5 Key Takeaways from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Heart pounding, I barrelled through the airport. As I crashed into the gate, the agent awarded me a scowl. This sprint series continued for months, until I woke up one day with a jitter that I just couldn’t shake. At that moment, I realized something needed to change.
I know this scenario is not unique to my life. For many of us, before and even during quarantine, everyday seems like a 10 000 meter dash; leaving us at the finish line exasperated, and depleted. The question begs to be asked, what if life could be different? What if you could saunter through the day, and truly feel it? Essentialism arrived on my lap when I deeply needed it. It challenged my perspective and swung open the door of possibilities on how I could live my days.
In this post I’m sharing my key takeaways from the New York Time bestseller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. My hope is that these lessons may light a match in you to evaluate your life, and possibly live a little differently.
What is Essentialism?
According to McKeown Essentialism is “the systematic discipline for discerning what is necessary, eliminating everything else, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards things that truly matter.” Essentialists realize that the vast majority of tasks in life are nonessential and they choose a small few to focus on deeply. McKeown states that Essentialists believe you can “do anything, but not everything.”
The Essentialism Mindset
Choice. In life, we have the power to choose what we expend our energy on. The unfortunate thing is, we forget we have choice, and spend the majority of our days living out other people’s agendas.
Focus on the Few. Essentialists realize that most things in life are simply noise. Essentialists take time to analyze many options and commit to a small few that truly matter.
Accept trade offs. Our modern day standard of having it all is a myth. You only have so much energy, and everything you commit to, involves a trade off.
In conversation, the majority of us are too busy formulating our response to what the other person is saying to be fully present and listen deeply. This can be especially apparent in work conversations. McKeown suggests a:
Pause Refresher: Before entering any interaction such as a meeting, or returning home from work, pause, take a deep breath, and set an intention to be completely present and listen.
Make Time for Play
Essentialists understand the value of play and carve out time for it on a regular basis. Play lets us to see the world differently and helps us realize other options, and possibilities. Play also combats stress, and has been shown to improve executive functions of the brain like planning, prioritizing, and scheduling.
Don’t be Afraid to Say No
“People are effective because they say no.”Peter Drucker
If you continue to say yes to everyone, you will become a slave to other people’s agenda. Here are some pointers on saying no from Essentialism:
- Separate the response from the relationship. You’re saying no to a task, not the person.
- Focus on what you must give up to complete the task.
- Accept that not everyone will like you, but they will respect you.
- Realize a concise no is better than an ambiguous yes.
Create Time Buffers
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.Abraham Lincoln
Let’s circle back to my sprint through the airport. After my ah-ha moment, I decided to implement the 50% rule. The rule states whatever amount of time you think a task is going to take you, double it. If 50 percent seems a rather extreme, add 40 or even 30 percent. If you implement this rule, the stress of rushing will simply disappear.
What’s Important Now?
Stress and overwhelm have become chronic conditions. The next time you find yourself neck deep in your to-do list, take a pause, and ask yourself “what’s important now?” or my version “what task could I complete now to make myself feel better later?”
In closing, I hope if you take any wisdom away from this it’s: this is YOUR life. You have the choice to despair in the rush or take pause and become enlightened in the silence. Don’t yield to other people’s agendas, just say no.
And then one day I decided that hurry and stress were no longer going to be a part of my life. Stress is self-centred. I decided to stop manufacturing it. We can choose an internal calm and joy even amid the chaos.Brendon Burchard
Choose the calm. Choose the joy.
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