Let’s face it: being a solo-preneur is tough. You do EVERYTHING, from writing breathless prose to taking out the trash. Life is a constant juggling act, with more plates in the air than any single person could possibly keep from crashing to the floor. You tell a colleague that you can’t keep up this pace much longer, and he replies, “Tell me about it!”
What to do? I would be delusional if I thought I could answer that question in a blog post. It’s one I ponder endlessly, reading every book I can find that seems to offer an answer.
In a stunning moment of clarity, recently, I realized that no one can do the myriad tasks necessary to run a business, no matter how small, and live any kind of a life. I felt liberated by that realization … for one whole day. When I woke up the next morning, I was back to wondering how I was going to fight my way through my to-do list, which had twenty-six items on it, all of which were URGENT.
Then, a book fell in my lap—not literally, of course. I was browsing in some obscure section (meaning it wasn’t mysteries) of the Kindle bookstore, and there it was: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeon. In a nutshell, it is about doing only those things that are truly important and eliminating everything else. You don’t have to do it all. In fact, you shouldn’t. One of the questions McKeon poses is, “Have you ever found yourself majoring in minor activity?” Oh, yeah!
“The way of the Essentialist,” writes McKeon, “isn’t about setting New Year’s resolution to say ‘no’ more … It is about pausing constantly to ask, ‘Am I investing in the right activities?'” This book is sprinkled with witty maxims you’ll want to tape to your computer:
- “The way of the essentialist means living by design, not by default.”
- “The essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many.”
- “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
- “The more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.”
On a more serious note: “What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like?” and “It pays to reflect on how short life really is and what we want to accomplish in the little time we have left.” Essentialism is a way of thinking.
There is much more to this book than cleverly worded aphorisms, including concrete suggestions for how to focus on what’s truly important, eliminate the superfluous, and develop new habits. I came away from reading Essentialism with this message: I don’t have to do EVERYTHING, and there is a way to stop trying.
- Step one is to figure out what is most important in my life, now, today, at this moment.
- Step two is to determine what is the best use of my time and energy to support what is most important.
- Step three is to figure out how to delegate or eliminate everything else.
No one said it would be easy— not even Greg McKeon—but he did say it is possible. He ought to know. He is an essentialist.