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Published on April 20, 2020

What is Essentialism and How You Can Benefit from It

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.

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

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Carl Pullein

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

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

More on Constructive Feedback

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

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