Greg McKeown’s 2014 book ‘Essentialism’ is an antidote to feeling busy but not productive. From the outset, he makes it clear that this is not a time management strategy, rather, this about establishing what is important, and eliminating what gets in the road.
He begins with a simple model; what separates the Essentialist from the Non-Essentialist? There are three areas: how each person thinks, what each person does and what each person gets. The Non-Essentialist thinks “I have to” or “How do I fit it all in?”, the Essentialist thinks “I choose to” or “What are the trade offs?” In terms of action, the Non-Essentialist reacts to what’s pressing, and says yes too quickly, whereas the Essentialist pauses to think through priorities, and says no to what isn’t essential. Finally, the Non-Essentialist feels out of control, overwhelmed and exhausted, the Essentialist however, feels in control, creates better work and gets the right things done.
Yeah. I know, life isn’t quite as simple as that. Yet, I think McKeown’s basic premise is sound; if you don’t make decisions about what is important to you, and purposefully pay less or no attention to what is less important, then someone else, or random events will make those decisions for you.
The book explores the themes of taking time to establish your priorities, how you ensure these things come top of the list, how you stop the trivia encroaching on those priorities and how you maintain a plan in action. These aren’t complicated ideas, but the practical examples that accompany them did get me thinking about times I have worked aimlessly and let less significant matters get in the way. It has also been a helpful resource in the development of our workshops on Resilience – you can’t sustain what you do for the long term by reacting to every demand that comes your way.
A second hand copy will cost you less than a tenner on Amazon, and if you feel that you never quite get a handle on what’s most important, it might just be for you.