My mom went into kidney failure last Thursday and was admitted to the hospital.
I feel incredibly blessed that they figured out that the kidney failure was due to an allergic reaction to a medication she was taking and she’s now back at home, doing well. It took them eight long days to discover this.
For the first couple days, I couldn’t do anything–read a book, flip through a magazine, watch a television show. And, it felt like every single second lasted 27 minutes.
Once we realized that a biopsy of her kidneys would probably give us answers, I felt like I could breathe again.
While she was getting her kidneys biopsied, I sat in the waiting room and started reading what is now one of my favorite books, Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
I don’t know if Emily (from the podcast, Being Boss) would remember this, but she recommended I read it a couple years ago when we were chatting on Skype. It took awhile Em, but now I know why you pushed it on me. Thanks for the recommendation.
I learned or was reminded of a lot of critical things in this book. I pulled out my top ten favorite lessons and explain how it applies to my business and how you might apply it to your business.
But, this is not your get your get out of jail free card. You still need to read this brilliant book. (Don’t wait two years like me or you’ll want to kick your own bum.)
1. “The Essentialist doesn’t just recognize the power of choice, he celebrates it. The Essentialist knows that when we surrender our right to choose, we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us.”
This is the quote that made me fall head over heels for this book on page 39. I knew right then that I needed this book in my life.
It might surprise some of you who know how intense I can be, but I’ve got a little bit of a people pleaser in me. It stems from elementary school when I would do anything to not get in trouble. In fact, the first and only time I ever got detention was in the first grade and I remember it clearly.
This snot-nosed little jerk wouldn’t stop talking to me even though I kept shushing him. The teacher didn’t care that I was trying to do the right thing. She put us both in detention and I came home sobbing. My mom said that I wouldn’t stop crying for hours.
I’ve grown out of that, but I still don’t like getting into trouble and that’s where my people pleasing comes into play. I have to remind myself every morning that if I don’t decide how I’m going to spend my time, others will for me through email requests and tweets and questions on Instagram.
Even when I have a hard time choosing something as simple as a buddha bowl or quinoa salad for dinner, I know that if I don’t choose, my husband will, which is fine as long as I don’t mind either. But, if I’m not in the mood for a buddha bowl, I need to speak up or I might end up picking at a dinner I didn’t really want.
If you need to get better at making your own choices, pause before you respond. Take a breath and remind yourself that you’re in control. You have choices.
2. “Essentialists actually explore more options than their Nonessentialist counterparts. Whereas Nonessentialists commit to everything or virtually everything without actually exploring, Essentialists systematically explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any.”
When I realized that I no longer wanted to be a family therapist, I experienced a lot of meltdowns because I had no idea what I wanted to do.
It would’ve been easier for me to say something like, “I’m going to quit my job with great benefits because I’ve realized that I want to become a baker.” But, all I knew was that I wasn’t happy doing my work day in and day out.
So, I started experimenting with anything that sounded fun such as cooking, scrapbooking, jewelry design, blogging, writing fiction, making things out of clay, and mixed media painting. Every second I wasn’t working, I was trying to figure out my passion.
I’m certain that if I had just picked the first thing that piqued my interest, I would be a miserable scrapbooker. Instead, I played a lot and figured out that I love a combination of: teaching, writing and watercolor painting.
If you’re in the beginning of your business and you’re struggling with the “what,” have some fun with all of your options. Write a couple blog posts about parenting if you think you want to start a parenting blog that focuses on minimalism. Spend an entire eight hours (with small breaks) creating jewelry. If at the end of the eight hours you realize this isn’t something you like to do when you have to spend that much time on it, you’ve had a great a-ha moment and presents for all your friends’ birthdays.
3. “As painful as they can sometimes be, trade-offs represent a significant opportunity. By forcing us to weigh both options and strategically select the best one for us, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome we want.”
I have a love-hate relationship with trade-offs. Oh my bananas, I wish I could do it all on any given day, but I can’t.
I have to decide if I should respond to the email that’s from a loyal customer asking for advice that’ll probably take me 10 to 15 minutes to reply to or get through a bunch of emails that will only take me a minute or less to reply to.
I have to decide whether to add another live call to the next month of Sunday Society or spend that time working on bonus worksheets.
I have to pick between going out to dinner with my husband and friends or eating something simple so I can squeeze in some watercolor painting.
These aren’t easy decisions, but as a business owner, you have to make a bunch every single day and those decisions impact your success and happiness.
4. “We can take further inspiration from the example of CEO Bill Gates, who regularly (and famously) takes a regular week off from his daily duties at Microsoft simply to think and read.”
This sounds like heaven to me, and it’s already something I’ve been planning since this past December. If things go right, I plan to take two long weekends (hopefully about four days each) to get away from everything and focus.
I’d like to spend one of these long weekends reading business books, watching TED talks and planning the future of Blacksburg Belle and Sunday Society. For the other, I want to hole up somewhere cold and cozy, preferably by the fire and spend the entire time writing.
My favorite chunks of time are when I fall into a reading frenzy. I’ll get this great idea, spend a few days outlining and then dive into the story, writing from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. I wrote three-fourths of a novel in three weeks this way. And, every second felt incredible.
What about you? When’s the last time you had a full day to think or lose yourself in your craft without a single distraction. I know it’s harder for you moms out there, but I think your family could give you one day or one weekend. And, those weekends are worth it because they feel magical.
5. “Play is an antidote to stress, and this is key because stress, in addition to being an enemy of productivity, can actually shut down the creative, inquisitive, exploratory parts of our brain. You know how it feels: you’re stressed about work and suddenly everything starts going wrong.”
There wasn’t a single concept in this book that turned me off, but this one made me light up.
I think about the days that I pull out my bullet journal and sketch without caring how it turns out because I could always erase it or cover it up. Or when I start an audiobook (usually an exciting thriller like Baby Doll by Hollie Overton) and paint with my watercolors without having an end goal in mind.
I also love playing board games, even though my family members get a little scared to play with me cause I tend to be a sore loser. Once I even threw all the cards onto the floor because my husband was cheating, no one else noticed and he giggled like “hahahaha, I got away with it.”
After game night, I always have a great day the next day at work. It’s amazing how play impacts my work.
If you’re stuck creatively, play. Go outside and play hide and seek with your kids. Have a game night with two other couples. Ask a friend to play a game of tennis with you. See if it doesn’t give you a boost of creativity when you return to your work.
6. “The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, 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 people–damage this asset is through a lack of sleep.”
My husband and I fight over the same thing constantly. He thinks he can run on five or six hours of sleep and I care so much about him that I demand he sleeps for at least seven hours.
I’ve shown him research that proves my point, I’ve read him passages in books that reiterate these facts, I make him watch interviews with Arianna Huffington who wrote about the importance of sleep.
And, my husband is probably the most logical person in our family but he still fights this notion that he needs sleep.
However…about six months ago, he admitted that he’s noticed a difference between the days that he gets seven hours of sleep compared to the days that he gets five or six hours of sleep. He gets more done, he’s better in court, and he avoids the afternoon ‘must-have-a-coffee-now’ crash.
If you get less than eight hours of sleep, try getting that much sleep for just two weeks. We can all do something for just two weeks, can’t we? See if it impacts your health and productivity. Most of the time we get less sleep because we try to accomplish more and the silly thing is that if we just slept a bit longer, it’d be easier to get those things done faster.
7. “As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it. This way you avoid getting caught up in indecision, or worse, getting stuck with the 60s and 70s. Think about how you’d feel if you scored a 65 on some test. Why would you deliberately choose to feel that way about an important choice in your life?”
I’ve heard this said a bunch of different ways such as, “If it isn’t a hell yeah, it’s a no,” but this single paragraph hit me right in the heart.
I have a really difficult time deciding whether or not to accept an interview request. Why? I tend to enjoy most interviews. They get me in front of an audience that doesn’t know me yet. I get to connect with the interviewer and who knows where that could lead.
But, interviews take up my time. If it’s a written interview, it can take me hours to respond to all the questions. I recently received an interview request from someone I like but it was a written interview with questions that I could spend an entire blog post answering. It would’ve taken me hours, three at best, to finish it. And, at that point in time, I had some personal stuff come up which meant I had to say no.
I’m much more likely to say yes to podcast interviews for a few reasons: 1) I don’t have to get video ready with hair and makeup all done up 2) I do well on my feet answering questions about topics I know a lot about 3) They’re the type of interviews I enjoy the most.
The next type of interview I’m more likely to say yes to is a video interview. It doesn’t usually require any prep except for doing my hair and makeup and I enjoy chatting with other creatives and seeing their faces and expressions.
But if I’m asked for a written interview, I say no 99% of the time. If it was a magazine like Artful Blogging who approached me, they would land in the 1%. Other than something like that, it’s a no because it’s too much work on my end. I could spend that time doing something for my own audience. Give me three hours and I can create a 30-minute bonus video for Sunday Society or pop in the Facebook group and do an impromptu FB Live video.
Try using this method before saying yes to anything over the next month. See how it changes your productivity and happiness.
8. “It’s not just that the boundaries have been blurred; it’s that the boundary of work has edged insidiously into family territory.”
Setting boundaries with clients, especially for those of you with service-based businesses who work closely with your clients, is critical.
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with that have said something like, “I have this client who expects me to respond to her emails within 30 minutes, drop everything on a Saturday because she wants to hop on a Skype call to discuss something even though my parents are in town, and gets frustrated when I give her feedback she doesn’t like.”
My response is always, “You need to have a discussion about boundaries. Then, you need to update your contract that includes these boundaries. This makes things easier for you but it also helps the client. It lets them know what’s acceptable and what isn’t.”
When you have a rule in your contract that says you won’t respond to client emails or calls on the weekend, but you ensure to respond by the end of the day on Monday, it lets your client know when she can expect to hear from you which is a lot better than the unknown.
It also makes it easier for you when you have to point to your contract to remind a client that you didn’t agree on the demand she’s making. Having it in writing always helps.
9. “We’ve all experienced how projects and commitments tend to expand–despite our best efforts–to fill the amount of time allotted to them.”
YES! YES! YES!
The very first time I taught at CreativeLive, I had exactly one month to prepare the entire 18 hours of content and workbook to accompany it.
What my sneaky content producer at the time didn’t tell me is that they usually give instructors at least three months–but more like six months–to prepare for a three-day course.
But, guess what? I got it done. I came prepared. My slides were done. The workbook was complete. I had practiced each segment multiple times. And, the best part is that my class was the fourth best-selling course of the year, beating out tons of courses taught by much bigger names.
If I’d been given three months instead of one, I can guarantee that I would’ve filled those three months prepping for the course. Would it have made it better?
I don’t know, but I didn’t really need any extra time. I was able to deliver in 30 days.
When you give yourself an allotted amount of time for a project, keep this in mind. We usually take all the time we give ourselves instead of ending early if we can. Where in your business could you cut out some time? Maybe you could give yourself 30 minutes instead of an hour to edit a round of photos? Maybe you could give yourself 45 minutes instead of two hours to write the rough draft of your blog post? Maybe you could give yourself two weeks instead of four weeks of research for your next project?
10. Whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, ‘What is essential?’ Eliminate everything else.
This is definitely something I struggle with but plan to remind myself about it constantly. As soon as I unbox my new Day Designer (Squeeeeeeeeee!), I’m going to add a note at the front that says the exact statement above.
I know that if I had thought about this concept earlier, I would’ve created better content including blog posts and online courses, saved myself a lot headaches, and be closer to having a more cohesive body of work.
Those are the top 10 lessons I learned or was reminded of when reading this life-changing book (and I don’t say that lightly). Even though you’ve read this post, I promise you’ll be missing out if you don’t pick up a copy or listen to the audiobook.
Essentialism is one of those books that I know I’ll read every couple of years.
Have you read this book? What was your biggest takeaway? Are there any other books you’d recommend that have a similar feel as this one? Share in the comments below.