Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, is not a book written specifically for educators, yet out of all the books I’ve read so far this year, it’s had the most profound effect on me.
The author, Greg McKeown, explains his philosophy of Essentialism in the book. And I found myself nodding my head over and over as I read his questions like these:
“Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Are you often busy but not productive? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?”
What Essentialism is & Why it Matters for Educators
“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.”
McKeown’s solution to the problem of being overworked and saying yes to everything is to practice Essentialism: eliminating everything but what is absolutely essential so that you can give your all to the things that you are most passionate about. Yes, it sounds a bit self-helpy. And yes, it’s geared more towards business professionals and other careers that probably have more control over their schedule and demands than educators do. But as I read, I kept seeing how these things apply to my life…
Like those committees I ended up on because no one else would do it but that I had absolutely no passion for… Or those tasks and responsibilities that I inherited from the media specialist before me and was still dealing with five years later… Or the fact that I found myself unable to say no to every presentation request I was getting… And how I had barely written more than a few paragraphs on the books project that I was really excited about because I was so busy with all these other mini-projects. I started asking myself McKeown’s question:
“Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?”
If we use up all our time on things that don’t really align with our passions, we aren’t giving our best selves to our students. All this got me thinking about where my passions really lie: creating a space and program in my school that helps my students to grow into creative, independent, critical thinkers. Empowering and inspiring other educators to infuse creativity and play into their programs through makerspaces. And so as new projects started to come up, I would ask myself if they were really the best way for me to spend my time. I’m gradually getting better at saying no, and I’ve found myself with more time to write weekly blog posts, research and write for my book, go for runs a couple of times a week. I’m getting better at taking care of myself and I’m able to give myself fully to my tasks, instead of just offering an exhausted version of myself to those around me.If we waste time on things we don't have passion for, we aren't giving kids our best selves. Click To Tweet
Essentialism in our Classrooms
Not only can this philosophy be applied to our own professional and personal lives, but it can also be applied to our students and how we run our classes. Think about the change that could happen in our students’ lives if we eliminated the busywork and focused instead on projects and research that our students were passionate about. If we freed up their time for them to focus on the subjects and problems that most interest them. I know that there’s still curriculum we have to cover, and standards we have to meet, but what if we boiled that down to what was absolutely essential and freed up room for our students to have passion-based learning experiences?What if we cut back on curriculum & freed up more room for passion-based learning? Click To Tweet
I think just about all of us could use a reminder of how to focus on what’s important. I highly recommend this book for pretty much everyone. I know that it has helped me tremendously in my professional and personal life, and I find myself going back to it over and over again.
Have you read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less? What were your takeaways?