Less is More: How to Become an Essentialist

January 25, 2018

Imagine if we had more than 24 hours in a day. What would we do with our spare time? Would we cram in more work, more errands and more chores? Or would we actually make time for things that matter most – like spending time with family and friends, going for a hike, cooking a healthy meal and so on?  We all want to believe that we would choose the latter, but in today's society, especially in America, it’s easy to overlook our well-being and say "yes" to one too many things.

less is more

Truth be told, most of us are exhausted from trying to do it all, and even our happiest pursuits carry their share of stress due to how scheduled we are. But what if instead of trying to become a multitasking superhero, we committed more time to life’s essentials? What if we could spend more time doing things we want to do and less time on those we feel we should do?

These questions struck a deep chord with many of us at Everviolet, so we decided to take on the challenge of evaluating our to-do lists – asking ourselves if we're investing time in the right tasks and committing to only those necessary for happiness. Along this journey, we came across Essentialist expert Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. He writes "there are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in. And although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital. The way of the Essentialist involves learning to tell the difference—learning to filter through all those options and selecting only those that are truly essential."1

Essentialism is the ability to discern external noise from our internal voice. It's not about creating a list or learning how to better manage our time – it’s about adjusting our thinking and becoming aware of what truly benefits us.2 It’s about stripping away all of the outside clutter and focusing our precious moments on what's truly necessary.

Towards the end of our lives, we often hear a few common regrets. One, is that people wished they had lived life more for themselves, not in efforts to please others. Two, is that they wished they had spent more time with their family and friends, less time working. In other words, unfortunately, during the years in which we have the most vitality and freedom to create our experiences, we often forget how best to prioritize our time. Of course, we all have financial pressures, family responsibilities and professional milestones to meet, but even in our down time, why is it so difficult to focus on what matters most? According to McKeown, it’s about setting personal boundaries, and feeling both empowered and worthy of giving ourselves the pleasure of joyfulness. "Boundaries are a little like the walls of a sandcastle. The second we let one fall over, the rest of them come crashing down. Essentialists, on the other hand, see boundaries as empowering."3

Here’s an exercise we love: Take out two pieces of paper. On one sheet, we write down five things that consume most of our time. On the other sheet, we write five of our favorite things to do. Then compare. Are they equal? Most likely there’s a discrepancy. If we use these lists as a tool, and earnestly attempt to sync up our time consumption with our joys, we can then create healthy boundaries for an overall improved quality of life.

Ultimately, Essentialism is about prioritization and being conscious. Only when we mindfully acknowledge what is the most important in our lives can we make better choices around how we enjoy it. It’s up to us to make the change. #beautyofchange

"Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.” Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less