Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Essentialism: A Book Review

I mentioned in my last post that there were a few books that were catalysts in helping me make some changes.  The next couple posts will be about those books.

The first book I read that made me stop and consider the way I had been living my life was Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.  In this book, Greg writes about the idea that there are essential and non essential things in our lives.  He advises that we cut out all the non essential things and only focus on the essential.

He cites a lot of examples of the difference between the two and how to determine what is essential and what isn't, but the more I think about it, the more I have realized that deciding what is essential is a personal thing.  For example, I don't really like watching tv or movies.  I especially don't like going to watch a movie at a theatre.  I feel like there is something more productive I could be doing in the two hours it takes to watch a movie.  For my husband, Jake, watching a movie allows his mind to get away from work and he's able to relax.  So, while I think it's a waste of time, watching a movie has value to Jake and it is essential that he takes time relax and not always be in work mode!  But here's the real thought:  Although ordinarily movies fall in the non essential category of my life, there are times when I agree to watch a movie with Jake because spending time with him and doing something he enjoys, is essential.   

Greg also writes about doing less, but doing it better and the importance of sleep.  Both ideas really hit home for me.  I am definitely one of those people that loves to check off a really long to-do list, but if all the things I'm checking off aren't essential, then I'm actually on the losing side.  It's a struggle to keep it all in perspective, but when I spend a day on just a few really important things, I feel more accomplished about the day than checking off a whole list of meaningless tasks.  And sleep!  I can't function if I haven't had enough sleep.  Like, I can't even pretend to function.

Another thing about Greg's idea of Essentialism, a person needs a really clear image of what is important to them before embarking on the essentialist journey.  I mentioned in my previous post that I was trying to cut out some hobbies to make my to-do list and my life less cluttered, but I couldn't do it.  I enjoy those things too much to just decide to cut them out.  If I had, instead of taking the time to have a conversation with myself, just sold all of my quilting supplies, sewing machine, and fabric and said, "Quilting isn't essential.  I'm not doing it any more", I would have been really, really sad in a week when I got the urge to sew.

My absolute favorite take away from Greg's book is the acronym WIN.  It stands for "What's Important Now" and it is meant to make me think about what is the absolute important thing for me to be doing right now and do that thing.  By focusing what is the most important thing in the moment, I will always be doing the most important thing.  Should I feed my daughter lunch or clean the house?  Should I clean the house or sit down and read?  Should I read or play games on my phone?  What is essential changes throughout the day.  Laundry and dishes are important to get done, but can't I read Berlin a couple of books and do the chores when she's playing by herself?  Of course!  Chores need to be done, but they can wait when there are more important things to do.

I disagreed with a few things Greg wrote, but all in all I really enjoyed the book and I got a lot out of it.  If your schedule or to-do lists stress you out, you should make some room to read (or listen! I listened to the audiobook) this book.

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