Keep It Simple … Yeah, Right …

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“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials”

~ Lin Yutang (and the first words in the first chapter of Greg McKeown’s new book “Essentialism”)


Someone designed the simple, but highly effective and rather attractive table on the left … I am willing to bet they were not trying to juggle a bunch of other projects when they did so.  They included only what was essential for the object to work, with the minimal style to make it pleasing to the eye.

The first week of August is always Simplify Your Life week, so you can expect many posts, articles, and focus on how to make your life more simple.

Most of this content concentrates on just the “simplify” part, or as I call it, “Toss and Trash Until It Hurts” method of organizing.  You will see lots of advice on how to get rid of stuff, categorize stuff, and save a few seconds or minutes in your day.   Valuable, if you follow the advice, but not the heart of the issue.

In one of my corporate positions, I was responsible for helping employees learn, initiate, and maintain a standardized work flow and personal organization system.  I spent a lot of time trying to convince folks that they could reduce the paper and electronic clutter to a more reasonable and useful level, while also creating a more empowered workday for themselves.

When you add the word “standardized” to any organizational policy or process, you have introduced the opportunity to fully understand the meaning of the word “resistance” . ..

When you tell employees to protect their time from other employees, even their boss, you get a fair amount of cynical looks and responses … 

When you try to sell the idea that standardizing and streamlining processes will benefit everyone and not simply punish those who already “have my own system”, your tires get slashed in the parking lot …

Well, here’s why I like Essentialism:  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown:   He concentrates not on stopping destructive or counter-productive habits, but on really making a significant impact by focusing on the one most important thing.    If I had read this book before I started working with others to organize their lives, I might not have assumed that they “got” why doing this was important.

I would also have spent a lot more time helping them decide how concentrating on the most important thing they could be doing would help them.   I once asked a senior executive which of the 32 open projects they had in their files were the most important (not even trying to get to the ONE most important).  The response:  “All of them”.

The value of being able to name the ONE most important work to do may seem obvious and the doing appear easy, but only on an intellectual level. 

When a person is actually struggling to do so, this theoretically simple and useful task becomes much more difficult.

Since we have a whole week and Greg’s book is chock full of powerful ideas, I’ll be posting something every day to help you understand why this might be one of the most important books you read this year … if you pay attention and use it.

… only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

~ Greg McKeown in Essentialism, pg. 4

More later, especially about that “stop saying yes to everyone” part.

Practicing what I am preaching in the Heartland ….



One thought on “Keep It Simple … Yeah, Right …

  1. Pingback: Asking the “Essential” Questions … | THE STRATEGIC LEARNER

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