It’s been awhile since I put a blog post up. Probably because I’ve been “busy”. Work, raising a toddler, being a husband, rebuilding the deck, doing a little volunteering…before you know it the days bleed into weeks, the weeks into months. If you’re like me, you might find yourself stopping every once and awhile and looking back, wondering…”what have I REALLY accomplished?”. Did responding to all those emails at work REALLY move anything forward in a meaningful way? Did the meeting about how to solve our “meeting problem” actually DO anything?
Enter a recently acquired book, titled “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”. In it, author Greg McKeown argues that being stretched thin, overworked and under-utilized, busy but unproductive has become societies status quo, a type of badge of honour. How many times have I responded “busy, but good” to the question “How are you?”. Definitely too many.
The author makes a compelling case for learning how to say no to projects and requests that don’t fit a narrow set of priorities that keep your life (be it work or personal) headed in the direction you want it to.
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
The book does a nice job of dispelling the myth that you can “have it all”, a symptom, I believe, of our deeper yearning for connection and validation in our 100 mile an hour culture. I can work on the weekend AND make the little league game. I can pull an all-nighter to get that presentation ready AND be in top form to present it. Of course, the reality is that we can’t have it all. We probably can’t have most of it, whatever “it” is. What we need to recognize is that everything has a trade off, that prioritizing one thing will automatically de-prioritize something else. And, ultimately, we need to be mindfully aware of these trade-offs, acknowledging the fact that putting our attention, energy, time, money or any other resource into the pursuit of something means that we can’t put that resource to use elsewhere.
So, what does this all mean? For starters, it’s about embracing the “less is more” philosophy, something I’ve always known, but haven’t always been good at practising.
Second, it means saying “no” to a few more things, and doing a better job of focusing on those things that are important, things that I’m not willing to trade off for something less consequential.
Finally, it means embracing this notion of essentialism in all areas of life, and realizing that to do so, I need to be mindfully present and aware, not only of what I’m doing, but what I’m not doing, and what’s not getting done because of what I’m choosing to do.
I encourage you to grab a copy of the book and put some time into reading it and considering the implication of what it offers for your own life.
And wish me luck.