It’s a no-nonsense guide that focuses on ways to reduce busyness with habits like single-tasking, unplugging from social media and practising gratitude.
There are practical tips on how to slow down and set up calming morning and evening rhythms to anchor your day. The chapters are readable with checklists, step by step guides and bullet points that show how to implement the ideas in real life. Even if you have children.
McAlary, host of the Slow Home Podcast, says the book is about being intentional with your daily actions and creating the life you want. But she’s also realistic. Creating change in your life takes effort, time and energy, though the payoff is huge.
The book offers insights on how single-tasking brings you into the present moment and leads to more focused work. There are also insights on how disconnecting from social media leads to more creativity and better conversations.
McAlary also suggests making an achievable list of your 3 most pressing daily tasks, and doing those first instead of struggling through a winding to-do lists.
Recommended for: the busy beginner who’s looking for an accessible, easy-to-read guide on slow living.
“We forget how to simply be. How to immerse ourselves in whatever is in front of us. How to truly engage in face-to-face conversation, personal connections and true down-time. And we are burning out. We are addicted to this digital connection. We are afraid that if we unplug we will miss out on something.”
“Achieving and then maintaining a state of balanced perfection would be incredibly stressful and unfulfilling. Instead you need to understand that your time is limited and valuable. And you can choose where to place your energies, depending upon where they need to be.”
2. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
Essentialism makes a case for doing less, but doing it better with more focus. It’s not about getting more done faster, but about doing the right things to make the highest impact.
The book was inspired by the author’s personal experiences. Author Greg McKeown had rushed off to a client meeting the day after his daughter’s birth – as his wife lay in the hospital. Afterwards, even the client lost respect for him and McKeown began to reflect on his misplaced priorities. He realized that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
It makes a compelling case for cutting out the busywork and eschewing social pressure to focus on really impactful work. When you invest your time and energy in fewer things, you’ll make more significant progress.
The book argues that you can’t really have it all. There are also pointers on how to discern the trivial from the vital and be more discerning with your time. McKeown argues that saying “no” is a skill that requires being courageous and making some tough decisions.
There are also chapters about looking at the bigger picture so you don’t indiscriminately throw yourself at every opportunity. Other sections cover the importance of play to widen your perspective and sleep to recharge.
Recommended for: the worker who’s feeling stretched too thin, overworked and unfulfilled. Anyone who’s ever said “yes” to commitments and then regretted it.
“If you believe being overly busy and overextended is evidence of productivity, then you probably believe that creating space to explore, think, and reflect should be kept to a minimum. Yet these very activities are the antidote to the nonessential busyness that infects so many of us. Rather than trivial diversions, they are critical to distinguishing what is actually a trivial diversion from what is truly essential.”
“The way of the Nonessentialist is to go big on everything: to try to do it all, have it all, fit it all in. The Nonessentialist operates under the false logic that the more he strives, the more he will achieve, but the reality is, the more we reach for the stars, the harder it is to get ourselves off the ground.”