Essentialism, a philosophy and way of life conceived by Greg McKeown, has become a seminal approach to my work. I gave it some space during my summer newsletter and it seemed to strike a chord with several people who wrote back to me.  So I thought I would spend some time this week expanding on the idea, and offering a longer worksheet that tackles some more questions an Essentialist might ask.

Fortunately, Essentialism is not just a book or an ivory-tower theory. It is a tangible process to be applied, assessed, adapted and re-applied. Essentialism demands that we look at our life critically, and make careful decisions about where we put our energy. How we choose to spend our time and expend our energy is an expression of ourselves in the world. To begin the practice, we need to start with an inquiring mind.

Here is a quick worksheet to begin asking yourself some more Essentialist questions:

When you look at the things you spend time on in life regularly, does anything give you a gut reaction similar to:

___ “oh, that’s causing me a lot of hassle.”
___ “gosh, I wish I could spend more time on that.”
___ “if only I could finish that project up …”
___ “why did I start on that?”
___ “huh, that doesn’t quite fit.”

* If so, write down those project names.

– What was your original motivation or need for that task that seems out of place?
* Does that motivation still apply?
* Is completing that task actually moving you closer to the vision you have for your life?

– What would happen if you just didn’t complete the task that seems to be causing you the most hassle or consuming large chunks of your time?
* Would another action achieve the same results with less energy?

– What would it look like to drastically reduce your work on that same project, but give it just enough energy to keep it going “just-in-case?”

– For a project that you wish you could spend more time on, how much more time would it need?
* Are there aspects of that project that could be decreased to give more energy to more critical elements of the project?
* Are you reminding/inspiring yourself regular to build momentum on that project?

– What’s the most important thing you need to do right now?
* What would happen if you asked that question of yourself every 90 minutes?

– Given your answers to the earlier questions, what stands out as the most important thing you could put your attention towards today?
* What’s the turnkey solution that you think resolves the challenges you discovered during this analysis?

– What do you want to be able to say about this decision one month from now?

– Have you designed the vision for your next stage in life?
* If so, is how you’re spending your energy moving you closer to realizing that vision?
* If you haven’t designed that vision, is it time to think about it?