I’ve been on an essentialist journey this past year/life.
It started when I was 15 and liked acting more than dancing, so I stopped dancing.
It kicked into high gear when I was 16 and decided to go into ministry, so I stopped auditioning for shows.
It invaded my household last April when I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and proceeded to KonMari our house.
Then I read New York Times bestseller, Essentialism by Greg McKeown. This book gave me practices for some of my long held principles. Essentialism is all about the disciplined pursuit of less, a philosophy I wholeheartedly agree with.
In the words of McKeown,
Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.
This strikes a deep chord in me. I was inspired by the challenge to live “by design, not by default.”
McKeown offers “extreme criteria” to help you do this. On a quiet Sunday, I decided to give this extreme criteria a whirl. I sat down on my couch with a wad of sticky notes and a sharpie. I opened my calendar on my phone and got to work. I wrote down every appointment and commitment I had made in the last 2 months. Then I opened Wunderlist and did the same thing with my to-dos. Every project I had taken on went on a sticky note. When I finished I had about a hundred stickies.
I then laid out three categories on my coffee table:
- Yes! (sounds like: I’m excited about this. This is the most important to me. I would work hard to get this opportunity if I didn’t have it. I would regret it if I didn’t do this)
- No. (sounds like: not 1)
I took my stickies and distributed them one by one across my categories. I was surprised by what landed where. Once I finished, I went back through my unsures and ruthlessly fit them into 1 or 2.
Right at the end my phone chirped–reminding me that I needed to be at an event. Ironically, the event had made it on to a sticky…and in to the no pile. Now I wished I had done this 3 months prior when I said yes to what should have been a no. I wished I was living by design rather than default.
After this exercise, the million dollar question was “what should I do with this information?” The last few weeks I’ve been working first on prioritizing and establishing awareness about what counts as an essential for me. What makes me say “yes!” to one opportunity and feel iffy about another? Just knowing the difference has helped me say “no” to new commitments that eventually would have landed in category 2. It also rescued some projects that I would have let slide if I didn’t realize how important they were to me and why. I’m also working on weeding out all the “no’s” in my life to create space and energy for those yes’s!
It’s prioritizing 101, but those sticky notes sure clarified things for me.
If you’re wanting to get back in the drivers seat of your schedule, I invite you jump in! All you need is:
- A sharpie
- Your calendar
Now get out there and do less!