Last week I received my annual invite to our companies hack week. A week where every engineer in Unity (globally) descends on Denmark. We’re also joined by other disciplines throughout the company too, where we all work together to share and innovate.

I say we, though I’ve never taken part. Unity’s hack week takes place in the same week each year, a week that falls at the same time my wife and eldest son have their birthdays. So each year I receive an invite and decline with thanks and gratitude.

Given how legendary this hack week is within Unity, how powerful the by product of the social interaction, and the lessons from others that take place, it should be a hard decision for me, but it isn’t. Perhaps a decade ago, if I’d had my children earlier in life, a time when I hadn’t discovered what’s really important. Though right now I find it easy to put first things first.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”Stephen Covey

Of course, I’m very lucky to have worked at Xbox and now Unity. Both respect and honour an employees commitment to their family. Not everyone is as lucky, and decisions between work commitments and family can be difficult to make.

Greg McKeown puts it nicely in his book Essentialism. A few days prior to his daughter’s birth, McKeown’s colleague commented that Friday would be a bad time for his wife to have a baby because the two were scheduled to be in a meeting together. The baby was born on Thursday, and McKeown ended up leaving the hospital hours after his wife gave birth to a healthy 7-pound, 3-ounce little girl in order to attend the meeting.

“The client will respect you for making the decision to be here,” McKeown recalled his colleague saying. But McKeown quickly realised he’d made “a fool’s bargain.”

As Greg’s book cover describes “Essentialism is more than a time-management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.”

In the 6 years since discovering essentialism, I’ve become more comfortable saying no. I also don’t suffer from fear of missing out, and if a company I work for doesn’t respect me putting my family first, then I’m happy to go and work somewhere that does.

Essentialism, putting first things first, the main thing is to keep the main thing is the main thing – Know what’s important to you and life becomes a whole lot easier.

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