Like many people doing important  work, there are many demands for our time and attention. Sometimes it is  almost paralysing and one can’t get anything meaningful done for  serving the needs of others. I am yet to see a role advertised that says  ‘help everyone else achieve their goals’

Essentialism by Greg McKeown sets out  practical advice and techniques for spending time on the things that  are important to you, and it goes way beyond just saying no and removing  things from your life. McKeown asserts that routine, and creating  buffers in our scheduled commitments to remove the frantic stresses of  trying to do too much and then feeling like you aren’t doing anything  well can help solve the problem.

There is also a powerful message in  this book about sleep and the effects of deprivation and also about the  importance of being in the present moment. I resonated with both these  points as many of us often stay up late to try and get ahead for the  next day, missing the important play time with our children as we have  to get something finished by a deadline and we see no other way to  achieve it except dropping the most important things to us.

As I read this book I couldn’t help  but think of a few people who seem to have mastered this art to great  effect, understand saying no in the right way and focussing on doing a  few things really well. Personally I took as much from this book about  my personal life as in my professional life, we all have much greater  control over the external influences in this segment of our lives.

Play features heavily in this book  and its importance for increasing activity in our hippocampus – the part  responsible for our cognitive function. In the tech industry it’s clear  to see why all the startups on the digital scene focus on play, with  pool tables, games, and regular team activities. Google is the first one  I can recall that really got this and created the most fun environment  possible for their employees, all in the vain of increasing the right  kind of brain activity.

Essentialism is about removing waste  from our lives, but sometimes doing less can be harder that doing more.  My favourite quote from the book was “I must apologise: if I had more  time I would have written a shorter letter.” We have all written that  really long email, that got an even longer reply and an even wider  distribution list, when what we could have done is picked up the phone  or scheduled a call to discuss further.

This book is definitely one I would  recommend for the highly stressed person who just has so much to do and  they just don’t know how to say no and find it difficult to know what to  do as there is so much to do. Or for a person who really wants to focus  on important things to them but can’t work out how to make it happen. I  don’t think this book has any kind of silver bullet though, even the  author recognises how difficult this can be and has taken a while to  master the discipline himself.

Overall it was an easy read, and I learned a few good points from this book.

Rating 6/10