Life Is Short. Relentlessly Prune The Non-Essentials

Do less, but better is a mindset.

Take back control of how you spend your time and attention.

The essential and the non-essential are opposites that coexist. However, human life is unique in the sense that it tests our ability to determine what we must focus on and what we must discard as secondary.

But what is essential in life?

How do we eliminate non-essentials so we can focus on what really matters? These are the questions that philosopher and essayist Thomas Henry Huxley once asked himself and his readers.

Essentials are things that are fundamental to our existence, growth and well-being. They are indispensable — meaning they cannot be replaced by anything else.

Pruning the non-essentials means allocating time and energy to activities, experiences, and things that spark joy, peace and calm in your life.

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the non-essentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage,” explains Greg McKeown, in his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

“A life well-lived is a life well-edited. Prune away the inessential. Pour yourself into what remains,” says James Clear.

Discerning between essentials and non-essentials in life is an important skill to master — it will help you lead a more fulfilling life with less stress.

“Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary? says Marcus Aurelius.

Every day we are bombarded with stimuli from all sides. There are numerous voices, tasks, projects and responsibilities competing for our attention and trying to convince us that this or that is essential to our happiness.

It’s easy to get swept up in the chaos. And it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of activity that comes with being a responsible person.

If you feel overcommitted, overloaded, or overworked, it’s probably time to take stock of your daily habits, tasks, and responsibilities and hack away at the non-essentials. It’s the only way to improve clarity and gain control over your time.

A productive life begins with elimination — choose your essentials carefully

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” — Lin Yutang

Productivity doesn’t always mean more — less, but essential things in life make everything less stressful. Remember, you can do almost anything on any given day, but not everything is worth your attention.

Life is a series of trade-offs. It’s filled with choices and decisions.

Some are small and trivial, while others are big and life-changing. From the type of friends you keep to the career you choose, every choice impacts your life.

However, not all decisions have equal importance.

Some things may seem essential at one point or another but can be eliminated from your life without any significant repercussions.

These are the ‘non-essentials’ — activities, habits, practices, people, places or things that add little or no value to your life.

Eradicating them will make room for more essential things in your life and help you lead a more productive and fulfilling existence.

Different people emphasize different things in life, and what is important to one person may not be so much to another.

Everyone has a unique set of circumstances, experiences, and outlooks that shape their own personal views on the world and how they see things.

But the message works for everyone: prune everything that adds little or no value to your present or future life.

Pursuing less could be the most essential concept you embrace this year. It’s not a new idea, nor is it specific to your generation.

It’s a better path that makes our lives simpler, less cluttered, and more streamlined.

The modern world is fast-paced and over-stimulating.

We live in a world where we are expected to be available at all times, making it difficult for many to shut off and relax.

But with that pace also comes the pressure to keep up as well as the feeling that we have so much more to give than we have time for.

It’s a stressful lifestyle we can’t sustain.

Make time for things that matter to your growth, happiness and health.

When life is short, don’t overcommit

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials,” says Bruce Lee.

The noble art of pruning everything that stresses your existence is the secret to a productive and happy life.

The ability to hold back on more is life-changing.

Stop caring so much about what people think, stop obsessing about likes on social media, stop worrying about a bigger house you don’t need, stop trying to impress people you don’t like, and stop saying yes to everyone.

Make time for the few people and things that contribute to a meaningful life. Find meaning in everyday moments, like the time you share with people who bring out the best in you and the activities that move the needle.

This article originally appeared in Medium.