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Essentialism: The Active Pursuit of Less But Better

[dropcap style=”style3″]W[/dropcap]hat is Essentialism? Yes, it’s a new term that you might not be familiar with as a leader. I recommend you become familiar with the concept if you want to excel as a leader. Since writing his book, Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown was quickly catapulted to the top of the New York bestseller list and remains the talk of the town and in leadership circles worldwide.

3997908_mlI believe he has hit a “truth nerve” with his readership. His research and exposition of poor time management and the drivers that subconsciously force us to become “urgency addicts” is worth understanding. His premise is that Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.

  • Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
  • Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
  • Are you too often busy but not productive?
  • Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?
  • If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is, “The Way of the Essentialist” according to McKeown.

After reading the book earlier this year, I developed a one day intensive workshop and have now delivered the content several times. The workshop participants have reported unbelievable results when using the methodology. Many have written me and told me that they are saving several hours per week and feeling less stressed and frustrated with their role as leader. Their teams are finally collaborating on what is truly important for department and corporate success.

Another client has bought enough books to gift to his whole team and is now implementing a new perspective in managing priorities. I have also developed a coaching methodology to enable and empower leaders in the practice of Essentialism. The reports from my coaching clients have been overwhelmingly positive.

I have found that Essentialism is more that a time management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline of discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so that you can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter. Yes, the key word here is DISCIPLINE.

Another Perspective

In his book, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explores what went wrong in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street but later collapsed. He finds that for many, falling into “the undisciplined pursuit of more” was a key reason for failure. This is true for companies and it is true for the people who work for them. But why?

McKeown writes, “Why Nonessentialism Is Everywhere,” he then supports his opinion by listing his rationale.

  1. Too many choices. We have all observed the exponential increase of choice over the last decade. We have lost sight of the important ones.
  2. Too much social pressure. The strength and number of outside influences has also increased exponentially. How many masters can you really serve?
  3. The idea that you can have it all. The idea that you can have it all is a perpetuated fallacy that we have accepted without thinking. Cramming in more activity into your schedule is senseless.

So how do we create a work-around to all this? Develop the essence of essentialism.

What is Essence?

What is the core mind-set of an essentialist?

  1. Individual choice: We can choose how to spend our energy and time.
  2. The prevalence of noise: Almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. This is the justification for taking time to figure out what is most important. This because some things are so much more important, the effort in finding those things is worth it.
  3. The reality of trade-offs: We can’t have it all or do it all. We need start thinking in terms of trade-offs we stop asking, “How can I make it all work?” and start asking the more honest question “Which problem do I want to solve?” Trade-offs are not something to be ignored or decried. They are something to be embraced and made deliberately, strategically, and thoughtfully.

In conclusion

I trust this leadership insight has caused you to stop and consider your current leadership habits and practices. What camp do you feel you occupy: Essentialist or Nonessentialist. I hope the information presented has challenged you to live with greater purpose and intent. You can’t do it all. So decide on the most important priority.

I would appreciate your feedback on this article in the “Leave a Reply” box below. If you are “time starved” and need a way to recover precious time back from your frenetic workload and schedule please let me know.  I would be more than happy to connect with you via a 10-15 minute phone call to provide some recommendations. Email me at

Committed to your success,


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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734