How Essentialism Applies to Your Business

“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” – Jerzy Gregorek


Making tough decisions allows you to pursue what matters. Trying to do everything or always taking the path of least resistance leads to disarray. Jerzy (champion powerlifter, author, political refugee, and poet) may not consider himself an adherent of Essentialism but he has incorporated its central ideas into his personal philosophy. Essentialism is a mental model that acts as a filter help us make better decisions. Business leadership is about making good decisions and staying focused. Essentialism is an ideal tool to have.


Many of you have already read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. For those who haven’t I would add it to your to-read pile. Essentialism is easily approachable at less than 250 pages. I will describe the central ideas here but won’t summarize the book. The ideas are what we can incorporate into our role as business owners and leaders.


The book has four sections that describe how to pursue the essential.

  1. Essence: What is the core mind-set of the Essentialist?
  2. Explore: How can we discern the trivial many from the vital few?
  3. Eliminate: How can we cut out the trivial many?
  4. Execute: How can we make doing the vital few things more effortless?


Essence – What is the tradeoff I want to make? What do I want to go big on? The Essentialist understands that tradeoffs are part of life and cannot be avoided. Making intentional decisions about what to pursue and what to exclude allows you to focus on the few things that actually matter.


Explore – To focus on the essential, we need to create space. Space is both time and a physical location to plan, think, and execute. Time to focus on what to pursue increases your selectivity and leads to more focused work. A virtuous circle is created: as we focus we become more focused, leading to more time to focus.


Eliminate – Would I build this specific process again if I were starting from scratch today? Maintaining an area of business investment due to inertia happens to us all. The Essentialist evaluates and if they determine that they would build this particular thing the same way again, they must determine how to make a change. Elimination creates focus and accountability.


Execute – Routines create behavior patterns that help implement our intentional designs. Stop opening email or social media first thing. Focus on what matters during your most productive hours. Filter new ideas through the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. Your schedule should be custom to you and your flow to allow you focus.


Time is precious and finite. Your time as a business owner is precious. Your focus as a business owner is finite. Your time and how you use it make the difference for your business. Essentialism can help you think about your time and your intention. Happy reading and thinking!



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