For years now, my health hasn’t really allowed me to plan ahead. Why set goals when I’d have a health setback for six weeks or so that would stop my progress?

Thanks to finally getting on the right medications, I’m able to think about the future. What do I want, exactly?

This corresponded with my discovering the podcast Best Laid Plans. The host, Sara Hart-Unger, is annoyingly accomplished — a doctor, a teacher, a mother of three, and hosts two podcasts — but it’s hard to dislike her when she’s so nice, and she’s passionate about planning. I don’t really care about the review episodes, as I have a planning system I like, but she does a lot of interviews, as well as deep-dives on planning techniques. Binge-listening (I’m on episode 41) has inspired me to actually plan, not just keep a good to-do list and calendar. I’m wanting to plan my future, though I’m going to limit myself to one quarter of the year at a time.

And then yesterday I listened to her interview with author and speaker Greg McKeown, writer of the immensely popular Essentialism. I was impressed with him, and immediately downloaded the book. I devoured it in a few hours, delighted by the time I reached the end.

It’s not an exaggeration to say this book is changing my thinking about how I handle my life. Everything from how I relate to family and friends, to how to go about job-hunting, to how I will handle projects and peers at wherever I work. How to figure out what my priorities in life are, and how I can do the most good in however much time I have left on the planet. Most importantly, how to gently say no to things that don’t fit with your goals and dreams.

I’m not adopting McKeown as my guru. I’m not paying for any of the Essentialism classes on his web site. I am, however, going to read the follow-up, Effortless. I want to put his ideas into practice for myself.

I’ve started making two lists: one of the things most important to me in life, and one of the things I’m doing that take away from list #1. Over the next week or two I’m going to spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make the world better without overdoing it or overcommitting, and how I can best accomplish the things that mean a lot to me.

The top three things on my Essentials list were easy: time with family, time with friends, and making things. Essentialism isn’t all about work or running a company. It’s about what matters. Even McKeown puts his family first, and talks about how play and rest are even more important than how you earn your money.

I should probably Google him and make sure he hasn’t been arrested for being a serial killer or something. I wouldn’t want to promote someone terrible. But just going off the BLP interview and this book, I’m really impressed.

If you have a hard time with focusing on what’s important, or have a hard time saying no to things you know you should turn down, I highly recommend reading Essentialism. I wasn’t joking about the life-changing thing. It’s a wonderful philosophy, and fits well with my existing existentialism. Sartre wrote that life has no inherent purpose, and it’s up to us to make our own meaning. McKeown writes about how to figure out that meaning, and focus on fulfilling it without getting bogged down in the trivial.

I have a lot of thinking to do, and some plans to make. I feel energized and excited about it. I’m very grateful for that.


Rorie · November 15, 2022 at 10:44 am

Love these two lists you are making. I think I might make a couple lists like this myself.

    Grayson · November 15, 2022 at 10:46 am

    Some items were easy to put on it. Some were freaking hard, and I’m still thinking about them. Good luck.

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