Have you ever felt both overworked, frustrated and underutilised?

Have you ever felt both overworked, frustrated and underutilised?

Have you ever found yourself majoring in minor activities?

Do you ever feel busy but not productive?

Like you’re always in motion, but never getting anywhere?

Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?
If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist.


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


Peter Drucker who is quoted: “In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”


This book offers ideas on how to manage yourself and what is essential to you.

 What is causing the problem?

By abolishing any chance of being bored we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process. Here’s another paradox for you: the faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus

We have lost our ability to filter what is important and what isn’t. Psychologists call this “decision fatigue”: the more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates

Technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.

  How many Top priorities do you have?

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralise the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things. People and companies routinely try to do just that. One leader told me of his experience in a company that talked of “Pri-1, Pri-2, Pri-3, Pri-4, and Pri-5.” This gave the impression of many things being the priority but actually meant nothing was.



Mckeown makes the argument that “anyone who wears glasses knows there is a big difference between pretty clear and really clear! The same seems true with individuals’ professional strategy. When he asks people, “What do you really want out of your career over the next five years?” he was taken aback by how few people can answer the question

It’s all about the small things

More recently, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer gathered anonymous diary entries from hundreds of people and covering thousands of workdays, concluded that “everyday progress – even a small win” can make all the difference in how people feel and perform.

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work,”


Why getting it Right can help you and your Business

 Non-Essentialist   Essentialist

MIND-SET Everything to everyone Versus  Less but better

TALENT Hires people frantically and creates a “Bozo explosion. (If you hire one clueless manager, you’re dead; that person will hire more bozos, and they’ll hire more) Versus” Ridiculously selective on talent and removes people who hold the team back.

STRATEGY Pursues a straddled strategy where everything is a priority. Versus Defines an essential intent by answering the question, “If we could only do one thing, what would it be?” Eliminates the non-essential distractions.

EMPOWERMENT Allows ambiguity over who is doing what. Decisions are capricious. Versus Focuses on each team member’s highest role and goal of contribution.

COMMUNICATION Talks in code. Versus Listens to get to what is essential.

ACCOUNTABILITY Checks in too much or is so busy he or she checks out altogether. Sometimes does both: disrupting the focus of the group and then being absent to the group. Versus Checks in with people in a gentle way to see how he or she can remove obstacles and enable small wins.

RESULT A fractured team that makes a millimetre of progress in a million directions Versus A unified team that breaks through to the next level of contribution


Some Fixes to consider

The Unimportance of Practically Everything

Most of what exists in the universe – our actions, and all other forces, resources, and ideas – has little value and yields little result; on the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact —Richard Koch


In his Quality-Control Handbook, Joseph Moses Juran, one of the fathers of the quality movement, expanded on this idea and called it “the Law of the Vital Few.” His observation was that you could massively improve the quality of a product by resolving a tiny fraction of the problems. He found a willing test audience for this idea in Japan, which at the time had developed a rather poor reputation for producing low-cost, low-quality goods. By adopting a process in which a high percentage of effort and attention was channelled towards improving just those few things that were truly vital, he made the phrase “made in Japan” take on a totally new meaning. And gradually, the quality revolution led to Japan’s rise as a global economic power


  • One of the techniques he talks about is finding your weakest link—maybe an activity that is your greatest time-suck or the one that hurts your efficiency the most—and focusing on fixing that. You don’t try to fix everything but fix the one thing that is bogging you down. It’s about getting your perspective and focus rather than rushing to do (and improve) everything.

The 90 Per Cent Rule

It’s one you can apply to just about every decision or dilemma. As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 per cent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it. This way you avoid getting caught up in indecision, or worse, getting stuck with the 60s or 70s. Think about how you’d feel if you scored a 65 on some test. Why would you deliberately choose to feel that way about an important choice in your life?

  • Other good techniques mentioned are learning how to develop and stick to routines (it reduces the cognitive load—always a good thing), and learning how to live a simpler, truer life (e.g., buying less stuff, spending time with loved ones).

Oh and get a good nights sleep!


Non-Essentialist KNOWS                                                          Essentialist THINKS

One hour less of sleep equals one more hour of productivity. One hour more of sleep equals several more hours of much higher productivity.

Sleep is for failures.                                                                Sleep is for high performers.

Sleep is a luxury.                                                                      Sleep is a priority.

Sleep breeds laziness.                                                             Sleep breeds creativity.

Sleep gets in the way of “doing it all.”                                 Sleep enables the highest levels of mental contribution.

McKeown’s Essentialism doesn’t offer any magic-bullet answers to someone already on board with its core concepts — less is more, quality over quantity, focus on only those things that further your passions — but it does reinforce and encourage those concepts and speaks frankly to the fact that making such choices isn’t easy or “normal” in this world.

And we like it because, not that it is necessarily ‘new thinking’ but that  he asks all the right questions

  • What if the whole world shifted from the undisciplined pursuit of more to the disciplined pursuit of less … only better?
  • What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?
  • What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance?
  • What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?
  • What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think?
  • What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like?
  • What if businesses eliminated meaningless meetings and replaced them with space for people to think and work on their most important projects?
  • What if employees pushed back against time-wasting e-mail chains, purposeless projects, and unproductive meetings so they could be utilised at their highest level of contribution to their companies and in their careers?
  • What if schools eliminated busywork and replaced it with important projects that made a difference to the whole community?
  • What if all students had time to think about their highest contribution to their future so that when they left secondary school they were not just starting on the race to nowhere?


The Business Troubleshooters
In our experience, the owners of progressive, ambitious companies can become angry and frustrated from time to time, with distractions caused by the people, or the processes in their business. Symptoms of these can be poor cash-flow, slow sales, HR issues and other paralysing distractions.
We identify the real cause of the problem and fix it for good so you, the business owner, can focus more of your time and energy on growing your business.
We are not consultants, advisers confidantes, or coaches. We are fixers.
If there was one thing you could do right now that would have the single greatest impact for good for your business what would that be?
Contact Us: – Office: 059 910-0440, Fergus:086 087 0989, Alan: 086 2588847


Fergus Doyle

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