Full disclosure: I am a workaholic and a perfectionist. I struggle with saying “no” to requests and projects, because I don’t want to let anyone down. I hate delegating tasks because sometimes, I really do think, “no one can do this as well as I can.”
And I know I’m not the only one.
As a workaholic perfectionist who can’t say no and won’t delegate, the biggest challenge I face is that there are only 24 hours in a day. So, learning about time management has long been a priority of mine. I’ve read many books and blogs and listened to webinars and podcasts on the subject, but somehow I haven’t been able to crack the code and as my husband would say, “shove ten pounds into a five pound bag.”
So, when I borrowed “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown from the library, I thought I was picking up yet another theory about how to more successfully utilize my precious time.
But, “Essentialism” isn’t just about time management, organizing the day, time-blocking or any other “tricks” to help you feel like you’re being more productive. Instead, it focuses on the revolutionary concept of simply pursuing less.
At first, the thought of pursuing less sounds lazy or like the author is suggesting you throttle down your ambitions, but in reality, McKeown suggests that by narrowing your focus to only those things that are truly essential, you’ll achieve more, be more fulfilled AND feel like you are not only moving forward, but actually heading in the right direction.
McKeown explains that by trying to do and have it all, we are short-changing ourselves. Not only do we end up stretching ourselves too thin, we put ourselves at greater risk for burnout and/or worse. We also end up giving others free reign in our lives to choose a direction for us and allow our focus to be manipulated and pulled by the priorities of others and not our own.
As McKeown takes you along the journey to becoming an Essentialist, he first teaches you how to evaluate your priorities. Because, until you know where you want to be headed, you won’t be able to choose which direction to go. He encourages you to make “one decision to make a thousand.” Because once you’ve made that one initial defining decision, figuring out what is truly essential in all aspects of your life gets easier.
After you’ve decided to become an Essentialist, McKeown gives you the tools to “uncommit” from things that don’t fit with your new mindset and priorities as well as how to avoid getting sucked back into your old habits (Read: saying yes to EVERYTHING that comes your way).
“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” has helped me understand that sometimes it is okay to say “no” to something that isn’t an absolute “yes” or that doesn’t line up with my priorities. It has taught me that boundaries are a good thing and that they actually set you free. It has also forced me to acknowledge that there are other people out there who I can trust to do a task as well as I would, and maybe even better.
Although I can’t say that I have let go of all of the non-essentials in my life; I can attest that I have started to spend more time thinking about my values and being more intentional when choosing to take on new projects. I know that becoming an essentialist won’t happen overnight, but the few steps that I have taken have already had a big impact on my overall satisfaction at work and at home.
This book is great for both young AND experienced professionals. It is ideal for anyone with a pulse. I especially recommend it to those who feel like they are just too busy to take the time to think about where their career is headed and especially to everyone who is drowning in post-it reminders and to-do lists.