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Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are achievers.  They are driven by mission, consumed with passion, focused to achieve, and committed to profit.  They don’t shy away from risk and seldom, if ever, do they find themselves with nothing to do.  In fact, an entrepreneur is generally not only one of the busiest people you will ever know, they can often be described as “workaholics.”

As an entrepreneur myself, I have found that description of me apt and on target.  For too many years as a young, budding entrepreneur and business professional, I frequently found myself burning the candle at both ends, with a desk that never quite got cleared off.  In fact, I have said dozens of times that I would never be “caught up” from all the projects or tasks that needed to be completed.

Essentialism2Have you ever struggled with these same sentiments?  Have you too often found that your plate is not just full but it’s overflowing?  While many of the tasks or projects that I find filling my day are wholesome, worthwhile and even appear necessary, I have too often found that some of those projects and tasks, while good, can be enemies of the best.

But being an achiever means you simply cannot disengage.  There is something within your DNA that compels you to action, to strive, to attempt great things.  I too have sensed these same driving forces within me and I have found myself overcommitted on too many occasions.  I have felt that what I was doing was necessary but I also struggled to figure out how in the world I could ever get everything completed in an excellent manner.

Well, there is hope and there are solutions.

I just finished reading the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and I feel as if it was written just for me, with my particular struggles being the bullseye of the author’s focus.  As I have coached and met with other entrepreneurs and business professionals though, I realize I am not alone.  I know that most entrepreneurs struggle with the problem of overcommitting and taking on more than they can possibly complete.

So what is the solution?

While part of the solution involves saying NO, it is much more than that.  Sure it may be important to say no to someone else, or we may need to tell ourselves no when the temptation arises to take on another project or goal, there is much more to the solution than simply saying NO.

In McKeown’s book he distinguishes between the non-essential versus the essential.  The non-essential can very easily creep into our lives under the guise of “good.”  Good can fill up our plates and life all too quickly.  Yet, when we allow this, we are in essence crowding out the very good or “best.”

But when we learn to prefer and select the essential, we begin to regularly stop and ask ourselves the question, “Am I investing in the right activities?” according to McKeown. He goes on to say,

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either.  It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing what is only essential.”

In the midst of reading the book Essentialism I was offered what appeared to be another “opportunity” to be involved in something that was without a doubt a “good” thing.  It would only take 30 minutes of my week and it most certainly would have brought some value and good to my life.  Prior to my beginning on the journey to become an essentialist though, I would have quickly said “yes” to this new opportunity, after all it was “good” wasn’t it?

focus-on-what-mattersBut as an essentialist, I paused.  I took the time to evaluate my decision.  I evaluated the opportunity and asked myself: “is this the highest and best use of my time?”  Is it essential?  And with that brief pause and deliberate evaluation, I passed on the “good” opportunity.

What was interesting about the mere process of pausing, evaluating and then methodically coming to the proper conclusion, was the sensation I had when I actually said No.  At the instant that I clicked “Send” on the email to turn down the opportunity, I had a tremendous freeing sensation.  I had actually said No to something that was good.  But in doing so I knew that I had said Yes to the “wisest possible investment of my time and energy.”

I had chosen what was essential.

What about you?  Are you pursuing the essential in your life and business?  If you are an over-achiever and perhaps even a workaholic, I encourage you to consider this approach to your decision making.  Be intentional, deliberate and set out on the path of becoming an essentialist.  It may be one of the best decisions you will ever make.  To find out more about this new way of choosing, I recommend you read the book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less either on Amazon or Audible.com.

Here’s to an essential life!

Mark