This article follows on somewhat from my last post where I talked about increasing productivity, creativity and effectiveness, but it is inspired by a book I recently finished reading called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
If I was to choose to describe the way that I primarily live, my guiding philosophy, I would call myself a bit of a Stoic, and having read this book, I would say I am also a bit of an essentialist. There is actually a lot of overlap between stoicism and essentialism.
The motto of an essentialist philosophy is: LESS BUT BETTER
I am not sure about you, but I am liking the sound of that!
Who would like less commitments, responsibilities, projects or tasks on their plate?
I sure as hell have my hand up for that.
Let me explain a little bit more about what essentialism is, and then share some specific strategies.
The Art and Science of Essentialism
The idea is really simple to get, but not that easy to apply.
LESS BUT BETTER
Focus on doing less, but to a higher standard.
And the higher standard isn’t achieved just because you decided to aim for a higher standard, it is because you have more ENERGY available because you are not wasting it on non-essential activities or tasks.
It’s simple at it core, but what are the practicalities?
Essentialist Strategy #1: This is SO simple (but SO impactful)
I have taught this before, but it is worth repeating if you don’t already do it.
One of my most simplistic, but effective teaching and life practices is to be CONSTANTLY (yes that is bold and underlined for a reason) asking whether something (a task, activity, idea, etc.) is ESSENTIAL or DESIRABLE.
I don’t ask this question occasionally. I ask it all the time.
And talking ‘time’, I am well aware that I do not have enough time in a day or in my life to do everything there is to do. So I keep asking myself this simple question so I am spending my time and precious energy on the things that matter most to me.
Now before you call me a boring old sod – (yes I can mind-read) – I also have the mental faculties available to me to make a conscious choice as to whether I do an activity if I realise it is desirable as opposed to essential. Like eating a gelato. Essential for my well-being? No. Desirable because of the awesome chocolate flavour? Yes. Now I can make a conscious choice.
But here is the thing. The question came FIRST (is it essential or desirable?) – which wakes up the conscious part of my brain and stops the animal part of my brain jamming in the gelato sideways without discernment.
Step 1: “Is this thing ESSENTIAL or DESIRABLE?”
Step 2: Pause + breathe
Step 3: Make a conscious choice based on the feedback.
Essentialist Strategy #2: You have heard this a LOT, but let me say it one more time…
You absolutely have to learn the ART of saying ‘NO’.
It is a game changer.
How many of you have too much on your plate (making you stressed out) because you have said ‘YES’ to someone’s seemingly insignificant request of you, your time and your energy?
One of the keys to being an essentialist is being able to prune away the excess.
And in my experience, people say ‘yes’ to way too many things that need to be a ‘no’.
Unfortunately we often have that old (I am talking about 1000’s of years old) program in the limbic part of the brain, which says if we are not liked we will be kicked out of the tribe and we will DIE. OUCH!!!
Fast forward to 2020…It shows up with a ‘feeling’ that if I say ‘no’, someone won’t like me, and therefore ‘bad things will happen’. This is just not true. It is left over from your great-great-great-great-great x 100 grandfather.
Practice saying ‘no’ and this is what might happen…
Here are some examples of how to say ‘NO’ gracefully:
– “Not interested” (as you stifle a yawn).
– “I would love to come to your party, but I am at a really exciting part of my book.”
– “Spare me. Poke my eye out with a hot poker stick. If I have to sit through one more dinner conversation with that energy drainer I am going to end the night doing a Kill Bill reenactment.”
– “Wow. Is that the time? Sorry. I have to dash.”
– “I heard that Michelle really loves to do (mind-numbing) tasks like that.”
– “Sure I can do that boss. But which of my other tasks do you want me to stop working on?”
You’ve got this. When you say no to something you don’t really want to do, you open up space for the things that you do really want to do.
Last truth question:
Do you know many or any people-pleasers that are not stressed out or resentful below the surface?
Things that (I think) are ESSENTIAL
Here is a list of simple things that I think needs to be on your essential list:
- 7.5+ hours sleep a night
- Staying hydrated with preferably water
- Have a conscious strategy for how you use your mobile phone (so it doesn’t use you)
- Spend more quality time (fully present) with the people who are most important in your life
- Do specific activities daily which relax your body and mind (meditation, massage, walking in nature, sitting on a bench in a park, etc.)
To cut away the excess. To get clear about what is most important to you.
To realise you cannot do it all or have it all; so make a clear choice about what is most important for you in your life, and then focus on that.
And finally get rid of the stuff in your closet, rooms, and house, that you don’t really need. Start there, with the practice of getting clear about what is really ESSENTIAL in your life.
And then…we are done (for now).
As always, thank you so much for joining me for this (one-sided) conversation. Feel free to reply or respond and share your own thoughts or insights.
Take care and much love.
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