I just finished a wonderful book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. He talks aboutthe disciplined pursuit of less. A wonderful mantra for business and for our personal lives. I don't say this often, but this is a book I wish I wrote but am so grateful to have it to share with friends and family. Ripe with the wisdom of the role of simplicity, focus and being present, it has a clarity of thought that is rare in most books.
Have you ever said one of these phrases....
“I’m stretched too thin”
“My plate is too full”
“Someone else is controlling my day”
"I can't say no" "I don't know what to do first"
The book has a clear and simple premise that resonates with my own world view. We all need to do less stuff and be more focused on things that truly matter. Greg preaches not doing essential things, but adopting an essentialist way of being in the world. It is an important distinction. To help illustrate the theme, Greg uses a wonderfully accessible metaphor of our bedroom clothes closet. How many things do you own in your closet that you never wear? If you were truly honest, you probably wear 20% of the clothes hanging up or in your wardrobe. The other 80% are things that you say, “well if I lose a few pounds” or “maybe that disco style will come back” or “I can’t get rid of that shirt that I never wear for sentimental reasons.”
Can you prune out your work like you should clean out your closet?
So much of our day and time is spent on the non-essential. We stuff our work days filled without time to think or get deep into a few critically important activities. Instead we sit in endless meetings that repeat the same information over and over again.
Greg suggests saying no if you can't say, Hell Ya! If you are on the fence, say no.
I’m one of those guys who keep a NOT to do list of things that waste my time. I believe in the power of focus especially for marketing professionals. When asked to do something, I like to take a deep breath before responding and ask a few questions to understand why it is important. If its another tactical idea, I like to say, “I’ll put it on our list of things to consider” when we are thinking about executing at a tactical level. But more often than not, with all due props to Nancy Reagan, I like to just say no. No. I can’t be distracted by your lack of planning. No I can't be distracted by an idea that just popped into your head and distracts me from what I deem essential. And especially no I won’t work on something you haven’t thought through clearly enough that it warrants time on a calendar.
No. I’m not going to waste time on something that we don’t have funds for and, if we did would require me removing another project from the list.
Becoming an Essentialist
When you know where you are going and your vision is clear, you have crisp criteria to measure activities. Will this help me achieve my goals that I have carefully evaluated for our business? If no, then I shouldn't be doing it. It would be nice to do but I don’t want to interfere with my core efforts.
Often people feel obsessed about doing whatever is asked of them. They can’t say no just like they can’t streamline the clothes in their closet. When everything has equal weight, nothing is of real value.
Are you focused on the disciplined pursuit of the essential?
There are many great practical ideas in this book which sets a clear course to help you find the essential activities that are right for you and your life. You need space to think. The problem is that we don't take the time to discern among choices. We need to have habits that allow us to think.
W.I.N. There is an example of a coach who has an extraordinary winning record in high school rugby. Greg tells the story of WIN - the coach insist that the team is always winning. But in this case WIN stands for WHAT'S IMPORTANT NOW. He gets the team focus on this moment, this play not the error they just made. The coach, Larry Gelwix, figured out how to keep his team in the present moment. He doesn't want them worrying about next week's game or the error they just committed. He wants them focused on what is important now. Powerful. Essential. Wise.
Do you turn things off? Do you schedule thinking time on your calendar? Are you so over scheduled that your day is 100% filled without room for the unexpected? Do you plan time to think or are you just so busy with so much nonessential work that you use it as an excuse to only react? Reading this book is essential if you want to clear away the clutter of work that waste your time and provides virtually nothing of real value to help you achieve your life goals. There are precise examples of what a non-essentialist does versus an essentialist. And they are instructive and valuable guideposts throughout this book.
Now, excuse me while I drop some old clothes off at Goodwill.
Do you lack the discipline to clean out your own "work" closet? Could a marketing coach help you in this pursuit? Give me a call through Clarity and let's get started.