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Manifesto for a Stressed Out, Meaningless Life

We've been oversold the value of more and undersold the value of less.

Have you ever found yourself pulled in too many different directions both at home and at work at home and at work?

Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?

Are you often busy but not productive?

Is your to-do list longer at the end of the day than it was when you started?

Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agenda- leaving you with nothing left for the people and activities you really care about?

If so, you are not alone. But what if, instead of spinning our wheels making a millimeter of progress in a million directions but getting nowhere, we could learn to channel all our time and effort towards those precious few things – whether it’s career, faith, service, or family - that we really care about? What if instead of feeling the pressure to say yes to every request, every opportunity, every invitation that comes our way, we could learn to say no firmly resolutely, and gracefully; and in a way that will make others respect us for our honesty and self-respect? What if we could unburden ourselves of the false promise that we can “do it all” – that we should “do it all” - and instead give ourselves permission to do only those things that are truly important? What if we could take back control over our priorities instead of ceding others the implicit power to control us?

The way of the Essentialist allows us to do all that and more. By empowering us pare away and eliminate all those non-essential activities in our lives that may feel essential in the moment but ultimately yield nothing important, the Essentialism brings our lives back into focus and helps us gain clarity about where we should be spending our precious time and energy.

The non-essentialist sees everything in life as equally important. The problem is that in his desperate desire to do it all, to have it all, he loses sight of the difference between all those activities we get caught up in out of guilt or over -commitment – whether it’s the pointless meetings at work, the empty social engagements with casual acquaintances, or the endless community functions – and those that we really care about.

The Essentialist sees things differently. She understands that by saying “yes” to all the trivial activities that others foist upon us, we are effectively opting out of those things – whether it’s a child’s dance recital, a loved one’s wedding, an opportunity to make a difference in the world through our work – that make our lives truly worth living.

So in launching this column, I invite all of you to join me on the path to becoming an Essentialist. In the weeks and months that follow, we’ll explore simple tips, tools, tricks and strategies for getting more out of life by doing less.

But the first step is to truly commit to the practice fully. It’s not enough to occasionally giving a nod to the principle. To truly reap the benefits of becoming an Essentialist, you need to embrace it as a new way of thinking and being.

This manifesto below highlights the difference between those who have truly embraced the way of the Essentialist, and those still caught in the trap of non-essentialist living. So take this manifesto, and make it your Essentialist bible. Print it out, and hang it up over your desk. Scribble it in your notebook or journal. Or make a copy and carry it in your purse or wallet. Let it guide you on your journey to a more Essential and joyful life .

Manifesto for a stressed out, meaningless life

  1. Let others dictate how you spend your time and energy
  2. If you can’t do it all, you just aren’t trying hard enough
  3. Play and relaxation are for babies and slackers
  4. Try to emphasize every project as an additional priority
  5. Believe less sleep = more productivity
  6. Make “yes” the default answer to everything
  7. The longer your to-do list, the more worth you have as an employee, and a human being
  8. Believe, "If I don’t accept every invitation I receive, no one will like or respect me."
  9. Rememeber, boundaries are for countries, not human relationships
  10. Live in yesterday and tomorrow and be rarely present in the here and now

Manifesto for an Essentialist, meaningful life

  1. Exercise the invincible power of choice
  2. See many things as trivial but only a few as truly vital
  3. Instead of thinking “I can do both,” ask “What is the trade-off I want to make?”
  4. Remember play is essential to spark creativity and innovation
  5. Defend sleep is a #1 priority
  6. Say yes to only the top 10% of opportunities
  7. Make 1 decision that eliminates 1,000 later decisions
  8. Dare to say no firmly, resolutely, and gracefully
  9. Believe if you have limits you will become limitless
  10. Find joy in the journey