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McKeown advocates for pursuing what's essential

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Greg McKeown shared the teachings from his book, <em>Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less</em>, during the Dig South tech conference Thursday in Charleston. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

Greg McKeown compared the main theme in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less to the process of cleaning out one’s closet.

Step one: Take everything out of the closet and evaluate whether to keep each item.

Step two: Eliminate all nonessential items.

Step three: Create a system to continue that process regularly.

“Who here feels that their life feels a lot like this overthrown closet?” McKeown said to hundreds of Dig South attendees on Thursday at the Gaillard Center in Charleston. “Do you ever feel that your life is becoming busy but not necessarily productive? Do you ever feel that you’re just getting stretched too thin at work or at home?”

He challenged attendees to examine what makes their personal and work lives busy and then eliminate nonessential tasks, leaving room to focus on what’s most important.

The process could result in permanently canceling some meetings, he said, or putting some work tasks on hold in pursuit of one project that rises to the top.

“What is the priority for the next 90 days? … What is the one big goal? It doesn’t mean you can’t have many goals, but you know which the No. 1 is,” McKeown said.

He acknowledged the difficulty of determining what is essential when it feels as though it all has to be done, but said the alternative is to use limited resources of time and energy on nonessential tasks.

“Every time you say ‘yes’ to something that’s just good, you don’t realize you’re actually saying ‘no’ already to something that’s essential,” McKeown said. “True in business, true in life.”

Similar to the closet, McKeown said to evaluate everything filling one’s days and to make decisions in pursuit of the essential.

“Look at all the things that make your life busy. Determine what is absolutely essential and pursue that. … You’ve got to break through this nonessentialism nonsense and identify the one priority, the single thing, the essential intent, the thing — if we do this right, it’s going to help all these other areas,” he said.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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