Essentialism: A Book Review - The Content Experiment

Essentialism: A Book Review

Jodi Brandon of Jodi Brandon Editorial and I both read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown recently and did a little book review trade. She posted my review on her website and her book review is here for your reading pleasure.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Whether you’re a business owner or not, you’re sure to get a lot out of it!

Do you consider yourself an essentialist? How so?

I would say I am a work in progress. I love the author’s quote that “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the things done.” As I’ve grown as a person, both as a business owner and as an adult, I’ve learned that this is true. There will always be a million things to do, but we need to decide which of those things truly matter and will serve the goals and priorities we have set for ourselves, and focus on them. The idea of “less but better” appeals to me.

It’s all about choices and priorities. No one can do it all. The example of Southwest Airlines was a great one. The airline chose, deliberately, to not offer meals and to not fly everywhere. These choices allow the company to keep costs down. Some people don’t like the way Southwest operates; some do. But the company is comfortable in its own skin because it made deliberate choices to achieve its goal.

That said, it’s easy to have “squirrel syndrome” and want to jump on the latest business craze or hobby that friends are taking up. My phrase of the year for 2017 is ready intention. I’m trying to be super-intentional about everything I take on. (So far, so good.)

What makes something essential in your life right now?

It’s a strange time for me at the moment because my mom has cancer with a poor prognosis. So right now, I’m thanking my lucky stars every day that I have a great team in place in my business and good systems that allow me to step out, to a large degree, from some of the tasks that aren’t client-related and spend as much time as I want with my family. The gratitude I feel about being able to do that is immeasurable. A year from now, or five years from now, I know that it won’t matter if I skipped a week sending out my newsletter. I know that I will not regret taking this time to spend with my mom.

What insignificant things are you attempting in the name of “efficiency” that are undermining your focus?

Not many, I’m happy to report. A friend recently told me that she had done a “tools audit” in her business to prune expenses, see where her money was going, what tools she was using/loving, etc. What an a-ha moment! There are so many business tools out there meant to assist entrepreneurs and business owners and help us be more efficient, but before you know it, you’re spending hundreds of dollars monthly and not making the best use of what you have at your disposal.

Whose opinion motivates you, consciously or unconsciously?

I am internally motivated. I push myself hard because I know that I am capable of reaching my goals if I put in the work. I also do better when I have external motivation from, say, my business coach or accountability partner. I don’t want to have to report back that I slacked off on something!

Do you agree that in order to make trade-offs wisely, we have to take lots of time for exploration and reflection before we commit? How do you process when making decisions (e.g., lean toward over-thinking or lean toward quick action)?

The older I get, the quicker I am to trust my gut. I used to over-think things but I found that I almost always ended up right where I started, with my initial reaction to whatever the situation, question, etc. I think this has to do with self-confidence and being comfortable in your own skin. A pro-con list never hurt anyone, but over-thinking causes more stress than need be!

I loved this quote from the book and think it applies here: “Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyperfocusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture.”

Do you find it difficult to say no to things?

The older I get, the easier it gets to say no. I know that being stretched too thin isn’t good for me (mentally or physically). And as you get older and see more of life, you realize what truly matters. During difficult seasons, it’s so easy to prioritize correctly. My best friend always says: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. This is a great way to look at it. With the limited time we all have these days, I want to spend my time doing things I love and look forward to, not doing things out of a sense of obligation.

The author talks about saying no gracefully, and that’s something that’s really helped me be better about saying no. I am able to separate the person and the relationship I have with them from the question/favor. Maybe I don’t have time to volunteer on your committee right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about your friendship or even about this cause. I used to struggle with this a lot, because my parents are active in their community, and at church, and community service is something my siblings and I were taught as a core value in our family. Volunteering is something that still plays a large part in my life, but I’m selective about where and to whom I donate my time.

Business-wise, this applies to joint ventures. Sometimes an opportunity arises that really only serves one person. Saying no doesn’t mean that I don’t value my relationship with the person (or her business); it just means the opportunity isn’t right for me.

About Jodi

Jodi Brandon has more than 20 years’ experience in book publishing. After many years working in traditional publishing, Jodi and her husband relocated from New York to Philadelphia and she launched her freelance editing business. Jodi’s passion these days is working as a book editor and writing/publishing coach for creative entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who want to level up their business with a book.

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