5 Ways I’m Becoming More Of An Essentialist

EssentialismA group of us recently read and discussed the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown in our book club.  My first impression of the book was that it was just a new name and spin on a concept that has been hashed and rehashed in countless business books.

Regardless of whether these concepts are new or not, I gobbled it up.  I guess that was the first indicator that even if I’m familiar with many of the concepts, I really needed to hear this message.  If we’re truly committed to continuously improving ourselves, it’s important to read books like this periodically.  I have found that Essentialism is fueling some small improvements in the way I do things and it’s helping me do life and relationships better.

Here are five ways I’m becoming more of an essentialist in my daily life.

1. Start the day right- McKeown advises readers to avoid jumping into their email first thing in the morning.  How easy is it to roll over, turn the alarm off, and instantly check email on your phone?  So easy!  It feels a bit like a game of roulette.  There’s a chance you might get positive or negative news depending on the day.  Either way, this has the power to suck you into a reactive mindset for the rest of the day.  As an alternative, McKeown suggests reading something not related to work before jumping into your inbox.

2. Sleep more- We learn about the concept of trade offs in this book.  Simply, if you are going to choose one activity, it will be at the expense of some other activity.  I have realized how much I trade sleep for a myriad of other things– social media, email, TV, etc.  There’s a great line in the book where Bill Clinton claimed that “every major mistake he had made in his life had happened as a result of sleep deprivation.”  Aside from the physical benefits of a good night of sleep, I am more emotionally able to handle the events of the day when I’ve had a good night of sleep.

3. Read more- Again, the concept of trade offs is so powerful.  It’s a proven fact that I cannot read and watch television at the same time.  I’m also confident that a good book has much more benefit than watching Friends reruns.  I’m slowly but surely working on this discipline of choosing the better of the two activities and realizing that I really do have a choice.

4. It’s ok to say no- I loved and hated this quote from the book:

If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no

If we really apply this to every decision in life, it adds a wrinkle to the way we do things, doesn’t it?  What this really speaks to is the importance of having a clear vision and mission for our lives and then having the courage to say no to the things that don’t align with that mission.  Choosing to spend time with your wife and kids instead of helping a coworker move might very well disappoint someone, but it’s critical that we realize that we have the ability to say no to people.

5. Clean out the junk- I’ve felt especially challenged by the sheer volume of junk I am storing in my house–things I don’t use and don’t really intend to use.  The other day, we started clearing such items out of our garage and laid them out in the driveway.  A couple families drove by and asked if we were having a yard sale.  I replied saying, “Nope.  But you are welcome to take whatever you want from that pile.”  This is just the beginning.  I have more drawers and boxes of stuff to go through and get rid of.

Those are the first five ways I am immediately working to become more of an essentialist, and I have barely scratched the surface.  Essentialism is one of a handful of books you will want to keep on your shelf and reread at least once a year.  Once get these five things in balance, I’ll move on to the next five.


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