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4 Steps to Being an Essentialist – Learn to Say No

A few days ago a friend of mine shared an article with me all about being busy. At first I thought, “I’m too busy to read this article, is there a 30 second video?” But, I was fresh off a lengthy conversation with him about being pulled in too many directions and the inability to simply say, “no”, so I read the article.

And, every word rang true.

Like you, I’m balancing too many balls in the air and hoping that I drop not one. While I will admit I haven’t actually implemented anything in that article I read regarding being pulled in too many directions, being too busy and simply saying no – I am a lot more aware of it and I would like to think that leads to change.

Turns out I’m not alone. According to Harvard Business Review this is called the More Bubble. The More Bubble is just what it sounds like – how much more can you pack into your life until it burts? For many of us, stuffing ourselves full is about bragging and not so much about busy.

We are more aware than at any time in history of what everyone else is doing and, therefore, what we “should” be doing. In the process, we have been sold a bill of goods: that success means being supermen and superwomen who can get it all done. Of course, we back-door-brag about being busy: it’s code for being successful and important.

Whatever will save our poor souls? Essentialists, that’s who. It’s hard to spot them in the wild – but, they can be seen enjoying another person’s company sans smartphone. Instead of scheduling a meeting, they schedule “blocked off” and get essential work done.

How do you become an essentialist you ask? Here are 4 steps (according to Harvard):

1. Quarterly Strategic Offsite Meetings:
When’s the last time someone walked into your office and said, “you got a minute?” and you said, “no”. I’m guessing somewhere between never and no way. You need to take your team and get out of Dodge and plan. If you want to be Harvard about it – you will take 3 hours every 3 months and write down 3 things you will accomplish in the next 3 months.
2. Sleep:
That’s all. Just sleep. When’s the last time you were in a meeting, rubbed your eyes, yawned and then looked around the room asking for someone to get you some Starbucks because Good Lord you only got 4 hours of sleep last night working on that project? That’s called a humblebrag and it makes you go bald. Stop doing it.
3. Not every event is “your” eventim-too-busy:
Traditions are in place for a reason, no one is arguing with that. However, if you go to a fun event and had a great time no one is looking to make it a monthly reoccurring thing. Smile, thank your host and go home to get that sleep you so desperately need (see above).
4. Say No to a good opportunity:
I’m not one to argue (bahahaha, sure I am) but this is a tough one to swallow. We have to learn to say no, simple as that. Maybe, you’re saying no to the lazy coworker who wants you to pick up her slack. Possibly, you’re saying no to your kids who want a reward for no hard work. Potentially, you’re saying no to the opportunity to play golf with the execs on the Saturday your kid has a big game. Pick your battles, but learn to say no.

Because after all, today when I was replying to a PTA mom’s email regarding a fundraiser I am chairing I caught myself adding, “we need to grab coffee while the boys have a play date.” To which she replied, “ The earliest I have open is the morning of Dec. 13th, how does that work?”

Maybe I should send her the article.