“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will,” writes Greg McKeown in “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” When he set out to write the book, McKeown wanted to know what keeps skilled, driven people from achieving as much as possible. What he found was that many people suffer not from being lazy, but from allocating their time ineffectively. The impulse to “do it all” keeps folks from spending their time on the things that actually matter. The book, then, serves as a guide to cutting out the extraneous and focusing on the essential.
“Life is not an all-you-can-eat buffet,” McKeown says. “It’s amazingly great food. Essentialism is about finding the right food. More and more is valueless. Staying true to my purpose and being selective in what I take on results in a more meaningful, richer, and sweeter quality of life.” This metaphor can be applied to your work life as well. There aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish every task. The essentialist works to spend their time diligently by pursuing what actually matters, rather than filling their days with meaningless busy work.
Early in the book, McKeown uses famed Braun designer Dieter Rams as an example of an essentialist. He notes that Rams’ design philosophy can be characterized by three simple words: less but better. This, in essence, is what essentialists believe.
Channel Your Energy Towards What Really Matters...
Doing your best work where it matters and cutting out the superfluous will allow you to better manage your time and increase your performance. As McKeown puts it, “It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at your highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” Instead of having their energy spread out in a million different directions, essentialists channel it into what really matters. McKeown also advocates for defining your purpose in order to accurately assess what’s essential and what isn’t. The more a task contributes to your purpose, the more essential it is.
Many business owners and leaders struggle to let go of tasks that are best left to other employees. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to manage a massive workload while resenting the fact that much of what you do is needless, then it’s time to pick up a copy of “Essentialism.”
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