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What is Essentialism and How You Can Benefit from It

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What is Essentialism and How You Can Benefit from It

In our ever distracting world overloaded with information, there has been an increasing interest in minimalism – “less is more” and Marie Kondo’s house clearing.

People have become exhausted with the availability of things, consumer products, life choices, and demands. It is never-ending, and it is no surprise that many people are turning to simpler ways of living.

Essentialism has some similarities with minimalism, but these two concepts are very different.

What Is Essentialism?

In 2014, Greg McKeown published the best selling book: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and he has been teaching individuals, corporations and world leaders about the art of essentialism ever since.

Greg defines essentialism as:

Less but better.

Essentialism is a way of life that helps you navigate a distracting world by focusing on things that are important to you. Essentialism is not minimalism where you reduce your material possessions to the minimum

Essentialism is a mindset for deciding whether something is important to you or not. If something is not important, you eliminate it.

So how can you benefit from essentialism and live a simpler, more essential way of life?

Learn to Say “No” More

One of the many reasons we feel stressed out and overwhelmed is because we say yes to far too many things.

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Saying “yes” is easier than saying “no”, but it leaves you in the difficult position of having to carry through on a commitment you might not have wanted in the first place.

It is important to think carefully about your decisions first.

It is far better to say “let me get back to you” first than to say “yes” immediately and regret it later. Because then, you will have to either carry through with the commitment halfheartedly or waste a lot of time and effort trying to get out of the commitment later.

Of course, there will always be things you may not want to do but have to do: your taxes, doing the dishes, and going to the dentist. But a lot of our commitments and invitations are choices, not obligations. you can turn them down if you want to.

Focus on Your Priority

Notice that I did not use the word “priorities”. This is a mistake many people make. They have many “priorities” but not a single “priority”.

The key to living an essential life is understanding what your priority is.

Is it your family? Your career? Your hobby? What is it?

Most people never discover what it is they are most interested in and instead go from one interest to another. This leads to them never experiencing the joy of creating something special around something they have built for themselves.

You will know your true priority once you know what you want out of life.

For me, my priority is to help as many people as I can by helping them discover the benefits of organization and productivity. Because I identified this as my priority, I can make better decisions about what I want to do with my day. It also makes it easier to say no to the things that do not interest me.

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If I am asked to commit to something and it does not contribute towards this priority, then it is easy for me to say no.

You Are in Control of Your Day

Because essentialism reduces your commitments to only the essential, it puts you in control of your day.

Most people do not know what they want, and this unwittingly allows other people to take control of their day. For example, you may have friends and family telling you where to be and with whom, or bosses and colleagues requesting you do this or do that.

It all leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled.

When you know what is important to you and you focus on only those things that bring you joy and happiness, your day becomes your day, not someone else’s. Again, this involves having to say “no” more than you say yes.

Over time, you will find your friends, family, colleagues, and boss respecting your time much more, and that is when you start to gain control over your day. Gaining control of your day allows you to focus on the things you deem important.

It also means that you get to accomplish your priority in higher quality, which earns you far more respect than if you were trying to do everything all at once.

All Journeys Are Made Up of Tiny Steps

Desmond Tutu once said:

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Anything you want to accomplish is made up of small bites. If you want to save 1 million US dollars, you save one dollar at a time. If you want to complete a marathon, you do so one step at a time.

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Everything you want to accomplish is made up of tiny steps that you consistently take over time.

I have always been attracted to writing a daily journal but consistently failed to turn this into a habit. That changed when I began practicing essentialism and having a “less is more” mindset.

Instead of believing I had to write a thousand or more words per day, I set the goal of writing no more than five sentences per day. This is not many, but it helped instill in me the habit of writing a journal daily, which was the main goal.

Now, I look forward to sitting down at the end of the day with my journal and writing those few sentences as a summary of my day.

Over a week, I will not have much to show for my journaling efforts. But over many years, when I consistently do it, I will have around 8,900 sentences. That is roughly the length of a best-selling novel.

Build Routines Around What Is Essential to You

There are three things important to me: creating content, exercising, and reading.

I love doing all these things. And if I get to read something, create content I can publish, and exercise every day, I can say I had a great day. Because I have identified these three things, I built them into my daily routines.

I begin the day with writing whenever I can. I create content mid-morning, and I exercise at 2 pm. They are not only built into my mental schedule, but they are also scheduled on my calendar as well. I close out my day with twenty to thirty minutes of reading before going to sleep.

It is your routines that drive you towards accomplishing what you want to accomplish.

If you are busy doing everyone else’s work, you will not be able to achieve anything for yourself. You will be like a puppet being controlled by outside forces.

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But if you start your day with time for yourself and do your priority, then you will maintain control of your day and life.

Why Less Is More

Our lives are full of opportunities, and these opportunities are everywhere.

Twenty years ago, if a teenager wanted to make money from creating short films, they would be laughed at unless they had rich enough parents to buy them the necessary camera equipment for them to try.

But even if they had the right equipment and could make films, they had nowhere to showcase them. Today, the phone you carry around with you everywhere has the potential to make you millions of dollars. Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo provide people with this opportunity

So, if it is easy to make so much money, why are so few people doing it?

Because there are too many opportunities.

With so many opportunities, it is incredibly difficult to choose which one to take. The successful people today are the ones who chose one opportunity and ran with it long enough for it to turn into success.

Just to give you some examples of people who turned video making into success: Casey Neistat created real-life stories about living in New York.[1] Matt D’Avella took minimalism and film-making and turned that into success[2], and Aileen Xu, AKA Lavendaire, took simple living and created videos around that theme.[3]

Although they are all talented people in their own right, their success was not just built on their talents. It was also built on focusing on one theme and staying consistent over many years.

This is how essentialism can help you become successful.

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Key Takeaways

  • Essentialism is not a physical thing like minimalism. Essentialism is a state of mind. It is about focusing on what is important to you and not allowing outside noise to interfere with your focus.
  • Essentialism allows you to take control of your day by allowing you to assess and evaluate opportunities before accepting them.
  • Finally, essentialism helps you focus on less, and this allows you to do these things better in the long run.

Learn More About Why Less Is More

Featured photo credit: Jesus Kiteque via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouTube: Casey Neistat
[2] Youtube: Matt D’Avella
[3] YouTube: Lavendaire

More by this author

Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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