Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – By Greg McKeown


I loaded this book up on my Kindle two hours before stepping onto NZ 245 for a nine-hour flight to Bali. Little did I know that my 15 year old daughter would fall ill during the flight so Claire and I would spend most of the flight helping her. Not a lot was read until we were settled in our villa in Ubud.

Heading away on leave is never easy for me. It takes me a good three to four days to start to relax. Thankfully, this book was a real help in speeding things up. Here are a few points that stood out for me.

The lie that “you can do it all”.
The book starts by shattering the illusion that what you believe you can do is actually possible. “You can do it all” is the first that gets a serve. You can’t – and thinking you can is a trap that many, me included, fall into.

Greg expands on this with theory about the “trivial many” compared to the “vital few”. I think we all live in a world where it’s hard to determine which task fits in what group. It’s not helped with a task list that grows each day, every task seemingly as important as the next. Finding your “vital few” is a key message of the book.

Understanding tradeoffs.
This concept hit home for me while I was stressing about what was happening back at base. There I was, away from work in a timezone that didn’t make it easy for the team to contact me while a large volume of work was going through the studio.

So what was the tradeoff for my stress? Well, Claire and my two teenage daughters were experiencing a new culture following a challenging home renovation project that pushed us all to the max. When I was a kid, my father took our family on regular holidays, and a lot of my fondest memories are linked to these experiences.
When I looked at it this way, the tradeoff was well worth it.

If you don’t set your priorities, someone else will.
So who has priorities? I guarantee all who read this newsletter do – but who sets them? If you are not actively setting them then someone else is. Perhaps this is not necessarily the right way for you?

Sleep – protect the asset
I left Auckland absolutely knackered and with a chest infection that was starting to gain an edge. We were all tired and slept a lot over the next few days. By day six I was coming right and I felt fresher than I had in a while.  I read a lot. The Kindle got a serious workout and the ideas started to flow again; ideas that would never have arrived if we had not taken the break.
I finished the book with my personal list of the vital few and some strategies to manage the rest. For me it was the right book arriving at the right time. Funny how this happens sometimes.