Mental Health Moments: How To Be An Essentialist

⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛

How would you like to do less but better?

I recently began listening to the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, on a work business trip. (Yes, I do personal and professional development while I am even in the car.) As someone with an often-cluttered mind, I always want to streamline processes and be productive, even when I don’t feel motivated.

At its core, essentialism means “a belief that things have a set of characteristics which make them what they are, and that the task of science and philosophy is their discovery and expression; the doctrine that essence is prior to existence.”

Author Greg McKeown begs the question that I posed at the beginning of the blog post -- what if you focused on what you could do less of but better?

Here are five key takeaways from Essentialism:

Define your purpose.

When you know what drives you, then you will be able to make decisions based on if the components fit within your purpose. Sometimes, this involves making hard decisions. Should you further a goal when you want to do something more fun but distracting? Make a list of your values and what is important to you. From there, you can often see themes and begin to develop your purpose. For example, my life purpose is to “live what I love.” While life throws curveballs of things I hate every day, my purpose is to focus on the facets that allow me to live what I love. Love is deeply tied to my motivation, productivity and personality. 

Learn to say no.

Guys, I am a people pleaser, and nothing makes me more uncomfortable than to deal with the ramifications of saying no. FOMO and other fears are very real, and I don’t want to miss out on opportunities and fun excursions by saying no. The reality is, if it doesn’t fit within your purpose, then it shouldn’t be a priority. Learn to say no a little at a time. For example, if you are offered a project that isn’t really worth the time or money and doesn’t align with your mission, then you can say no. Chances are, you wouldn’t bring your A game to the project because you’re just not as passionate about it. When you have a choice and some flexibility, you’re able to empower yourself by saying no and focusing on what matters. 

Allow yourself to have play time. 

Most of us become stuck in mundane ruts. We want to be so productive and motivated all of the time that we lose sight of our creative sides. While purpose and saying no are vital to your mental health’s survival, you also need time off the clock to help you regroup and revitalize your brain power. Do something that helps you recharge your batteries. Personally, I like playing with my niece, reading for pleasure, playing video games and being crafty in general. 

You need your sleep. 

This one is still a challenge for me to accept. I enjoy sleep very, very much, yet I resist it with every ounce of power in my body. There are times in which I think sleep makes me lazy and unproductive. The truth is, YOU. NEED. SLEEP. I just happen to need more sleep than some people, and that is OK! Getting at least 8 hours is essential for me to have a productive work day the next day. So, don’t fight it. And don’t compare yourself to others. Spoiler alert: I have to write this because I still compare myself to others in this aspect. Do yourself a favor and just go to sleep. Your work will thank you for it. 

You cannot do everything. 

The book highlights the differences between essentialists and non-essentialists. Non-essentialists attempt to tackle everything that comes their way, regardless of the value it adds to their purpose and overall life. Essentialists streamline requests. They help others, yes, but they also realize that they cannot absorb the weight of the world and of those around them. The bottom line is, you cannot do everything. This is where your purpose helps. Even in business, you cannot hyperfocus on 20 different things. Most experts say that you can only do one exceptionally at a time. I break this rule by honing in on three: public relations, writing and educational opportunities. 

Please note: These blog posts are not clinical, although we will provide symptoms and other information. These posts are based on my experiences with anxiety and mental health in general. If you or someone you know needs help, visit a website like Mental Health America to learn more.

Mental Health Moments blog posts are every other Tuesday of the month. Our CEO and contributors highlight what it's like to live with a mental health disorder and continue to fight the stigma through storytelling.


Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn