“You can’t be your best self if your life is cluttered with the non-essential” – Greg McKeown
It’s a word that is used every day by almost all of us. For many of us, our lives seem to not only be busy but getting busier with every waking minute and week that passes by…. especially at this time of the year!
It’s all too easy however to find ourselves caught in a sea of ‘busyness quicksand’ that leaves us both unproductive and stuck. Stuck with unforgiving diaries that see us stretched too thin. Stuck feeling like our time is constantly being hijacked by everyone else’s schedule. Stuck with problematic team members. Stuck in unfulfilling careers and doing things that simply aren’t us.
When you feel ‘stuck’ you are more often than not, running flat out, burning lots of energy and going nowhere fast. Finding yourself on the hamster wheel is exhausting, unfulfilling and unsustainable. The tricky thing is that by the time you realise you are on it; you are already spinning so fast that jumping off seems impossible and downright dangerous. The key to jumping off the wheel is recognising that it is nothing more than a routine – a routine that you firstly created and one you can absolutely change.
Greg McKewon, author of the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, makes a powerful case for achieving more by doing less. In his book he talks to the need to firstly understand and then adopt the discipline – and it is a discipline – of discerning what is absolutely essential and then eliminating what is not. In doing so you not only ensure that you are focused on making the greatest possible contribution to what is truly important for you, but you also take back the control for your own choices about where you invest your precious resources time and energy resources.
For many of us when we decide to simplify things, we approach it like we do when we de-clutter our wardrobe. We firstly wait until it is at bursting point when we can’t fit anything else in; or when everything is so worn out we ‘retire’ items to the bin. We then set about filling it back up with similar things that are just shinier and newer rather than thinking about what it is that we actually need.
As McKeown notes, mastering the art of Essentialism is two fold. Firstly it is a mindset, followed by some key actions (which he refers to as Exploring, Eliminating and Executing). The attached model is a great demonstration of the way people with Non-Essentialist versus Essentialist attitudes think and act – and what they ultimately get.
It is not just a matter of sitting down and taking a bunch of the non-essential things off the list or out of the diary. Equally important is determining what the essentials are and prioritising them in the calendar.
None of us want to get to the end of our lives wishing that we had been brave enough to take the leap – what ever that leap may be – to live the best version of ourselves. In McKeown’s words, avoiding this sad end ‘requires not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately and strategically eliminating the non-essentials which means not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but cutting out some really good opportunities as well’.
So a few suggestions for adopting the Keeping It Simple approach:
- Understand you hold the power of choice
- Conduct an audit on what is truly essential for you, your career or business and your life
- Master the art of saying No
- Own your space (diary) – both personally and professionally
- Check in weekly: Is this the right routine? Does it need tweaking?
- Diarise your own quarterly review
Whatever you have on your plate at the moment, got there because you said yes to it. What we keep on our plate and how we manage it is up to us.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.