Essentialism – Less But Better in a Time of More

Essential is my One Word for 2021. But more than just keeping the importance of Essentialism top of mind this year, I want to take these key concepts into the upcoming years. It seems there is so much more in recent years – more choices, more uncertainty, more upheaval, more distractions and more demands on our time and energy. We have a finite amount of time, and only so many days on this earth. The answer isn’t finding ways to do more, it’s choosing very carefully.

The goal of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It’s not a time management strategy, it is actively selecting how you invest your time with discipline and discernment. Many of our choices are good or even very good. The key is narrowing your selections to only those that are essential.

Trade-off is a reality. Resist the false belief that you can take on more without giving something up. Work to only add the essential and trade-off the nonessential as a planned swap. If you don’t, something will give, so be deliberate rather than risking that the most important things slide.

Personally, start with your health habits. Sleep is the most critical, but activity and healthy eating are right up there. Set and maintain a commitment to consistently doing the things that keep your energy and performance as high as possible.

As your family members all have more options, work to maintain the levels of closeness achieved during the pandemic. When asked about the positives that came out of such a challenging time, members consistently spoke about how much they enjoyed the time within their family groups. Keep a priority on those who matter most.

As leaders, practice essentialism by keeping your team focused on the WIN – What’s Important Now. Your role is to sift through the storm of opportunity and challenge in front of you and strategically select the most critical area of focus for the team. Use extreme selection criteria, if it’s not a clear yes, it’s a no. The narrower the focus, the more you can move objectives forward.

To motivate the team when demands are high and resources are low, celebrate small wins. Research shows that of all motivation strategies, the most effective is progress. Start small and give the team clear, attainable goals. Celebrate progress and watch the momentum build along with the morale.

Some additional thoughts. The word ‘priority’ only had a singular form for the first 500 years it was in usage. Only one thing can be most important. Many things can matter, but remember the payoff happens through time in. In health, relationships and achievement, what you invest the most time in will see the most return. Spend your time on the essential.

Practice saying no as much as possible for other options, or default to delayed yes. Contemplation versus impulse gives you time to determine if something is truly essential. Be respectful, and remember setting boundaries garners respect, not derision. Practice being present. Be all in with your choices – enjoy what is in front of you instead of being pulled in other directions.

The pandemic dramatically complicated our world. But in one way it simplified it too. For a period of time we had fewer options, and we learned more about what we could live without and what matters most. And in the last few weeks, Warren’s health challenge is a reminder that things can change so fast. In the face of extreme circumstances, only a few crucial things matter. Don’t wait for an external perspective shift. What matters most in your life is the essential – carve out the rest and focus there.