No is a complete sentence

No is a complete sentence #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

So says Anne Lamott. So agrees Greg McKeown. And he’s written 272 pages proving so in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I’d recommend this to you

  • If you think you are too busy but don’t feel the output is commiserate with the input,
  • Too busy doing things you don’t want to do and don’t have enough time to do what you would love to do
  • Or even if you are curious to find ways to identify what to focus on at work for your company, for the best bang for the buck.

I picked it up for the last reason and hope to try out some of his advice.

In the continued spirit of earning good karma sizzling brownie points though, I’m sharing my favorite pieces of advice which will help you ‘busy’ people become ‘Essentialists’ in 3 minutes instead of 3 hours.

If you haven’t guessed, an ‘Essentialist’ is one who does more by doing less. “She does so by applying a more selective criteria for what is essential, the pursuit of less allows her to gain control of her choices, so that she can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.”

 My 7 favorite tips to becoming an ‘Essentialist’ (from the book)

  1. Ask yourself, “If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?
    1. Or, conduct an advanced search and ask three questions:
      1. “What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and
      2. “What am I particularly talented at?” and
      3. “What meets a significant need in the world?
  1. Accept the reality of trade-offs. You can do anything you want to but you can’t do everything you want to (at least simultaneously).
  2. Ask the essential question: “What will I say no to?” when you face a dilemma of choices for opportunities that come your way, instead of asking yourself “What, of my list of competing priorities, should I say yes to?”
  3. If you want to get all ‘corporate’ and want to use a systematic process to help you through your dilemma of choices for all opportunities that come your way, then first write down the opportunity. Second, write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” to be considered. Third, write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” to be considered. By definition, if the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is a ‘no-brainer’ no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no.

    Essentialist's Opportunity Grid

    Essentialist’s grid to selecting opportunities

  4. There are three deeply entrenched assumptions you must conquer to live the way of the ‘Essentialist’:
    1. “I have to,”
    2. “It’s all important,” and
    3. “I can do both.”

Replace these false assumptions with three core truths:

  1. “I choose to,”
  2. “Only a few things really matter,” and
  3. “I can do anything but not everything.”

He says, “These simple truths awaken us from our non-essential stupor. They free us to pursue what really matters. They enable us to live at our highest level of contribution.”

  1. If you’re trying to find a unique positioning for your company then just ask the one essential question that will inform every future decision you will ever make: “If we could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”
  2. Find your highest point of contribution and avoid your highest point of frustration like you would avoid a serial killer.
Essentialist highest point of contribution

Your Highest Point of Frustration & Contribution for a task

My 7 favorite random tips (from the book), to help live like a master rather than a slave

  1. When you’re cleaning your cupboard and can’t decide which of your favorite torn lingerie to dispose, instead of asking, “Is there a chance I will wear this someday in the future?” ask more disciplined, tough questions:
    1. “Do I love this?” and
    2. “Do I look great in it?” and
    3. “Do I wear this often?”

If the answer is no, then you know it is a candidate for elimination. You could also ask, “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?”

  1. Likewise, in your life, the killer question when deciding what activities to eliminate is: “If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?
  2. A clear “no” can be more graceful than a vague or noncommittal “yes”. His point being, “Being vague is not the same as being graceful, and delaying the eventual “no” will only make it that much harder – and the recipient that much more resentful.”
  3. At work, if forced with an overload of tasks that will put your deadlines in disarray, ask your boss, colleague or client, “What should I deprioritize?”
  4. Add a 50 per cent buffer to the amount of time you estimate it will take to complete a task or project (if 50 per cent seems overly generous, consider how frequently things actually do take us 50 per cent longer than expected).
  5. The easiest and most effective way to change a habit or routine is not to try to stop it because that will mean having to change your behavior, which is hard. Instead, the trick is to find the cue that is triggering this non-essential behavior and find a way to associate that same cue with something that is essential. So for example if your alarm clock going off in the morning triggers you to check your e-mail, use it as a cue to get up and read instead. At first, overcoming the temptation to check the e-mail will be difficult. But each time you execute the new behaviour – each time you read the paper instead, it strengthens the link in your brain between the cue and the new behaviour, and soon, you’ll be subconsciously and automatically performing the new routine.
  6. Technology in this new age has abolished any chance of being bored. Technology has also obliterated all the time we used to have to think and process. He says, “The faster and busier things get, the more you need to build thinking time into your schedule. And the noisier things get, the more you need to build quiet reflection spaces in which you can truly focus.”

My 7 favorite ‘quool quotes’ (from the book)

  1. No is a complete sentence — Anne Lamott
  2. If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will – Greg Mckeown (The Author)
  3. Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs. It’s about deliberately choosing to be different — Michael Porter
  4. Without great solitude no serious work is possible — Pablo Picasso
  5. Look see what really matters – Greg Mckeown (The Author)
  6. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing – Stephen R. Covey
  7. Beware the barrenness of a busy life — Socrates

We can take further inspiration from the example of CEO Bill Gates, who regularly (and famously) takes a regular week off from his daily duties at Microsoft simply to think and read. He calls it his “Think Week. And for those of you who are thinking that he’s got a stack of money higher than Mt. Everest with which he can do anything he wants to, you’re right. At the same time, think again if he really has it easier, cos I would imagine when one is in living the public eye, living up to ‘great expectations’ is probably more testing than living a life incognito.

The author says the essence is, “to apply the principle of condensing to our lives we need to shift the ratio of activity to meaning. We need to eliminate multiple meaningless activities and replace them with one very meaningful activity.”

And if you think all this ain’t really rad then just do as a pigeon does when in a quandary, close your eyes and ask, “What’s important now?” (Closing your eyes is the pigeon part, the asking is the benefits of being a human)

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