Lesson 5

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What Is Essentialism?

We’ve been discussing some pretty tricky topics across this course, so you gents will be glad to know today’s lesson is really simple. 

Essentialism is a productivity mindset that helps you focus more of your energy on what matters. By doing so, you can make massive gains in the most important areas of your life without wasting time on trivial and less-important things. 

That’s Essentialism in a nutshell – do more with the things that matter and stop wasting time on the things that do not. However, as with any topic, we can always dive deeper. 

Essentialism: The Key Fundamentals

You need to understand a few concepts before adopting an Essentialist mindset. Many guys make the mistake of thinking they can do less work and call themselves an Essentialist – unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

As I’ve mentioned, Essentialism is about carefully managing your time and understanding what elements of your life deserve to take up most of your energy. 

Prioritizing Your Energy and Focus 

To effectively apply an Essentialist mindset to your workflow, you need to understand how to prioritize your time. It sounds easy, but many guys fall into the trap of prioritizing what they THINK is essential rather than what’s ACTUALLY essential. 

Let me give you an example. A man might say, ‘I will prioritize my work’ and focus all of his energy on the many different things that make up his professional life. But he isn’t being specific enough! Your ‘work’ is a giant part of your life, so treating this blanket term as a priority isn’t actually prioritizing at all. 

The author of Essentialism – Greg McKeown – writes that:

‘Non-Essentialists … Are so busy pursuing every opportunity and idea, they actually explore less.’ 

In short – men feel the urge to focus a lot of their attention on what they perceive as great ideas and become less effective as a result. 

So what’s the takeaway? Essentially, you need to be specific in your goals and targets. Maybe you need to complete the first draft of a project proposal as a matter of urgency. Great – then prioritize this over tidying your email inbox and catching up with your colleague. Those things can wait.

If It Isn’t An Easy ‘Yes’ Then It’s A Definite ‘No’

We’ve all had moments in our life where uncertainty has gotten the better of us. It’s human nature to want to please those around us, so it’s very easy for us to say ‘yes’ without considering its consequences. 

Our ‘yes’ should be one of our most valuable assets and shouldn’t be given away with uncertainty. So, I want you to imagine your ‘yes’ is a cheque for $1000. Every time someone asks you to do something – be it at work or in your personal life – think before you give your answer:

‘If I say ‘yes’ to this request, I have to hand over $1000 to this person! Is this task worth me losing $1000?’

If the answer’s ‘no,’ don’t say ‘yes’! 

Consider these two situations:

  1. Your boss asks you to lead a new company project. Saying yes to this could help you land that big promotion and get a pay rise. Handing over your ‘yes’ in this situation is probably worth $1000 because it has the potential to boost your career.
  2. Your colleague asks if you can reply to her email in the next hour. Will prioritizing this email help you progress in your career? Probably not. Can this task wait until tomorrow when your schedule is lighter? Absolutely. Therefore, giving away your ‘$1000 yes’ isn’t worth it in this situation. 

In short, your ‘yes’ is more valuable than you think. Giving it away on a whim can ruin your schedule, take you away from your priorities and make your effort seem easy to manipulate by others. 

Think logically, be honest and make sure you only give away your ‘$1000 yes’ when it’s worth it. 

Action Step 

Now that you know a few fundamentals of Essentialism let’s put it into practice. Answer the following questions to discover what you need to prioritize at this moment in your life:


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