Essentialism – the disciplined pursuit of less

At the top of my current reading list is Greg McKeown’s bestseller “Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” The idea of “doing less” connects with comments from a senior faculty member (and others) who explain that the longer one is at the university, the more one is asked to contribute (often without additional resources)! McKeown observes that in many business settings “success is a catalyst for failure.” A leader likely focused on a few things to become successful; however, as success grew, more opportunities, requests, demands presented and the leader then became unfocused by many things and not successful. This is similar to the faculty or staff member who might become overwhelmed with too much on their plate. Instead, per McKewon, take on “the disciplined pursuit of less” to be better.

McKeown identifies three steps to achieving less to be more successful.

First, one must explore the “very critical things you want to pursue” by creating space / time to discern what is important. He encouarges you to develop a rountine – schedule time to just think!

Second, once you’ve identified the critical elements, then eliminate the rest. Experiement and practice saying “no” by pushing back in a sensible and graceful manner. Be more selective so you can make a more valuable contribution.

Third, “build a platform for effortless execution.” Once you’ve created less then you need to be organized and focused to get the less done!

McKeown also explains that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. That, while we can try to avoid the reality of trade offs, we usually can’t escape them. Further, he challenges, if it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no! He concludes that “anything less than the disciplined pursuit of the essential becomes the undisciplined pursuit of the non-essential.”

In this time of covid, pursuing less as more makes a lot of sense. And, if you want some help thinking through an issue or concern, Go Ombuds.