Life is so complicated these days and it seems like we’re constantly being pulled in a dozen different directions.
Your boss wants you to stay late to finish a big project. He also wants to give you some new responsibilities (though he doesn’t want to take any of your current duties away). Meanwhile, you’re anxious to get home so you can make it to your daughter’s soccer practice before running over to back to school night.
You’ve promised your wife a date night this weekend, but your buddies invited you to the big game and your brother is asking you to help him move. You were hoping to hit the gym at some point but you still have to mow the lawn, clean the gutters, and wash your car. You’re halfway through the lawn when your neighbor drops by to remind you of your promise to help put together fundraiser packages for the PTO.
You’ve spent the entire day running around doing what everyone else wants you to do and you never even had a chance to do what you really wanted to spend your day doing.
If that sounds familiar, you need to pay close attention because I’m about to change your life forever.
I just finished reading a new book by Greg McKeown titled Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. In the interest of transparency, I should mention I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review but that did not in any way affect my feeling towards the book. If it sucked I would be the first to tell you that.
What is Essentialism?
Essentialism is the relentless pursuit of less but better.
It’s not a strategy for finding extra time in your day so you can cram even more tasks into your already overwhelming routine. Instead, it is a change in mindset that allows you to cast away all of the nonessential diversions that get in the way of any real progress.
The image below demonstrates the power of essentialism. The diagram on the left shows what happens when you try to split your energy into many activities. Because you can only spend a short time on each you barely make any progress at all.
But just look at the diagram on the right. This is what happens when you do away with all the clutter that drains your time and energy and focus solely on what really matters…the truly essential.
You still expend the same amount of energy but you’re suddenly make extraordinary progress because you’ve identified what is really important to you and put all your efforts towards that one priority.
Of course, you have to remember that everything you do involves a trade off. The more time you spend on one activity the less you’ll have to spend on anything else. You simply can’t do everything and if you try you will only fail.
You need to learn how to make a conscious decision of what is your top priority and put all of your energy towards reaching that goal. That means you need to start saying “no” to anything that gets in the way of you reaching your goals.
Obviously, saying “no” is not always easy. We don’t like to disappoint people and turning down a request for help may cause some short term damage if you are too abrupt. Fortunately, McKeown dedicates an entire chapter to saying “no” gracefully. He includes helpful tips and scripts that you can follow to get out of just about any kind of commitment imaginable, even the difficult situation where your boss wants to give you yet another “top priority” job to work on.
I thoroughly enjoyed Essentialism and I’ve already started implementing some of the exercises and tips within it.
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. You’ll be amazed at how liberated you’ll feel once you take control of your life and start living by your own rules.