I loved Essentialism! I think the concepts outlined in this book could be life-changing for many people I know. As I read it, I realized I have been on a journey in that direction for a while, but had never identified it so clearly.
I think identifying that thing, or those few things, that are truly essential is one of the most powerful steps any person can take to improve their life. There is a peace that comes with that kind of focus that doesn’t really come any other way. And it provides an antidote for the crazy-busy lifestyle that many of us have bought into.
It’s actually hard to limit myself to only one or two things—this is a book worth reading and re-reading. But I will choose to do that.
The first thing I’ll mention is this insight:
Nonessentialists tend to think of boundaries as constraints or limits, things that get in the way of their hyperproductive life. But without limits, they eventually become spread so thin that getting anything done becomes virtually impossible.
I’ve talked to so many people who have this idea. They view being productive as being busy, so they never say “no” to anything. They don’t set limits, and do get spread ridiculously thin. They end up doing everything at the last minute, and have little or no time to actually think about things, and then lose the depth and creativity they could have if they took the time to think. But they don’t see it, and often take pride in their busy-ness.
The key here, I think, is shifting our mindset away from focusing on how much we get done, to how much that is really important and meaningful gets done. It’s true—most of the things that take up our time are not really important. Learning to identify what really is, and then focusing on that, is critical if we want a life well-lived.
The other thing I made note of was actually a pretty simple insight, related to multitasking:
We can multitask. We can easily do two things at the same time: wash the dishes and listen to music, eat and talk, clear the clutter on our desk while thinking about where to go for lunch, text message while watching television, and so on. What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time. Multitasking is not the enemy; pretending we can “multifocus” is.
I’ve seen people argue about multitasking for years. Some say they can do it, others say it’s not possible. But McKeown nails it when he makes the distinction between activity and focus. We can do simple, mundane things at the same time, but we can’t concentrate on two things at once.
I find there are lots of things I need to concentrate on. Identifying those things, and then removing distractions and not trying to multitask while working on them makes me more productive, both in terms of the quantity of work I can do and the quality I put out. It’s a simple but powerful distinction.
What did you take away? I’m really curious, as I think this could be life-changing for many of us.
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