Dallas Morning News Article

Article by Cheryl Hall on the Dallas Morning News titled “To get the most out of life, do less, author urges” featuring Greg McKeown. You can read the full article by going here: http://www.dallasnews.com/business/columnists/cheryl-hall/20150210-doing-less-does-more.ece

A few years ago, Greg McKeown decided to trade the 20 minutes a week he spent on Facebook for a weekly phone call to his grandfather.

It’s the kind of purposeful priority setting we all should be doing, but most of us aren’t, says the 37-year-old author of the New York Times best-seller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

McKeown’s grandfather died in December. “Do I think, ‘Oh, I wish I’d spent that time on Facebook?’” he says incredulously. “Yet that’s the kind of mindless trade-off we make all the time: A little bit of everything — like Facebook — vs. a lot of something special with one person. Quantity vs quality.”

McKeown’s book is creating buzz by contending that the notion of having it all is one big lie.

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will,” McKeown says in a phone interview from his home in the Silicon Valley. “The message is to point out the madness of nonessentialism, or, as I sometimes call it, the madness of everythingism. Everythingism — what a strange philosophy: ‘If you can just fit it all in, you can have everything you want in life.’ It’s absolutely not true.”

We need to spend 80 percent of our time focused on the few vital things in our lives rather than squandering it on trivial pursuits, he says.

McKeown will share his thoughts Friday at a breakfast fundraiser for Executives in Action, a nonprofit that pairs senior executives in career limbo with local nonprofits that need management, financial or technical expertise for specific projects.

Chris Kleinert, who co-founded Executives in Action with his wife, Ashlee, chose McKeown because he believes we all need to detox our lives.

Kleinert’s favorite McKeown takeaway?

“I love the power of a graceful no,” says the CEO and president of Hunt Consolidated Investments LLC. “My nature is to want to accommodate and assist. That can be a problem when trying to get my own tasks accomplished well. Interestingly, nearly everyone appreciates a responsive no, because it allows them to move on to someone or something else.”

‘Best use of me’

So how do you say no to the boss?

“I didn’t write a book called no-ism,” McKeown says. “It’s essentialism. The first thing is to think, ‘What is the highest and best use of me?’”

Do you tell your boss you feel overwhelmed?

“No. That makes it about ‘I can’t cope. Please help me cope better,’” McKeown says. “It can be totally true. But that’s not the most muscular or economic argument one can make.

“The conversation that we should have is: ‘I’m happy to do all these things. But what would be even more valuable is for me to really concentrate on these two or three things. What would be the most valuable thing for me to work on?’”

McKeown had a what-was-I-thinking epiphany some years back when he opted to leave his wife and newborn daughter at the hospital to attend a meeting with clients.

Instead of appreciating McKeown’s devotion to duty, his clients looked at him like he was nuts. He realized he’d made a fool’s bargain, sacrificing what should have mattered most for something that didn’t matter at all.

These days, he’s a busy guy. So how does he organize the 168 hours of his week?

Eight hours a night for sleep. “When we have four hours of sleep, it’s like going into our lives drunk.”

Fifteen hours with his wife, Anna. “You’ve got to spend 15 hours with your significant other if you want to have a great relationship with the most important person in your life.”

Fifteen hours for his four children.

That leaves McKeown with 82 hours a week. “You have to think very carefully how to use those remaining hours so that you aren’t tricked by the trivial and pulled into the hundreds of things we can spend time on that aren’t going to move the needle.”

Meetings with your mind

McKeown says the first step is to determine your priorities.

He suggests off-site meetings with your mind. Every 90 days, sequester yourself someplace away from work and home and ask yourself three essential questions:

What are the two or three things you want to accomplish in the rest of your life?

What are two or three things you can do in the next year to move toward those goals?

Given all that, what are two or three things you can do in the next 90 days that will be useful?

If the same short-term goals crop up on the list at the next meeting with your mind, there’s a fundamental problem that calls for a more radical course correction, he says.

His next suggestion will give most people the shakes: Take email off your smartphone.

People check email on their phones 150 times a day on average, he says. The real addicts check it 900 times — about once every minute they’re awake.

“No matter what else we do, the next thing we do is check our phones. It’s the dominant strategy of our lives,” McKeown says. “The problem with that is, as soon as we check email on our phones, we’re checking somebody else’s agenda. So we our outsourcing our life’s strategy for someone’s else’s agenda. This is a serious train wreck happening slowly.”

If we think we’re being productive, we’re dead wrong, he contends.

With rare exception, we can’t adequately respond to iPhone emails, he says. Cogent and complete messages require time at your computer.

“That means when you check email on your phone, you are thinking about a piece of work when you can do nothing about it. That’s the opposite of productivity.”