To Succeed, Choose What Is Essential

I was commiserating recently with a colleague about busyness. We each expressed how we had agreed to do things that have filled our schedules. I asked rhetorically, “Why do we do these things?” She didn’t hesitate to answer.

Her response, “We get ourselves into these things because of passion, energy, and a need to ‘do it right.’” She also said the activities probably filled a need to be needed. Ironically, another friend had recently come to the realization that she almost always said yes when asked to serve on a committee or take on an assignment, in large part, because she liked feeling needed. Once she realized that, she also realized she could say no.

I admit that one of the challenging areas in my life requires much attention, but it also is an area for which I am really passionate so I didn’t feel comfortable saying no to the request.

Fortunately, I was reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown when I was asked to step into the role. The wisdom from the book helped me to set parameters, and I know there is an end in sight. That is important because time spent on this project is taking away from time I’d like to devote to writing.

McKeown asks his readers whether they have ever found themselves majoring in minor activities. His point is that through Essentialism we learn how to get the right things done. If we aren’t the ones prioritizing our life, someone else will. I’ve become much more adept at saying no. It’s a powerful word.

I’ve shared how I’ve scaled back on movie nights and even stopped playing volleyball, something I have enjoyed for decades. Volleyball is a huge time commitment. I have to drive to the club, play for two hours and then drive home. If we aren’t playing particularly well, I don’t even get a good workout. I realized I could take those three hours and use two of them for writing and one for the gym. I set my priorities.

Following McKeown’s book, I made an individual choice on how to spend my energy and time. The choice, though, also involved the “reality of trade-offs.” In other words, I couldn’t have it all or do it all. The result was no volleyball.

McKeown writes, “Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do.”

What changed for me was more time for writing. I’m about to finish writing the first draft of a book. That’s a huge win for me. I’m not even focused on the rewriting, editing or pitching of it. I simply want to get the first draft finished.

I chose to focus on writing, and soon I’ll have a manuscript.

That was essential to me.


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