How to Squeeze Time and Master Burnout With This Essential Approach To Life

productivity Mar 30, 2017

Does this sound like you?

  • I am experiencing signs of burnout.
  • I have too many irons in the fire.
  • I feel like I’m spread too thin.
  • I’m running on a hamster wheel.
  • I feel like throwing spaghetti on the wall!
  • Do you feel like you are majoring in minor activities?
  • Do you feel like you are busy but not productive?
  • Do you feel over-worked and underutilized?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is to concentrate on your life essentials! 

One of the biggest problems that exists in our work culture today is that we have the tendency to value those who are full of projects and tasks. We place value on those who are at every single meeting and are always there whenever they are needed. Although this may seem like a great quality, this type of tendency will lead to the consequences listed above. These people will feel overwhelmed, burnt out and spread too thin. Let’s talk about something that is much more effective, the way of the essentialist.
By establishing essentialism as a key attribute in your style of leadership, you are doing the following:

  • Channelling Your Ambition
  • Trusting the Process
  • Cultivating Your Courage
  • Finding Your Focus
  • Standing Firmly on Your Values and Vision
  • Taking Intentional Action
  • Taking Personal Responsibility

“Leaders who practice essentialism are more effective, more efficient, and more productive.”
I surely don't mean to toot my own horn, but some of the best compliments I have ever received (many times over) have been in the form of a few popular questions. These are questions that are asked directly to me, to my spouse, to my family members... "How does he do it all? Does he ever sleep? Is he ever home?" I even have had a few people pull me aside to tell me to slow down, re-evaluate my life, and to stop being a workaholic.

I find this laughable... and here's why.

How do I do it all? I don't! How nice of you to notice that I practice essentialism. I simply keep focused on my BHAG's (big, hairy, audacious goals) I have set for myself and I don't spend time in minor activities or busy work. Believe me, people will feel like you do it all, but my big secret is that I really only focus on a few things and do them well.

Does I ever sleep? I sleep great! 10PM-4:45AM is plenty, and occasionally an afternoon nap.

Am I ever home? All the time! In fact I work about the same as everyone else, clocking in about 40 hours per week. I'm usually home by 5PM at the latest and I have plenty of time for my family. Also, I don't work on weekends because that is a commitment I made to myself and my family.

When you start concentrating on essentials, people take notice when you are accomplishing things. Some may even feel uncomfortable by your progress and may even think of you as a workaholic. These same people may be spending 90% of their day on non-essential activities, then wonder how they are getting outperformed by you.

Those people who feel the way they do about my work-ethic may still not believe me when I say I sleep and have time for family. But the simple question is... Why are they questioning me?

To take that a step further, does that say more about my productivity or theirs?

We all have the same amount of time each day, we just spend it differently. While many are spending time in busywork and non-productive meetings, others are making better choices with their time and using it to effectively accomplish what is most important. In the large scheme of things, busywork is a waste of time and should be kept to a minimum or delegated. Your time is valuable and should be concentrated on fulfilling your BHAG's that contribute to accomplishing your life's purpose.

Take out a sheet of paper, sticky-note, or pull out your notes app (for all you millennials out there) and write down, "I can do anything but I can't do everything." Keep this an a reminder for yourself when you feel like you are starting to run on that hamster wheel. Then focus only on your essential activities. It might seem a bit self-indulgent at first, but by establishing an essentialist mindset you can concentrate all of your attention at one thing at a time. You will be able to plan thoroughly and anticipate roadblocks. You will be able to remove these obstacles with a clear mind to make better decisions. Instead of spinning your wheels trying to get everything done you will be able to get the right things done.

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” - Greg Mckeown

Say “Yes” to the Right Things:

It’s not about getting MORE things done... It’s about getting the RIGHT things done. When you master the art of essentialism, you master the art of true effectiveness. This is not a way to do one more thing, it’s a different way to do everything. It is all about choosing to say “yes” to the right things and not “every” thing.

One of the biggest problems that I used to have was overloading my plate with “busy” work and not “quality” work. As an entrepreneur, it’s always been hard for me to say no to clients who ask me to do one more project and team members who ask me to attend one more meeting. I have always made myself available when people ask, which most people assume is a good trait to have. But under further evaluation of this practice I have realized that I have not done true justice to myself, to my family, and even those I work with.

The truth is that my effectiveness started to suffer every time my plate began to get full. My efficiency spiraled downward when I began to attend every single meeting that I was asked to attend. I had always thought that being present as much as possible was a bonus for my effectiveness and efficiency, but it is not so.

As leaders, it may feel a bit uncomfortable for you to start saying “no” to those that you are leading. It may seem completely counterintuitive to most people on the surface, but what usually happens next is something that you didn’t expect.

When you say ‘yes’ to things that you don’t want or need to do, you are simultaneously saying ‘no’ to the things that you do need to do (and vice versa). Why would you say "yes" to the things that waste your God-given time? Maybe you haven't even noticed how much time you are spending in places you shouldn't even be in. Start to take notice, I was surprised when I evaluated my time.

I found myself in two hour meetings, when my presence was only necessary for 5-10 minutes.

I found that many people can eliminate up to 1.5 hours per day getting rid of non-essential tasks. Can you imagine what you can accomplish if you were to re-delegate your time to your essential priorities.


Make a “core priorities” list and list 5 key priorities that will be a constant in your life. When filling out these next two questions, ask yourself if what you are currently spending your time doing directly impact how you will accomplish your priorities.

If you have something on your plate that does not directly contribute to or accomplish your priorities, it is usually considered non-essential clutter.

  • List 5 Things In Your Life That You Consider The “Right” Things (Essential):
  • List 5 Things In Your Life That Are Only Adding Clutter (Non-Essential)

"Stop MAJORING in MINOR activities!"

"The “Hell Yes” Test: Next time you are faced with a decision, ask yourself if the answer is “hell yes!” or “no”, if it falls somewhere in between then it is surely non-essential." -Greg McKeown
Many ideas in this post have been tested and proven in my own life. I hope you will test and prove these ideas in yours as well. I first decided to try this out after I read the book "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown and "Do Less, Get More" by Shaa Washund. I highly recommend these! Applying the principles in these will lead to high productivity and effectiveness in your life!

If you liked this blog post, find out more by getting your hands on either one of these books... They will literally change your life!

Essentialism (Audiobook) by Greg McKeown

Essentialism (E-Book) by Greg McKeown

Do Less, Get More (Audiobook) by Shaa Washund

Do Less, Get More (E-Book) by Shaa Washund


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