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4 Tools For Editing Your Life

How to Edit or Elliminate the Non-Essentials Out of Our Lives

“Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often.”

Artist, author and editor Susan Statham aptly points out the importance of “editing” to make sure that we are writing, and living, the life story that is right for each of us. Disciplined editing – the strict elimination of the trivial, unimportant, or irrelevant – is a critical craft for the Essentialist.

In film production, a good editor makes it hard not to see what is important because she eliminates everything but the elements that absolutely need to be there. For the Essentialist’s life, editing is not just about saying no or simply eliminating things. Successful “life editors” use deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot and characters of their lives.

Disciplined editing can help add to your level of contribution, increase your ability to focus on and give energy to the things that really matter. It gives the most meaningful relationships and activities more space to develop. Editing supports the Essentialist by removing anything distracting or unnecessary.

According to Essentialism’s author Greg McKeown, four simple principles inherent in any type of editing (film, writing, etc.) apply to editing the non-essentials out of our lives as well:

Cut Out Options

Being an effective editor of your life requires exercising your power of choice and saying no to things that are not meaningful for you, cutting out the many trivial options in favor of the vital few. Deciding to cut options can be terrifying – but the fact is, this is the essence of decision-making. (The Latin root of the word “decision” – cis or cid – literally means “to cut” or “to kill”.)


You may have heard the often quoted sentiment “I must apologize. If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.” It is true that doing less can be harder, in art and in life. Every word, just like each activity or project, must count for more. A good editor must be ruthless in the pursuit of making every word count. Condensing means saying things as clearly and concisely as possible.

Similarly, in life, condensing allows us to do more with less. It does not mean doing more at once, it simply means wasting less energy…lowering the ratio of effort to results. To apply the principle of condensing to our lives, we need to eliminate multiple meaningless activities and replace them with one very meaningful activity.


An editor’s job is not just to cut or condense but also to make something accurate and right. Doing this well requires having a clear sense of the fundamental purpose of the work one is editing. Likewise, in our personal and professional lives, we can and should make course corrections by continually returning to our core purpose.

Edit Less

Being a successful editor of your own life includes knowing when to exercise restraint. While this might seem counter intuitive, good editors know that they don’t need to change everything. The best editors are sometimes the least intrusive. We can do this by editing the temptation to jump in right away to everything. Instead we can wait, observe, see how things develop, then determine if and when it is the right time to step in.

Let Us Help You Edit Your Life

Editing our time, commitments and activities allows us to continually make small but intentional adjustments as we write the life story that we want to live. Which activities are most essential for you?

If you could use help clarifying and editing your tasks, priorities, or your stuff, schedule your free, no-risk Discovery Call to learn more about how we help people move from overwhelmed and over-committed to relaxed and focused so that you can make time for the priorities in your life. 

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