In Business and in Life, What is Really Essential?

To many, the art of focus may seem a crucial factor to attaining great heights of success in business and life.

And I agree! But the focus is not as important as the power of choice, as author Greg McKeown reminds us, and he refers to ‘choosing to focus on the important activity only’ when pressed with so much to do. This reminder has come in especially handy for me as we wrap up 2018.

In McKeown’s book titled “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” he discusses the critical steps to developing a genuinely essentialist lifestyle with examples, leading the reader to question: what is essential in business and in life?

Why focus only on the essentials?

Focusing on the essential aspects of your daily life, especially on tasks and activities, can be the difference between a productive day and a day you’d prefer to not remember.

We seem to have this pre-set mentality that multitasking equates to the definition of a productive day. However, for most people, this is the quickest route to exhaustion and reduced actual productivity. 

The following 4-part process to becoming an essentialist includes a workable model for doing less, while achieving more:

●     Part 1: Essence (Choose, Discern, Trade-off)

●     Part 2: Explore (Escape, Look, Play, Sleep, Select)

●     Part 3: Eliminate (Clarify, Dare, Un-commit, Edit, Limit)

●     Part 4: Execute (Buffer, Subtract, Progress, Flow, Focus, Be)

The advantages of adopting this system may include:

✓     Saving time on non-essential tasks, boosting the chances of getting on to more productive work than initially imagined.

✓     Building a stronger discerning mindset that ultimately improves decision making, especially in business.

✓     Reducing the chances of being inconvenienced by other people’s priorities.

✓     Increasing the time available for recreation and play.

✓     Affording the mind enough freedom and quietness to ‘create’ more often.

The 90 Percent Rule

McKeown goes on to explain how to implement the 90 percent rule in a simple to follow manner, making it applicable in almost any situation. When faced with an important decision, you should give the option a rating on a scale between 0-100

If the rating falls under 90 percent, discard and reject it – it’s not worth your time and energy!

You should pursue anything over 90 percent to help you avoid getting stuck with things that only rate 50 or 60 percent.

The mastery of this skill requires a great deal of attentiveness around acknowledging the reality of trade-offs. Breaking it down: when you apply highly selective criteria to your decision making, you execute on the right things which will allow you to achieve better outcomes. 

Final Thoughts

Life will not slow down, you will always be forced to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to people, projects and decisions. However, by setting specific parameters around what you say ‘yes’ to can directly contribute to managed expectations for yourself and for others. After all, the decisions you make should lead to a life of choices by design, not by default.