During a recent client session I asked the team, “What can we do next quarter to improve our performance on quarterly rocks?” One member said she needed to improve her ability to multitask. Caught up in the moment, I responded, “There is no such thing as multitasking; it’s a myth that some use to explain away our lack of focus on what’s important.” I then admitted that I also struggle with what seems like an impossible balancing act of competing priorities.

In his book Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown describes the fast and sophisticated world most of us live in. He paints a very clear picture of how and why this happens. McKeown also provides an excellent framework for rethinking our habits in order to live a more purpose-driven life, both personally and professionally.

Not surprisingly, much of McKeown’s teaching is entirely consistent with the idea that less is more, a foundational principle built into EOS.

While I highly recommend reading the complete text, I’ve summarized some of McKeown’s ideas to help get you thinking about how you can do less better. Essentialism at its highest level is about four main disciplines, and in this post I will describe the first of these.

Essence: The Core Mindset

Choice

Have you ever found yourself saying, “I have to do this, or that?” While this may sound overly simple, the reality is you don’t have to do anything. Everything we do is a choice. We can choose to do nothing, though that too is a choice. Remember, you get to choose how to spend your time, who to spend it with, what kind of a life you want, and what kind of organization to create. If you’re not where you want to be, choose to be somewhere else.

Trade-Offs

Many of us fall prey to believing the notion that we can have it all. Everything we want is possible. This is a myth. The truth is that we can choose to be average at many things, or truly great at just a few essential things.

Given this, we must come to the understanding that every choice requires a trade-off. In choosing what’s truly important, we must accept that we have to give up something else to get it. When faced with these choices, ask, “Which problem would I rather have?”

Noise

Recognize that 90% of what goes on around us is nothing but noise. It’s the non-essential things and people vying for our attention. Technology and social media has amplified this problem significantly. The more connected we are, the greater the distraction. Most of us know this, but for some reason we’re unable to avoid it.

The next time this happens to you, try making a deliberate choice to be fully present in the moment, focused on whom you’re with or what you’re doing. How does that make you feel? In order to focus on what’s truly essential, ask the question, “Is this truly important to me right now?”