A simple and meaningful life by focusing on the essentials

Is your working day characterized by endless meetings and an equally never ending to-do list? Do you lack the time to think and are you just in a cycle of doing?

I know the feeling, which is why I was excited to be given the excellent book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by author Greg McKeown.

Sitting down to read Essentialism with a cup of green tea

To my surprise, the applicability of lessons outlined in Essentialism extended far beyond the work context and time management strategies. At its core, this is a book about focusing on what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so you can concentrate on the things that really matter. For me, the book reaffirmed my belief that a simple life can be fulfilling, productive and meaningful.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

Greg McKeown

The mindset and lifestyle of an essentialist

Stop trying to do everything. Stop multi-tasking. Stop saying yes to everything and everyone. Only by doing this will you be able to concentrate on the things that really matter.

McKeown summarizes this idea nicely by saying, “When we look back on our careers and our lives, would we rather see a long laundry list of ‘accomplishments’ that don’t really matter or just a few major accomplishments that have real meaning and significance?”.

Key principles of essentialism

  1. Individual choice – We can choose where to focus our energy and time. This idea of choice is at the core of essentialism. Those who don’t choose believe that they have to do it all, which is a flawed mindset.
  2. The prevalence of noise – Almost everything is noise and very few things are exceptionally valuable. You need to find out what is most important. Not everything is a priority and most things are nonessential.
  3. The reality of trade-offs – We can’t have it all or do it all. Decisions can be hard, but they also can represent big opportunities. By weighing up the options and actually choosing a path forward, you dramatically increase the chances of success.

McKeown suggests there three simple steps to implementing an essentialist lifestyle

  1. Explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any.
  2. Eliminate nonessentials and cut out the trivial.
  3. Execute by creating a system to remove obstacles and make doing as easy as possible.

These are somewhat non-conformist ideas and behaviors in our hyper-“busy”, multitasking, 24/7-always-on society, but rang very true to me.

Essentialism and minimalism

Readers of this blog are aware of the high value I place on simplicity and the benefits of minimalism. Greg McKeown’s book on Essentialism feels very aligned to these values and in some respects, simply offers another perspective on the theme of “less is more”. The idea of living by design, rather than by default, is also very appealing.

I highly recommend this book, which is full of practical advice on how to live a more intentional and meaningful life. Minimalism can sometimes focus too much on physical clutter. Essentialism also reminds us to get rid of other clutter in our lives.

As is the case with financial independence and minimalism, being an essentialist isn’t about sacrifice or deprivation, but focusing on what’s important. Whatever label you want to apply, these different paths are about creating time and space to pursue and enjoy things that really matter. That is the simple life I want.

Thanks for reading

Mr Simple Life

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8 thoughts on “A simple and meaningful life by focusing on the essentials

  1. It just reminds me of minimalism but in ALL areas of life. So important! As a student, I find it difficult to focus on just one task, but in the long run, it’s more efficient to do one thing at a time. Priority is the most important thing (literally!).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Key Principle number 2 is where I’m stuck.

    Everything seems like noise, and finding what’s important is proving to be especially difficult. It’s tough locking down what one should be pursuing with passion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mr Simple Life, thank you for the blog follow. 🙂
    Nice review. Focus on what you place high value on – not many people can argue with that, myself included! I can’t comment on the book as I haven’t read it yet, but I find it intriguing to understand the different ways in which people struggle with focusing on the important things. Sometimes we need to know ourselves more to know what we place higher value on. Or something we thought had high value was in fact an imposter! Sometimes our brains are longing for distraction from the challenges ahead or our responsibilities. Sometimes it simply seems less clearcut than it sounds on paper – We value multiple things and find it hard to have time to fit them in an average day! Family, work, relaxation, hobbies, eating home cooked food, fitness… Hm, maybe I need to read the book!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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