I’ve become a minimalist of late and in the last few weeks, I’ve embraced essentialism.
I previously had never heard of this phrase “essentialism” and I’ve since discovered that it’s truly profound and life-changing. The best description of essentialism comes from Greg McKeown. He says what you need to tell yourself and the core truths of essentialism are:
“Only a few things matter”
“I choose to”
“I can do anything but not everything”
The art of being selective.
Some would say I’m very picky. I say no to a lot of things. I probably say no three times more than I say yes. I don’t do this because I’m a knob; I do it because being an essentialist gives you respect.
Saying no to things that don’t matter to me and that I’m not passionate about allows me to say yes to the tasks that bring me joy and fulfillment.
I’ve learned that this practice makes people respect you. When you do things that have meaning, you perform much better. This increased performance becomes the foundation of a newfound respect.
“Less but better.”
Greg McKeown says that phrase is the most fitting definition of essentialism.
“It’s not about getting more things done it’s about better results with fewer tasks”
You can either be mediocre at everything or a professional at a couple of things. Professionals get all the results and satisfaction that comes with being a true master at a particular skill.
It’s pretty simple logic when you think about it – most good advice is which is something I repeat often.
For me, this less but better equals only five things: blogging, looking after my health, family, public speaking and my career. Everything else has had the delete button engaged since I recently became an essentialist.
Essentialism and minimalism are a beautiful marriage I’ve discovered, too!
Am I investing in the right tasks?
That’s the question I’ve been inspired to ask. My addiction to shopping, as an example, took up lots of my time. This gave me less time to create content. When I re-evaluated all the things I was doing each week I realized there were some core tasks that were draining my time:
– Consuming social media like Instagram
– Excessive shopping
– Pointless coffee catch-ups
– Networking events that were nothing to do with what I like
By using the art of essentialism, I deleted these tasks from my schedule. This gave me time to get better at what truly mattered to me. Every place you allocate time is an investment. The more time you put into a task, the more your results will grow.
It’s a similar analogy with money and compound interest. In the beginning, investing in stocks or other investments doesn’t produce much fruit. After years of doing it, the compound effects of interest and dividends begin to shine through.
Think of your time as an investment and reduce the number of tasks. This mindset will help put you on the path to essentialism. Less is better remember?
We shouldn’t be trying to complete more tasks.
Having a huge to-do list of tasks is not how you embrace the benefits of essentialism. The key to all of this is to do less things and focus on getting the right tasks done. Over the last few weeks, I’ve used this idea to focus on the right task: in my case, blogging.
“For years I have been knocking off tasks from my to-do list and hi-fiving everyone without realizing that most of it was BS”
Who cares if I just ran 5km? It’s not one of my goals.
Knocking off tasks from a to-do list is not productivity and it’s definitely not effective or even close to essentialism. In fact, you shouldn’t even need a to-do list. If you are doing the right tasks that matter to you, then they should already be top of mind.
My thought patterns in this regard are like this:
“Did I write a blog post today?”
“Did I inspire someone today through personal development and entrepreneurship?”
If I didn’t, then I’m doing the wrong tasks. That’s when I go back and look at what tasks I’m actually completing.
A word on success and essentialism.
Success can mess you up (I should know I’m Addicted2Success remember?).
When people achieve their big goals, they quickly embrace their success and forget what got them there in the first place. When I had several viral blog posts, I started doing lots of stuff like emails, podcasts, events, etc.
What I’d forgotten was what got me that success in the first place. What got me there was working my butt off writing and inspiring as many people as I could.
Moving away from the very thing that made us successful is how you trade in your good fortune for a lack of fulfillment through disappointment and failure.
Never forget where you came from and what made you successful in the first place. Never forget to be grateful for your success at the same time as well.
Success can become a big distraction because it’s addictive. It gives you a sensational dopamine hit with all the admiration, likes, high-fives and “You’re so cool Tim!”
All of this can distract you from what you really should be doing. That is, doing the thing you love and completing tasks that matter to you.
Finding the core of your own essentialism.
To be an essentialist, you need to find the core activities that are going to occupy your time. Greg McKeown says you should ask yourself the following:
“What do I feel deeply inspired by?”
“What am I particularly talented at?”
“What meets a significant need in the world?”
These questions will lead to the small number of tasks you should focus on. These are the tasks you should go narrow and deep on.
Here are my answers:
“I feel deeply inspired by personal development and entrepreneurship and how it can change people’s lives.”
“I am particularly talented at blogging, social media and making connections with people.”
“What meets a significant need in the world is the tools and strategies required to achieve your life’s work. These are the tools that I’ve learned and want to share.”
Just writing those three answers made me think very hard. I actually got a lot out of that exercise and I’d strongly recommend answering those questions for yourself.
Finding your purpose is very cliché but it’s still fundamental. Knowing what drives you and how you can help people will allow you to be focused and ultimately join the essentialist way of living.
What do you do with the extra time?
This was a question I asked myself. The simple answer is: do more of the tasks that matter to you. For me, that’s more blogging.
“The challenge is that if all you ever do is achieve and that’s all, you’ll never get time to think. You’ll never get time to grow”
The biggest thing that essentialism has done for me is give me time to think.
The temptation nowadays is to use moments of free time like commuting, waiting in queues and time between meetings to look at our phones.
What you should do with the extra time is think more. Thinking allows you to reflect on what you’re doing, come up with ideas and ultimately innovate. Thinking also gives you time to be grateful and be present. You can’t always be “ON” and your mind needs a break.
It’s in these moments of thinking, combined with deep sleep, that new neural pathways are formed in the brain. In simple terms, it’s when all of your thoughts, ideas and activities make connections with each other and contribute to the meaning of your life.
Many of you are so focused on achieving that you never stop for a moment to analyze where you are. This idea of using time to think and do nothing was a very serious lesson I got from essentialism.
We’ve been sold the idea that we need more.
This idea comes mostly from business who want to profit from this idea by selling us products and services we don’t need. Everything in your life takes up space, so the real answer is that less is in fact how you get more of what you want.
Having more has never brought me happiness. Contributing to others has given me all the joy and fulfillment I’ll ever need and that’s ultimately how you have more.
You can’t have more though unless you have time to make that contribution to others.
When someone or something tells you that you need more, ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen if I do less instead?”
Using this pattern interrupt will stop you from unconsciously trying to accept more into your life. Less is always going to be better.
Almost everything is non-essential.
As you dig deep into essentialism and also personal development, you reach a point where you realize one thing:
“Almost everything is unimportant and doesn’t matter.”
This life-changing moment comes from the realization that we are all going to die and after we’re gone there’s not much that really matters other than our family and our legacy.
So, if nothing really matters, then why not do less so that you can spend time on what matters: your legacy.
When I figured out that almost everything was pointless, I became hyper-focused. It also stopped me from “The Fear Of Missing Out” because I’ve realized that I’m almost never missing out on anything at all.
What can I say no to?
This question is how you get back your priorities. Using the essentialist methodology, rate how you feel about a request for your time using 0-100. If your number is less than 90, then change it to zero and say no.
I’ve played around with this tool a bit and it’s been adapted from other strategies I’ve learned from many books on time and decision making (so I take zero credit).
Choosing brutal ways of saying no is how you force your brain to pick only what is essential. It also stops you from overthinking.
It’s similar to the idea made famous by Derek Sivers idea that teaches us to only say yes to requests that make you say “Hell Yes!” Any other reaction is a no.
This got my attention: using a reverse pilot.
I’d never heard of this idea before until recently. It’s essentially where you experiment with removing a task or habit for a week or so to see if there is any downside. I removed my habit of juicing recently after my naturopath told me to try it.
I used a reverse pilot and measured my energy levels without juice. It turns out the sugar spike I was getting from juicing was more of a problem than I thought.
Taking stuff away can often show you how unimportant something was in the beginning.
A new definition of wisdom: subtract things every day.
Yet another excellent idea from Greg McKeown. Wisdom is simply subtracting things from your life. It’s dead simple, profound and worth thinking about. What if having less, doing less, actually equal more? More of what you want that is.
What if doing less and embracing simplicity is crucial to success?
Have a play with essentialism. It’s certainly helped me.