It's smart to say 'no'

You don’t need to be so busy, argue the advocates of essentialism in business

It's smart to say 'no'
You don’t need to be so busy, argue the advocates of essentialism in business

Leading professionals work ferociously hard but Greg McKeown, writing in the Harvard Business Review, argues we shouldn’t be impressed. He’s taking on the triumvirate of smart phones, social media and consumerism with his manifesto of ‘essentialism’ – achieving more by doing less. MBN has boiled down the main points:

Essential # 1: leave the office (occasionally)

Start by scheduling regular offsite meetings. You need to rise above the day-to-day, the trivial, and the cascade of email traffic to genuinely think about future strategy. Many companies already do this, McKeown points out. He advocates the ‘rule of three’: every three months take three hours to think about topics that really matter.

Essential # 2: sleep well

Technically speaking, you can’t actually sleep when you’re dead. You may well have heard of the ’10,000 hours’ rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, which indicates the number of hours of practice distinguishing the good from the great. It just so happens that hours of sleep is the second most highly correlated factor separating the ordinary from the extraordinary, so it’s time to take it seriously.

Essential #3: set an expiration date

When you take up new activities, you also need to set a time to drop them, argues McKeown. Whilst tradition plays an important role in relationships and memories, you can only have so many. You need to be prepared to enjoy successful events and move on, not let future incarnations clog up your diary.

Essential  #4: Turn down a good opportunity every week

This certainly goes against the Hollywood school of life success, but McKeown insists that essentialism should leave you empowered – to say ‘no’. The problem with offers, however generous, is that it takes away your power to decide what is best for you; rather, it presents you with a take-it or leave-it situation. If your time really matters to you, that choice isn’t wide enough.

You can read the original HBR article here. Are you an essentialist? Or do you think McKeown’s advice is too naïve for those in a competitive industry? Please add your thoughts in the comments box below.