Ramon Ray has teamed up once more with Helena Escalante, founder of Entregurus, to discuss Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. McKeown’s Essentialism hones in on the idea of focusing on what the author calls “the vital few” and getting rid of the “trivial many.” As busy people, we are spread very thin and sometimes it feels like we are treading water. We don’t have the time to devote to all of the things we want to do. Helena shares some of the author’s tips, tricks, tools for how to focus on what’s important and how to not feel guilty about saying “no.”
Just Say “No”
“We can either make our choices deliberately or allow other people’s agendas to control our lives.” -Greg McKeown
Entrepreneurs are busy people. Helena shares that Essentialism emphasizes the importance of saying ‘no’. As entrepreneurs, we have so many things we have to do and we depend on so many other people to get those things done that sometimes it just feels like we are giving endlessly of our time and our attention. But, we are rarely putting in the work that we need to create what we need to do. Helena insists that it’s important to say no and argues that McKeown would agree. McKeown says,
“Saying no is purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating what is non-essential and not just getting rid of what is an obvious time-waster.”
Helena responds saying, “That means that we are cutting out other very good opportunities and that is the hardest part.” Saying no to something you don’t want is very easy, but saying no to a great opportunity is very hard. She refers to this problem as shiny object syndrome and that as entrepreneurs we are chasing constantly. But, she rebuts, if those shiny objects that we’re chasing don’t fit our current project then we should let them go, and let them go without fear. Helena shares that Richard Branson says opportunities are like a bus--they come at 2:00p, then they come at 2:15pm, then they come at 2:30pm. “You will always find that the absolute best opportunity in the world is the next one to come,” says Helena. She continues, “It’s not necessarily in the opportunity, but in the execution of it, that you find the gold.”
It’s Either “Hell Yes” or “No”
Helena refers to Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want, in his book, “He says, when evaluating an opportunity, if it is not an absolutely resounding ‘hell yes,’ meaning full of enthusiasm, then it’s ‘no.’” Greg McKeown echoes the same sentiment--that you have to focus on the vital few.
One of the ways we, as entrepreneurs, need to ask is, “will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution towards my goal?” You have to measure and rate each task or request that comes in.
Helena brings up a little English language history. She commented that the word ‘priority’, when it first appeared in the English language around the 1400s, was singular. It remained that way until the Industrial Revolution in the 1900s and that’s when it became plural. That’s when we started talking about ‘priorities.’ Helena laughed that if you asked any business person about priorities, they have a long list of them. But, she says, “the truth is that if everything is a priority, nothing is.” What is really a priority. What if you could only have one?
Finding the “Hell Yes” Opportunity
Helena says that you should think about what happens to your closet when you never organize it. It gets cluttered. Just as we need to clean our closets, we also need to clean our minds and our activities. McKeown has a process that we explored in our discussion:
- Explore and evaluate- do I love this? If no, it’s a candidate for elimination
- Look at opportunities- we hesitate when we think of getting rid of something. “If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?”
- How will we know when we are done? What are the obstacles between me and getting this done and what is keeping me from completing this?
Helena says that “done is better than perfect. When we let perfectionism come in we get paralyzed.”
Prioritizing is Key
In the grand scheme of things, what do we need to pay attention to right now?
If you’re having trouble sifting through it all, Helena says your first priority should always be the client. The client is the one who produces our livelihood. Do whatever it takes to keep the client. Then you need to start to prioritize and when you do that you will likely have to get rid of many other things. Helena recommends starting with these 3 simple steps:
- Optimize- all the processes to the extent that you can
- Automate- so you can focus on your priorities
- Outsource- from one task to part of your staff. Does not mean abdicating, but being willing to seek help so you can do what you do best.
Helena says what Greg McKeown’s Essentialism comes down to is that, “A non-essentialist thinks almost everything is essential. Whereas an essentialist thinks that almost everything is non-essential.” It’s the way you focus and how you look at things. In a business, there are certain pieces that are essential and there are certain pieces that are not and are just nice to have.
Helena advises entrepreneurs to focus on the essential and then slowly add the rest, then you’ll be able to make it happen. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to set a parameter of constraint because sometimes that’s the best way in which you can operate. Less is more.
Up Next: The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran