Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism was a favourite of mine back when it came out in 2014.


Periodically I check back in with the ideas he shares in that book to see how I am traveling on my journey as an Essentialist. When I jump back into this book, the things that stand out tend to fall into one of two categories:

  • They either resonate deeply with what I know to be true; or

  • They challenge me and give me a much-needed kick in the backside!

I love this quote:

“Essentialism is not about how to get more done; it’s about how to get the right things done… It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at your highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” Greg McKeown

McKeown outlines some of the reasons why Non-Essentialism is everywhere. The first issue he raises is that we are faced with TOO MANY CHOICES. The idea of “decision fatigue” is one known to many people and it’s something that I have always intuitively worked to eliminate from my life.

I love chocolate ice cream, but I hate trying to buy it if I’m traveling in the U.S. because you can guarantee that there won’t just be 3 variations of chocolate ice cream there will be 23! In the overwhelm of all that choice the experience is made into one of pressure and weighing up which might be the best of a bunch of great options and then wondering if you picked the right one or are potentially missing out on something better because you made the “wrong” choice. Such a silly idea when really, can there be a bad chocolate ice cream?!

For me, this is one of the areas of being an Essentialist that comes naturally.

If you’ve ever stayed with me, you will know that when it comes to eating, I’m very much a creature of habit. I once had the exact same thing for lunch every single day for almost five years! I not only eat the same thing for breakfast every day, but I also prepare it in the same way, use the same bowl, spoon, cup, teapot, tray… you get the picture.

Ok, this is a combination of more than just being an Essentialist; it’s part OCD, part ritual, and part elimination of decisions to free my mind up for the things I want to think about each day. Eliminating unnecessary decisions or making them once and then just doing a “rinse and repeat” motion is part of how my life works.

This is also one of the frameworks we use in our coaching as we help leaders ‘Automate the Everyday’. Reducing the mental load and overwhelm can have such incredible flow on effects that it’s often hard to believe you didn’t operate like this earlier.

I don’t go to the gym on my own. I have a Personal Trainer (PT). Even after years of doing that I still look blankly at my trainer when he tells me what exercise is next and I ask him to demonstrate as I “can’t remember what that exercise is”! I remind him every time that “I don’t come here to think. That’s your job. I’ll put in the work and do what you ask me to when I’m here but I’m saving my brain and decisions for outside the gym!”

When you work with a coach on your own leadership, it’s no different. You have to do the work in order to get the results, growth, and transformation, but a good coach needs to bring the tried-and-true methodology, strategies, and practices that can help unlock you and get you those results more effectively.

Whether it’s the food I eat or working out, I consciously try and remove any of the unnecessary decisions from my day so for those things I can engage on autopilot and then bring all my brainpower and energy to the things that need it most.

What are the areas in your life where the mental load and overwhelm are setting in, and a dose of essentialism could be good for your soul?


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