One of the best books I have read over the last few months is The Essentialist - The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It is a very challenging book that forces you to think through what is most important in life (the essentials) and focus on that, often requiring the elimination of the less important (the trivial).
Here are a few excerpts:
We stretched too thin, overworked, busy but not productive, constantly in motion, never getting anywhere and trying to please everyone. The way out is becoming an Essentialist. It’s not a time-management strategy, but rather a systematic discipline to apply every time you are faced with a decision. By applying a more selective criteria for what is essential, the pursuit of less allows you to regain control of our choices so you can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.
The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials - Lin Yutang
The Way of the Essentialist
The difference between the way of the Essentialist and the way of the non-Essentialist can be seen through the image above on the left - a circle with short arrows going out from it in multiple directions compared with the same circle to the right - with a single long arrow focused in one direction. In both images the same amount of effort is exerted.
In the first image, the energy is divided into many different activities. The result is we have the unfulfilling experience of making a millimetre of progress in a million directions. In the second image, the energy is given to fewer activities. The result is that by investing in fewer things we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most. The way of the Essentialist rejects the idea that we can fit it all in. Instead it requires us to grapple with real trade-offs and make tough decisions. In many cases we can learn to make one-time decisions that make a thousand future decisions so we don’t exhaust ourselves asking the same questions again and again.
The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. The Essentialist distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the non-essentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.
If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will. There are too many forces conspiring to keep us from applying the discipline pursuit of less but better. No wonder so many bright, smart, capable individuals remain snared in the death grip of the non-essential.
- - - - -
This is a book about priorities - what is truly important. But more than that, it does an insightful job at helping unpack the mentality of those who truly do what is important and those who don't. This can lead to some powerful mind renewal and eventual life transformation. This is vital for us who are Christ followers, as Jesus himself told us, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)." When Jesus hung on the cross he cried out, "It is finished!" No, he didn't do everything that could be done but he did do excatly what the Father has sent him to do. That was enough. Jesus was the ultimate Essentialist!