’s still the right thing for you to be doing. Edit away.
- You’ve got to know, as a pause fanatic, that I would appreciate this one. Protect the asset – that means you! Create space for renewal and reflection – time for unencumbered thought, innovation and growth. Escape and explore life.
Action: So, how do we actually put these ideas into action? Here are a few ways to experiment in a very practical way with McKeown’s concept of essentialism.
- Eliminate or scale back one activity for a few days or weeks. You will see more easily whether anyone really cares about it (including you) and whether it really makes any difference if it doesn’t get done.
- When facing a handful of problems, sift out one single issue that, if addressed, would make a huge difference. Work on it to the exclusion of the others.
- Be more selective about the things you take on. Set out explicit criteria (not minimum criteria but extreme criteria) for choosing where to put your energy. If an opportunity or idea isn’t a clear yes, than make it a clear no and move on. Don’t spread your energy over a bunch of items that are only a 6,7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Zero in on the 9’s and 10’s.
Quotes Of The Week: Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough. – Josh Billings
Beware the bareness of a busy life. – Socrates
Resource Of The Week: For a taste of Essentialism in his own words, check out McKeown’s Change Manifesto: 12 Myths That Lead To A Busy Unfulfilling Life.
Or, go whole hog and read the book: Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’. Published in 2014 by Crown Business, a division of Random House.
Readers Write: In response to the message, What Do You Want To Do As You Grow Old, Pause reader K writes:
This message was timely because I’m getting to the end of my career and have been asking myself that very question: “Is what I’m doing right now, what I really want to do until retirement?” Things have become almost boring with all the challenging projects and traveling to conferences always going to the junior employees. I feel outdated and useless and I sure don’t want to end my career on that note.
Maybe a change is what I need to make these last few years feel productive and to feel that I am actually contributing to something important. I don’t get that confirmation from my current boss and I think that positive feedback is important for everyone in the workplace.
Tags: burnout, essential, essentialism, excellence, focus, overload, overwhelm, Pat Katz, Patricia Katz, pause, perspective, productivity, purpose, Saskatoon, speaker, stress, success, time, time out, wellness, workload