Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

Consider for a moment the last time you said “yes” to doing something in order to please another person, only to find yourself shortly thereafter asking yourself why you ever agreed to take it on in the first place. Thoughts like “I’m not even good at this!” or “I’m stretched far too thin!” start to run through your head and your quite likely left with resentment and possibly even guilt. Resentment toward a task you’ve lost all heart for (and sometimes toward the person that commissioned you) and guilt for feeling this way because in the beginning you really just wanted to be of service. Well, the next time you find yourself in this situation, maybe stop and ask yourself, instead, “Why did I take this on?”

Essentialism - The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism is living by design, not by default.

Is saying “yes” to this request truly in everyone’s best interest or is this really something you shouldn’t be doing? I’ve been asking myself questions like this very frequently throughout my career, constantly observing and being cognizant of my decisions and their repercussions. More and more I’ve become convinced that what I need more in my life is, in fact less, and that sometimes the best way for me to help others is to direct them to someone else. Essentialism is not an excuse to get out of hard work or helping a friend, but rather, according to author Greg McKeown, it is “living by design, not by default,” as the Essentialist constantly surveying their options in order to discern what things to invest time and energy into and what things to pass on, in light of a bigger picture of their life. It’s not another one of those books that just encourages you to “say no more.” It’s one that encourages you to consider what exactly to say “yes” to.

One thing I love about this book is that it’s been extremely practical. Toward the end of each chapter, it summarizes the chapter’s key points by breaking it down in a chart comparing the habits of a Nonessentialist with that of an Essentialist. This helps to quickly come to conclusions with regards to which camp you fall in and where you need to be. The case studies that fill the book aren’t long and redundant but are just enough to inspire me to do something. The book is also riddled with valuable and insightful questions that I still ask myself quite frequently, with the aim of cultivating the Essentialist mindset, ensuring that I’m constantly pursuing the essential things in life and work.

Resentment toward a task you’ve lost all heart for?

Stop and ask yourself, instead, “Why did I take this on?”

Nota Bene

  • If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
  • Less but better (yields more results).
  • […]nobody likes to be bored. But by abolishing any chance of being bored we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process.
  • During play, animals are especially prone to behave in flexible and creative ways.
  • (The Essentialist) only says yes to the top 10 percent of opportunities.
  • If it isn’t a clear yes then it’s a clear no.
  • If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?
  • Where there is a lack of clarity, people waste time and energy on the trivial many.
  • […]denying the request is not the same as denying the person.
  • An Essentialist produces more […] by removing more instead of doing more.
  • […]the two primary internal motivators for people are achievement and recognition for achievement.