Have you ever felt like your day consists of a never-ending cycle of email, staff meetings, email, status updates, email, project meetings and, oh yeah…did I mention email? Rare is the day when we return home knowing that we accomplished the most important thing we needed to do that day and that we made a significant contribution toward our highest priority. And yet, making a significant contribution toward something important is what most of us crave more than anything else. Not just in our careers, but with our families, our communities and our lives in general.
How then did we get caught in this trap of distraction – being pulled in a thousand directions – and more importantly, how do we get out of it? That’s the question that Greg McKeown tries to answer in his excellent book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Interestingly enough, it is often finding success and gaining a reputation as a “go to” person that brings more opportunites, more demands on our time and energy and more distractions! As McKeown states:
“…the pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure. Put another way, success can distract us from focusing on the essential things that produce success in the first place.”
So how do we regain focus and clarity of purpose? The author provides four main parts to the solution – Essense, Explore, Eliminate and Execute – all centered around the idea of systematically saying “no” to the non-essential activities that hold us back and saying “yes” only to those things that we deem essential. Again, McKeown:
“…only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”
What are those essentials in your life that you feel unable to make progress with? And what are the non-essentials that are holding you back? How can you say “no” to the latter and an enthusiastic “YES!” to the former? If you find yourself identifying with any of these questions, I think you’ll find some Essentialism to be both helpful and enjoyable reading material.