The “Strategy of More” is everywhere around you. We are doing more with less resources, seeking more opportunities, taking on more responsibility, and unless you are “crazy busy” you are not doing enough.

 

So what are you to do when you find yourself crazy busy with more commitments and priorities than you should have? When you find yourself trapped in the trivial pursuit of everyone around you asking you for more, you have no choice but to give in right? Not so.

There is an alternative, and one of the best examples I know that comes from Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism. He explains that what being an Essentialist does for your life and career is like what a professional organizer can do for your closet. What happens to your closet when you never organize it? It becomes messy, cluttered, and filled with clothes you rarely wear. Even after you decide to purge, without a disciplined system, you slowly end up with as many clothes as you started with…clothes you don’t wear or feel guilty getting rid of.

Just as our closets get cluttered our lives get cluttered. Cluttered with well-intended commitments, additional responsibilities, and activities we’ve said yes to. Unless we have a system for purging these, they live on forever.

McKeown explains that the path of eliminating the trivial many starts with 3 steps:

1. Explore: Discern the trivial many from the vital few
Evaluate your options before choosing. You must discern the vital few things that make the biggest impact. Separate them from the trivial many.
Ask yourself: Is this absolutely necessary? Does this get me closer to my goal?

2. Eliminate: Cutting out the trivial many
When you eliminate you must say no – often. This takes courage and compassion. You either choose what not to allow or allow yourself to be pulled in any direction.
Ask yourself: If I wasn’t already doing this, would I willingly take on this task, commitment, responsibility? What am I doing today that doesn’t make the highest contribution in my life?

3. Execute: Remove obstacles and make execution effortless
Apply a discipline every time you are faced with a decision, to determine whether you say yes or whether you politely decline. Instead of saying yes every time, create systems to remove obstacles and make execution as simple as possible.
Ask yourself: Is YES the best decision I can make right now or should I politely decline?

Living as an essentialist isn’t a goal or an objective, it is a disciplined way of life. If you want to eliminate the clutter from the closet of life and make sure you are focusing on the vital few things that matter, you are going to have to get good at saying NO. Not just no to things that don’t make sense. You must be able to say no to the things in your life that may be good but are not critical.

The chart below explains how an essentialist thinks, what they do and what they get.

 NonessentialistEssentialist
 ThinksAll things to all people“I have to.”

“It’s all important.”

“How can I fit it all in?”

Less but better“I choose to.”

“Only a few things really matter.”

“What are the trade-offs?”

 DoesThe undisciplined pursuit of moreReacts to what’s most pressing

Says “yes” to people without really thinking

Tries to force execution at the last moment

The disciplined pursuit of lessPauses to discern what really matters

Says “no” to everything except the essential

Removes obstacles to make execution easy

 GetsLives a life that does not satisfyTakes on too much, and work suffers

Feels out of control

Is unsure of whether the right things get done

Feels overwhelmed and exhausted

Lives a life that really mattersChooses carefully in order to do great work

Feels in control

Gets the right things done

Experiences joy in the journey

If you are reading this, you are a high achiever. You want to be better, and you have the tension between more and less but better. I want to encourage you to never give up on your pursuit of greatness. I want to encourage you to make your life and others’ lives better. AND, I want to encourage you to focus on the vital few things that you and only you can do.

There is very little in my life that I am the single, only person who can do it. Only I can be my kids’ dad. Only I can love my wife and be a life partner that encourages and supports her. Only I can share my thoughts and the God-given gifts I have been bestowed. Most everything else, someone else can do. And many could actually do it better.

In your effort to focus on less but better I want you to begin thinking about the things in your life that only you can do. Focus on them. Eliminate obstacles keeping you from them. Pursue them.

Lead well, lead often, LEAD STRONG.