The business book you need to read this month: Essentialism

Want to do less but accomplish more? PR pundit and entrepreneur Heather Baker suggests you read McKeown's guide to eliminating the non-essential...

Business book: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Lessessentialism
As recommended by: Entrepreneur Heather Baker, founder and CEO of TopLine Comms.

If your work life feels cluttered. If you constantly feel stretched too thin. If you’re busy but not productive, then Essentialism is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Most productivity focused how-to books are all about getting more done in less time. This is not one of those books.

What is Essentialism about?

The book’s sub-title sums it up perfectly. Essentialism is about the disciplined pursuit of less. Rather than making us feel inadequate for not being more productive, Greg McKeown instead turns our attention to the underlying problem: by saying ‘yes’ to everything, we undervalue our time and ultimately end up stretching ourselves too thin.

The most successful people in the world are the ones who truly value their time, because they recognise it as their most precious resource. Essentialism teaches techniques for valuing your time and shows you how to get the most out of it.

It’s about figuring out what’s essential and eliminating everything else. It’s about getting the right things done. Rather than being yet another ‘thing’ you need to master, Essentialism is a whole new way of doing everything.

Target audience?

The book is aimed at everyone: from leaders, managers and entrepreneurs to anyone who is busy (which let’s face it, is pretty much all of us). If you like the idea of doing less and doing it better, then Essentialism needs to find its way onto your bedside table, pronto.

What’s the best bit of Essentialism?

Nowadays people are always biting off more than they can chew. We’re convinced the world will come to standstill if we don’t do something (how important that something is, is often beside the point).

Recognising this was a huge eye-opener for me.

I read the book at a time when I was so overcommitted and stressed that I could barely see straight. It showed me that my life didn’t need to be like this and provided me with the tools to fix it.

Why should business owners read Essentialism?

Business owners are invariably stressed, stretched and overwhelmed. Your task list and schedule never seem to get any shorter or any lighter. As fast as one thing is ticked off, another is added. Go to one meeting and when you look again, there are three more lined up.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Essentialism will help you see that it’s okay to focus on the stuff that really matters and let go of the rest. That doing this will not only make you happier, it will make you feel more relaxed as well. It’s certainly had that effect on my life.

3 top takeaway points for start-ups:

  1. Protecting the asset: The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we unde rinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution. One of the most common ways people – especially ambitious, successful people – damage this asset is through a lack of sleep.”
  2. Boundaries: “Boundaries are a little like the walls of a sandcastle. The second we let one fall over, the rest of them come crashing down.”
  3. Trade-offs: A non-essentialist approaches every trade-off by asking, ‘How can I do both?’ Essentialists ask the tougher but ultimately more liberating question; ‘Which problem do I want?’ An Essentialist makes trade-offs deliberately. You act for yourself rather than waiting to be acted upon. As economist Thomas Sowell wrote: ‘There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs’.”

Excerpt business owners can learn from?

“Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill. As with any ability, we start with limited experience. We are novices at “no”. Then we learn a couple of basic techniques.

“We make mistakes. We learn from them. We develop more skills. We keep practising. After a while we have a whole repertoire available at our disposal, and in time we have gained mastery of a type of social art form.

“We can handle almost any request from almost anybody with grace and dignity. Tom Friel, the former CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, once said to me, ‘We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no’.”

Book name: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Authors: Greg Mckeown
Date published: April 2014
RRP: £9.09 (paperback)
Synopsis: Having run courses on leadership and strategy at the likes of LinkedIn, Apple, Google, and Facebook, entrepreneur McKeown believes that by following a disciplined way of thinking – Essentialism – businesses can become more innovative and “achieve something great”. In Essentialism, McKeown explains how this thinking works; challenging the assumption of “We can have it all” and “I have to do everything” with the mantra of “the right thing, in the right way, at the right time”, and how you can work better and work less by following Essentialist principles.

To get inspiration from other highly-recommended business books, follow the links below:

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