Essentialism – Focusing on What Really Matters 

I read a book a while ago called Essentialism that I’d really recommend. In fact, I may read it again this summer. It’s all about focusing on the stuff that really matters and saying no to things that you think you should do, or to please other people.

In the past (and sometimes still now!) I’ve found myself falling into that trap partly because it’s hard to say no and partly because I get caught up in being ‘proud’ when people compliment me for doing so much, when there really isn’t anything to be proud of! It doesn’t seem to matter that it gets in the way of me doing what I want to do and ‘living more’…until I end up feeling overwhelmed and then I apply this exercise again and get myself back on track.

Productivity is a Constant Challenge

That’s the thing with productivity – it’s a constant challenge with everything that goes on around us, not to get sucked into doing things that interfere with our focus and productivity. I think sometimes it can be caused by the ever changing nature of our lives and what technology ‘enables’ us to do now. We have too many choices, which leaves us trying to do everything.

Peter Drucker said “In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it”.

I was talking to colleagues this week about taking some time whilst waiting for a train to be grateful for the choices I have each day in arranging what I do. We are all working virtually from home in a really strong team and really value the opportunities we have to blur the lines between work and home.

That positive opportunity also gives rise to overwhelm at times when we don’t say no to things and when we allow that integration between work and home to stop working so well and turn from integration into trying to do too much at once!

Essentialism is about Saying No

One of the quotes that I really like from the Essentialism book is ‘in our society we are punished for good behaviour (saying no) and rewarded for bad behaviour (saying yes)’. It’s so true, isn’t it? How many times do we really want to say “no” to something but we end up saying “yes” instead. The people we’ve said “yes” to are happy, but often we’re not in the end!

I really believe that the thing about ‘living more’ is about getting to do more of what you want to do and less of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’. And in order to do that we have to get really clear on what we do want to spend our time doing and how we are going to make that happen. Then we need to align everything we do with that plan / mission.

How’s that working for you?

For help with applying the Essentialism principles to your life, check out my ‘How to Simplify your Life’ online course

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