Essentialism

Author Charles Yeung    Translated by Soula Lo

Recently, I have read our company’s Newsletter The Glorious Sun (《旭日之聲》) that introduced a book called Essentialism. I consider it to be very helpful to employees in all enterprises; thus, I have summarized some key points to share with everyone here:

What is Essentialism? Why do we need to learn Essentialism?

Essentialism is something to remind and teach people to focus on essential tasks. If you can learn how to prioritize and truly practice to prioritize these essentials, then you can be successful in your career and your life.

However, after one gains success, it usually brings too many choices and opportunities, which cause people to gradually forget the essential tasks. Due to being unable to persist in Essentialism after success, then success gradually leans towards failure. There is an old saying, “Failure is the mother of success.” In the same token, “Success is also the mother of failure.” 

What is Essentialism?

The central idea of Essentialism: only use time and energy on the most valuable, most important, and most meaningful matters.

Essentialists think: the less you do the better effect you will achieve.

Essentialism only cares about the most important ten big goals. If we cannot achieve ten goals, then we can only set the most important five big goals, the rest of them are not important. Of course, here we need to separate the five goals for career and the five goals for life, because the goals for career and life usually have many discrepancies, and even have some contradictions. 

The steps to carry out Essentialism:

1. Explore

(1) Dissociation: spare some time to explore and think.

(2) Examine: focus on what really matters.

(3) Select: don’t choose too many goals. 

2. Exclude

(1) Clarify: choose the most efficient tasks.

       a. Emphasize the essence, not the formality.

       b. Only specific goals have the power to inspire people.

(2) Courage: cultivate the ability to say “no” and learn the skill to say “no.”

(3) Give up: stopping loss is the best winning.

 

3. Set up the goals

There shouldn’t be too many goals, otherwise they will be too hard to achieve. Set the achievable goals for each month and each year. Each year should only have eight to ten goals maximum, sometimes even as few as three to five goals. 

4. Execute

(1) Set up detailed rules.

(2) Make a complete preparation: consider the worst possibilities.

(3) Add 20% extra time beyond than the scheduled time.

(4) Clear the obstacles.

  a. Clarify the center goals.

  b. Lockout the obstacles.

  c. Clear the obstacles. 

5. Focus

 (1) Think clearly about what are the most important matters at the moment.

 (2) Make a to-do list for each day, each week, and prioritize them.

 (3) Focus on the present, exclude anything that is for the future or anything not on the list.

 

What is the challenge for the view of essentialism vs. wisdom of traditional success?

Success means one needs to be better than others and able to deal with everything. If one wants to be successful, there are two factors: diligence and hard work. But traditional society believes that being diligent and busy are the only means to be successful. As a result, we require ourselves and employees to stay busy. Essentialism is trying to break this shallow idea of measuring success with busyness.

What do the existing successful companies have in common that is contrary to Essentialism?

There are many successful big companies that hire elite employees who are capable of multiple tasks. But the risk to letting employees bear multiple tasks is that they can only be improved a little bit in numerous directions. Some people believe that this is fast progress, but in fact, it is only a busy syndrome, not Consequentialism.  Therefore, enterprises should change their standard measurements from quantity and busyness to efficiency and effectiveness. 

Who are the celebrities that practice Essentialism?

For example, Indian holy man Gandhi was an essentialist. His ability to focus on essential tasks and to exclude the non-essential task was the key to his success.

And what are the biggest obstacles for successful personnel and team groups to learn Essentialism?

It is success and stubbornness. Because success is easy to produce stubbornness, persons and groups cannot hear new opinions, cannot see good methods anymore. Deafness and blindness become their biggest obstacles.

Essentialism seeks to:

(1) Train people to become essentialists.

(2) Create essential leaders.

(3) Cultivate a team of essentialists.

  a. Demand a high standard for selecting talented personnel.

  b. Never stop arguing until you set up specific goals.

  c. Empower full authority.

  d. Establish plans, execution, and examination systems.

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