How often do you feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do?
How often do you feel frustrated because you are not making much progress?
One of the most common reasons for being overwhelmed is that there are too many things to do in too little time. Many of us are involved in several competing projects.
The left circle in the following illustration illustrates the most critical downside of being involved in too many projects:
Because you are involved in too many projects, you are making little progress in each of them.
The right circle highlights an interesting alternative: eliminating what is not vital can make great progress in what matters most.
This approach has been termed “essentialism”.
The premise of essentialism is that you must consciously stop yourself from spreading your efforts and instead orient your focus and energy to just one most important project (or the few that matter the most) to make a bigger difference on your most important projects.
Essentialism helps us figure out how to get the right things done rather than how to get more things done. Essentialism is about less, not more. It is a disciplined, systematic approach to help us determine our greatest contributions and focus only on those things.
Finding the essence
To become an essentialist, you have to know what essence is. Simply put, the essence is your true intention. It is that which matters the most.
What is it that you truly want to achieve? What is your most important mission at work?
In your owner’s manual, please formulate the essence of your mission at work.
Applying essentialism in your daily life
Essentialism is not a trick or a technique. Essentialism is a way of living that requires your daily attention.
Apply the following principles daily to gradually turn into a true essentialist:
- Make a habit of asking yourself: “Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?”
- Become more selective in your choices by checking whether you feel completely convinced to do something. If so, say “yes.” Anything else should be a no. If the answer isn’t a definite yes, it is a no.
- Practice saying “no.” The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Remember that you do not have to use the word “no” to convey the message that you are declining a request.
For example, the statements “I would love to attend, but unfortunately I’m overcommitted,” “I’m afraid I don’t have the availability at the moment,” and “Thank you, but unfortunately I am not available” convey the message “no” clearly and politely without using the word.