Reflection: ”What is an Essentialist?” And what I can do about it?

This is a blog post where I’m simply taking inventory of my life and brainstorming a plan to improve it. I hope it helps you in your own journey; but the main goal of this is for me to think and write out loud.

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From “The Journal” – a monthly newsletter from tech entrepreneur and investor, Kevin Rose:

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage.

In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

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 only what is essential.”

~ Greg McKeown

This concept and explanation are perfectly-timed. I am doing way too many okay/good/unnecessary/negative/unhelpful/ineffective things, and not giving my meaningful work – the awesome, “hell yeah”, necessary, immensely impactful, and effective activities – a chance to breathe, thrive, and fly.

I don’t want to die by a thousand cuts (a thousand mediocre tasks), but die during a helluva ride (something worth sacrificing your life for) lol!

What are some examples of these unessential tasks in my life?

Emails continue to be an anchor that prevent my ship from sailing. It’s one of those creepers that seem small and harmless – one email that takes only 30 seconds to respond here, one email that takes 60 seconds to read there, etc. – that can suck me in and kill the rest of my day.

I aspire for an empty inbox – which isn’t a bad thing itself – but most of my means to get there are unhealthy.

Not doing the most important task first will consume the rest of my day, and make me reactive, angry, and prone to mistakes and/or poor judgment. It sucks that my passions and my loved ones suffer when this happens.

Not delegating to my team will not allow them to grow their skills and not allow me an open road to take off.

So…how do I set up a good system?

Modify the calendar so that I only can do ONE THING a day (with the exception of my Daily Routine, creativity sessions, and direct revenue-producing activities). Resist the temptation of doing a 2-3 items…and put them in the Momentum Chrome Extension for later if I’m truly done with that one most important task.

Go through my Trello list of tasks and ask myself:
* Does this generate substantial revenue or meaningful results?
* How can I handle this task to where it never bothers me again? I.e. Decline responsibility, make a call, do it right the first time
* Do I need to handle this now or this week?
* Am I the only one who can handle this? Can I delegate or automate this at all?
* What would happen if I didn’t do it?

Reorganize Trello to where it’s easy to reference for anyone. Utilize labels, colors, checklists, attachments, etc.

How do I execute my system consistently?

Every day, start with the Daily Ritual, the calendar, and the Momentum extension. I’ve spent the beginning of the week planning my activities – now I just need to trust the system and execute it with focus. Email is NOT your task management system.

Spend the first part of my day being creative. My version of art is:
* Creating a prospecting plan for Fransmart, SHAFT, and Pareto.
* Brainstorming ideas with someone (my wife, Dean, coach, investors)
* Looking for retail real estate.
* Finding a way to help someone – with my experience or not.
* Experimenting with ideas I’ve read or heard about.
* Building/Writing a newsletter to investors/customers
* Creating a new system/procedure to make life easier.

When checking emails (ONLY once or twice a day) ask myself:
* Does this generate revenue or meaningful results?
* How can I handle this message to where it never bothers me again? I.e. Creating a filter, unsubscribe, decline responsibility, make a call
* Do I need to respond to this now?
* If yes, how can I respond to it so that there is no back and forth on it again? I.e. Be complete in answer, point in other directions, make a call
* Can I delegate or automate this at all?
* What would happen if I didn’t handle it?

Afterward, just focus on executing the ONE most important thing that will help me feel successful for the day, if I do nothing else; something that will render the rest of my tasks either irrelevant, unimportant, or easier to do.

Play the rest of the day. Be present. Spend time with your loved ones. Do nothing.

Devotional: Ability versus availability

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:10-11)

Because of my naturally selfish nature, I like to show off my abilities, talents, experience, and knowledge – but the above text reminds me that doing so is wrong.

It’s worldly – society wants me to believe that bragging is the best or only way to “get ahead.” It’s possible idolatry – I’m risking placing these values over God. And it’s inhibiting – by being smart and skilled, I risk feeling like I don’t need God’s help.

This also reminds me that busyness is a faith-killer. I’m busy because I’m ABLE to do a lot of things, and while I can do them, it doesn’t mean that I should. I should focus more on being AVAILABLE for Him – saying “no” to the ineffective/mediocre/unhelpful/negative tasks that He didn’t call me to do, so that I can make room to say “yes” to His inspirations; so that I can be present and enjoy His glory; and so that I can focus on loving my brothers and sisters in Christ.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chron. 16:9a)

Lord – I want Your strength – the kind that lasts, and that that allows me to scale mountains and seas. Help me increase my commitment to You so that I am 110% living according to Your will.

When meaningful change can truly take place

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change” – Carl R. Rogers

When I’m trying to enact growth or recompose myself i.e. losing body fat, gaining muscle, building a new company, changing my practices, reorganizing my priorities, etc. – I need to:

Stop beating myself up about why I keep failing to change. I fail because I am human and make mistakes – I am not God and shouldn’t expect results as if I am my Father. I fail because I have limited knowledge – which is to be expected, like a baby will falter 100% of the time when learning how to walk. I fail because sometimes, it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.
Stop being impatient. I am causing undue stress on the process. Sometimes there are not shortcuts. I need to enjoy the journey and not just focus on the destination.

Understand that frustration is a matter of expectation. Yes – make well-thought out goals and take realistic steps toward change, but understand that sometimes your goals won’t be achieved; that sometimes, God has an even better plan for you than your limited knowledge wants. Most of your life’s greatest moments are unplanned – I guarantee it. 

So if the future is uncontrollable to a certain degree, and there is an unknown that you can never predict…why not focus on what you can control? 

Learn to really accept yourself as you are – warts and all. Be present in your circumstances – be they good or bad. And remind yourself that you are enough. 
I am far from perfect in doing these things (do as I say, not as I do lol!), but I can tell you that I can go much further when my gas tank is full =)

Love yourself.