Essentialism – Less But Better in a Time of More

After a pandemic that slowed time down for over a year, the world is cranking back into high gear. Masks are coming off, travel is back on and social calendars are filling fast. At TeamStrength member companies, businesses are in growth mode, a welcome focus, and facing resource challenges. In the midst of this chaos, it’s time to return to Essentialism. I reread Greg McKeown’s book last month, and it was a perfect time for this refresher.

The goal of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It’s not a time management strategy, it is actively selecting how you invest your time with discipline and discernment.  We’ve returned to a world with so many choices – and many of them are good or even very good.  The best investment of your time and energy is narrowing the options to only those that are essential.

Trade-off is a reality. Resist the false belief that you can take on more without giving something up. Work to only add the essential and trade-off the nonessential as a planned swap.  If you don’t, something will give, so be deliberate.

Personally, start with your health habits. Sleep is the most critical, but activity and healthy eating are right up there.  Whether you adopted a healthier lifestyle during the pandemic or gained a few because of the disruption to your routine, now is the time to set and maintain a commitment to consistently doing the things that keep your energy and performance as high as possible.

As your family members all have more options, work to maintain the levels of closeness achieved during the pandemic. When asked about the positives that came out of such a challenging time, members consistently spoke about how much they enjoyed the time within their family groups.  Now that we can widen our interactions, keep a priority on those who matter most.

As leaders, practice essentialism by keeping your team focused on the WIN – What’s Important Now.  Your role is to sift through the storm of opportunity and challenge in front of you and strategically select the most critical area of focus for the team. Use extreme selection criteria, if it’s not a clear yes, it’s a no. The narrower the focus, the more you can move objectives forward.

Now is a great time to remove obstacles by finding your ‘Herbies’. Herbie was the slowest hiker in the scout troop in The Goal threatening their ability to get to the camp site, so they put Herbie at the front. Then as a group they worked to improve Herbie’s speed by removing items from his pack and distributing among the other, faster hikers, sharing encouragement and water.  The overall speed improved so they could reach their destination.  In your organization, find your Herbies, the barriers to throughput, and devote resources to removing or improving them.

To motivate the team when demands are high and resources are low, celebrate small wins. Research shows that of all motivation strategies, the most effective is progress.  Start small and give the team clear, attainable goals. Celebrate progress and watch the momentum build along with the morale.

After a year of imposed limitations, we are back to a full spectrum of options. Choose yours with care. Maintain a very short list of essentials.  Prioritize health and family. Help your team with clarity on what’s important now, removing obstacles and celebrating progress. Remember the fine art of saying no to the non-essential and fully engage in your most meaningful endeavors.