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Nursing Leadership We live in a noisy world.  This is especially true in healthcare where there are significant paradigm shifts impacting our work.  The pace of change has taken a toll on even the most adaptive nurse leaders.  Leaders find themselves spread so thin in their work that finding a sense of real accomplishment becomes challenging.  Many nurse leaders describe the problem as one of time management.  But will there ever be enough time to accomplish all that we may want to?   In his new book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown counters that NO – there will never be enough time if we are not disciplined in our approach to concentrate on what matters most.  The message of this important new book  is that it is the disciplined pursuit of less that will empower us to reclaim our time and energy.

What is Essentialism?

Essentialism is training our brain to focus on what is really essential in our work.  It means saying no to projects, meetings, commitments and activities that don’t advance the quality of our work.  It is committing to and being willing as McKeown describes it to “go big” for the few vital activities that will have the most impact.  It involves making the trade-offs that come with not involving yourself and a recognition that to become really good at our work – we need to focus on what matters most.  You then begin living by design and not by default.  Steve Jobs often credited his success with being able to say yes to what really mattered and no to a thousand other things.

How to Develop Essentialist Habit

Becoming an essentialist is not easy if you have a hard time saying no.  You may feel like you are disappointing people by saying no.  McKeown contends that essentialist leaders in the long-term become highly respected for their discipline and focus.  They recognize that more effort does not necessarily yield better results.   Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, often said that people become better as leaders when they are able to say “no – that isn’t for me.”  Here are 10 key steps: to developing the essentialist habit:

  1.  Decide what in your work has the highest impact and yields the greatest results.
  2.  Create space/time in your life to concentrate and think.
  3.  Stop worrying about “not being included”  and develop a willingness to accept decisions made without you in areas that don’t have a significant impact on your work.
  4.  Get enough sleep to enable you to be most effective.
  5.  Vigorously evaluate your need for participation in every event or new project – rate the importance on a scale 0-100.  If it is less than 90, it may be unessential.  If it is not a clear yes – then it is probably a no.
  6.  Review all your current activities and priorities with the idea of eliminating the trivial many.
  7.  Say no gracefully – separate the decision from the relationship.
  8.  Cut your losses quickly if something is not working.
  9.  Take time out to have fun.
  10.  View removing boundaries as a source of liberation.

What You Gain by Essentialist Thinking

Essentialism is remembering that you can do anything but not everything.  If you are a nurse leader who finds him or herself completely overwhelmed with your work – then you are probably doing too much.  You will gain much more if you say yes to the right project at the right time in the right way.  It means developing the disciplined pursuit of less.  What you will gain in being more selective is empowerment in your choices and control over where you spend your precious time and energy.


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