You are not alone. A 2016 study by the Families and Work Institute showed that more than half of U.S. employees feel overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time.
I know I often feel much more efficient when I just have one thing to do rather than 20. What if there was a way to be more effective by doing less? Well, there actually is.
I recently read the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. He claims that it’s not about how to get more things done. It’s about getting the right things done.
He defines Essentialism as “a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”
It sounds easy, but the irony is that pursuing success can actually lead us to failure. When we succeed at something, we get more people coming to us with different options and opportunities, and when we say yes to them, we get spread thinner and thinner. We then get taken away from what our highest point of contribution would be and it gets harder to continue to succeed.
We are living in a world of overload – there is more information available to us than ever before through the internet, we get presented with more opinions than ever before through social media, which leads to having to make more decisions than ever before. It’s no wonder that we often don’t even know where to start.
What can we do to get out of this cycle?
We can start by taking on the mindset of an Essentialist. There are 3 important steps:
1. Realize you have a choice.
You can choose how to spend your energy and time. We often forget about this because there are so many things we think we “have to” do.
Put it in action: Try out this exercise to make you more aware of your choices:
- Write out everything you did this morning. For example: I turned off the alarm. I got out of bed. I opened the blinds. I made my bed. I walked into the kitchen. I made some coffee, etc. You should get a nice long list of things that you did.
- Now put the phrase “I chose to”, “I wanted to” or “I got to” in front of every sentence.
- Read every sentence with the new phrase: I chose to turn off the alarm. I wanted to get out of bed. I got to open the blinds, etc. Notice how every single thing you did was a choice you made.
2. Understand that almost everything is noise.
There are only very few things that are exceptionally valuable. Almost everything else is noise.
You might have heard of the Pareto principle, which says that 20% of the effort produces 80% of the results. So it makes sense to focus your efforts in the area that produces the 80% results.
Put it in action: You can practice this by prioritizing your tasks at the beginning of the day. Then work on the task at the top of your list for 90 minutes first thing in the morning. That way you can make sure that you have put most of your effort into the most important activity for the day.
3. Be willing to make trade-offs
As much as we may want to, we just can’t have it all and we can’t do it all. The better we become at being ok with saying “no” to some things, so we can go big on others, the more effective we can be.
Put it in action: So instead of asking yourself: “How can I do it all?” ask yourself “What can I go big on?”
What do you want to do today to focus on what is most essential?
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