I recently read the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown, and it changed the way I look at pretty much everything.
So what is essentialism exactly? It is the disciplined pursuit of less. The whole idea is to design your life and not let things happen to you. We have so many options and opportunities but no time to do everything – even though we are pressured to say yes to everything all the time. Essentialism is about being able to “filter through all those options and selecting only those that are truly essential”. Living by design, and not by default.
Less but better.
I think we call all take away valuable lessons from this book, especially entrepreneurs and business owners. I used to take on so many responsibilties and always felt like I had to be busy to feel like I was accomplishing something. Throughout the book, Mckeown explains how we can live an Essentialist life.
How you can apply essentialism to your business
The mindset of the essentialist is that we have the power of choice. In life, we tend to forget that options are things and choices are actions. We ALWAYS have a choice. When you give up your power to choose – you allow others to make choices for you. Having this incredible power of choice is great, but it’s not always easy. This is where discern is important. The essentialist distinguishes between what is valuable and what is worthless, and most things are nonessential, it is up to us to discern what is actually necessary.
In making our choices, there will inevitably be trade offs. An essentialist asks him or herself “which problem do I want?” rather than asking “how can I do both?”. Choices and trade offs are part of life; they’re not always easy to make, but if we make them strategically, we can make the most of it.
Takeaway – don’t feel like you have to say yes to everything in your business. You don’t have to accept every project or client. You don’t have to master every skill and take on every role. Figure out what is essential for you to provide the most value and be the most effective, and do that. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s better to do an amazing job at one thing, than a mediocre job at multiple things.
How can we figure out what is essential in our lives? We need time to explore. An Essentialist takes time to escape – to get rid of all distractions and just think and reflect on life. An Essentialist also knows how to really listen. There is so much noise in our lives, and it’s important to weave through it all and listen to what is really important. Read between the lines.
In addition to taking time to think and reflect, essentialists make time for play. This keeps our creativity alive and helps with stress. Essentialists also make sleep a priority – sleep makes us more productive in the day.
Takeaway – Take care of yourself. You don’t have to be “on” all the time. Take some time to rest, think, read, journal, sleep and have fun. When we take care of ourselves, we’re more clear on what we want out of life and what is important.
Once you take the time to explore what is essential, it’s time to eliminate the non essential. This is where you must determine what you’re going to say no to, and really discover your priorities. McKeown states that we should have an “essential intent” – a statement that is inspirational, meaningful, concrete and measurable. It is this essential intent that will guide you and provide clarity.
It’s hard to say no when we’re asked for something. Many of us have a fear of that awkward moment; we don’t want to disappoint people. Essentialists only say yes to things that really matter. They set limits and boundaries that eliminate the need to say no.
Essentialists also know when to uncommit – when to let go of something that just isn’t working and realize their mistakes. They also actively edit their lives by cutting out distractions and unnecessary details.
Takeaway – Take your time when creating your mission statement for your business and use it to guide your business when making decisions. Having a clear purpose and vision will make it easier for you to determine when to say no, and when to say yes.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to set limits and edit your business- it could be something simple like limiting the times that you check your email, or what times you schedule meetings. For example, maybe you need to refine your services or packages, or edit your workflow to make your process smoother for your team.
Eliminate the unessential. And focus on what’s important.
This section of the book discusses how to execute the essential things in life as smoothly as possible. Essentialists do this by focusing on being present in the now. Figure what’s important in the moment and to focus on that. In addition to having focus, essentialists have routines, practice extreme preparation, add buffer time for unexpected events, remove obstacles (things that slow down progress), celebrate small wins, and reward progress.
Takeaway – Using these essentialist principles for execution will help you complete tasks more efficiently. Be extra prepared in your business and have contingency plans for emergencies. If you need one week to complete client work, tell them you need 10 days, or 2 weeks instead – giving you buffer time.
“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” Greg Mckeown