Mastering Essentialism

Photo by Mitchell Valentin

Often times in college, or in life in general, it is easy to fall into a circle of committing to much more than you can handle. Or at least, much more than you can devote your best self to. Being spread too thin with school work, extra circular activities and job searching is a real problem. Factor in sleep and a social life, and the problem gets even bigger.

Greg McKeown, founder and CEO of THIS, Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency in Silicon Valley, has a solution to this issue. He describes the feeling of being both overworked and underutilized, or busy but unproductive. McKeown says that you must choose essentialism in order to gain control of your choices to channel your time, energy and effort into making the best contribution possible towards your goals.

When you are fortunate enough to have options in life, you have to choose which aspects of your day and your life you will spend your time on. You cannot devote your time to too much, because average performance isn’t worth your time. You should choose what is absolutely essential to you, and do that well.

This disciplined pursuit allows you to learn how to say no and to let go of FOMO. If you commit to too much, you are spreading yourself too thin and nothing is productive at all. It is no fun to feel like you don’t have a moment to breathe, get organized or sleep an adequate amount.

McKeown says, “Being an essentialist is about a disciplined way of thinking. It means challenging core assumptions of: we can have it all, I have to do everything, and replacing it with the pursuit of the thing, in the right way, at the right time.”

Instead of spending time doing everything offered to you, you can be doing less and doing your best at it. The first step is limiting yourself and saying no. Sit down and decide what is essential in your everyday life and be disciplined with it. Not everything you are committed to now is essential, once you really think deeply about it, and realize what is absolutely necessary.

The essentialist mindset is one that is practiced and learned, not naturally given to you. With repetition, it becomes more natural, and then real value will be even more valuable to you.

According to Forbes’s The Art of Essentialism, essentialists are “eager to explore new opportunities but have an insanely selective criterion for what they’ll take on.”

Communicating to the people in your life is important, because being open and honest about trading off some tasks for others effects the people in your life. Communicating will benefit them, and maybe they will then take on the essentialist mindset as well!

Stop overcommitting yourself, and remember that less means more. Your life will get a whole lot more productive, and the essential things become much more meaningful.


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