Essentialism Book Summary By Greg McKeown

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Essentialism is the perfect book for anyone looking to increase productivity and fulfillment in their lives.

Written by Greg McKeown in 2014, this book teaches its readers how to do more by doing less.

Through practical solutions, it helps you sort out your priorities and eliminate any activities that are slowing down your progress.

The idea behind Essentialism is simple: focus on what truly matters and putting all unnecessary distractions to one side.

By doing this you can take back control of your life and make the most of what you have.

It is an incredibly helpful guide that will help anyone who reads it learn how to utilize their time more efficiently and reach a state of maximum productivity.

Essentialism Book

Book Name: Essentialism (Improve your life by only focusing on the essentials)

Author(s): Greg McKeown

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

Categories: Management & Leadership

Author Bio

Greg McKeown is an accomplished author and management consultant that boasts one of the most impressive credentials in his field.

He's worked directly with some of the top firms in the world, having coached at Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and LinkedIn.

McKeown holds an MBA from Stanford University, where he co-created the course Designing Life.

His expertise on business strategy and productivity has been recognized around the world through his acclaimed best-selling book – Multipliers.

Having accomplished so much at such a young age, Greg McKeown is both an example of success and a source of motivation in our constantly changing world.

How To Cut Out The Clutter And Focus On What Matters Most


We live in an age of abundance, where people often feel the need to do and have it all.

But this attitude can be highly detrimental; not only is it impossible to have and do everything, but actually trying to do so often leaves us exhausted and unfulfilled.

That’s why Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown proposes a simpler way forward: focus on what you actually need in order to reach your goals and be truly happy.

By identifying the essential things in your life, you’ll free up both mental and emotional space to perform these tasks to the best of your ability.

In other words, sometimes less really does mean more!

As McKeown puts it,”Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time.

It’s about getting only the right things done.” By cutting out the clutter and learning how to prioritize our lives based on what matters, we can discover that less really is more.

How Essentialism Can Help Us Get Our Priorities Straight And Increase Productivity

If you’re drowning in the sea of work that never seems to end, then it’s time to adopt the principle of essentialism.

This is a life-saving method that helps you identify what’s truly important and set aside the things that just don’t make sense for you.

Essentialism focuses on four key principles: doing less but making sure it’s done better, deciding which directions to focus on and striving for excellence rather than just trying to accomplish everything, regularly questioning yourself and updating your plans accordingly, and finally ensuring those decisions have actually been put into place.

Essentialism isn’t easy; most people are far from living their lives as true essentialists.

But applying this approach can help simplify your life and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by unimportant tasks so that you can focus on what really matters.

The Power Of Choice: How To Overcome Learned Helplessness And Embrace Our Ability To Decide

One of the key points highlighted in Essentialism is that if we become overwhelmed by our tasks, then we lose our ability to make choices for ourselves.

This was demonstrated in an experiment with dogs, where those which had a lever that could stop the electric shocks, ran to the shock free side of the box.

Meanwhile, those who faced the same situation but had their levers be powerless stayed in the shock zone and did not move.

This indicates that when people think their efforts are futile, they tend to respond in two ways: by giving up completely or becoming overly active and accepting every opportunity presented to them.

While these individuals may appear not to have developed learned helplessness on a surface level, this is actually far from the truth.

They simply lack real power over their decisions as they cannot pick and choose which opportunities are truly beneficial for them.

In conclusion, it is important for us to remember that if we become too overwhelmed by our tasks then we risk losing our ability to choose those options which align with our true priorities and needs.

The Power Of Essentialism: How Southwest Airlines Achieved Success By Doing Few Things Very Well

Southwest Airlines

One of the key tenents essentialism puts forth is that, in order to be successful, you have to focus on doing only a few vital things very well.

That’s why Southwest Airlines was so successful – by focusing on what was essential (taking their customers from point A to point B), they reigned supreme above other airlines who tried to do too much.

At its core, embracing the idea of “less but better” is about making trade-offs.

It means not trying to play it safe and do everything — but instead, being willing to make difficult decisions and cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Take Continental Airlines for example; they thought they could compete with Southwest by offering both traditionsl airline services and a budget service without trade-off.

But in the end, their efforts failed because they couldn’t sacrifice nonessential tasks and focus on what was vital.

Essentialism believes that in order to live an effective and simplified life, you must accept that trade-offs are an inherent part of life.

You have limited time and you must use it carefully if you want success — this means prioritizing your activities so you focus only on the things that really matter.

When you embrace “less but better” and let go of the temptation to take on more than necessary, you can unlock exceptional results!

Embrace Boredom And Create Invaluable Space For Reflection And Focus On The Big Picture

When life gets overwhelming and overloaded with tasks, it’s important to give yourself space and time to escape.

This means finding some “blank space” in your schedule where you can clear your head and avoid being overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks.

On top of that, this “escape” time also allows us to identify what’s vital and what isn’t as we are able to view the bigger picture more clearly.

It’s a way for us to be able to create a healthy balance between our work and personal lives; picking out only the essential things that need our attention.

Take Newton and Einstein for example – they have used this escape technique before while working on their groundbreaking theories!

We can see that their decision to take time away from their jobs enabled them to focus on the bigger picture despite all the little tasks needed complete in order to make their ideas come alive!

Even today, many successful CEOs also use this method for not just getting away from busy schedules but also a means of staying focused on the big picture instead of being bogged down by the small details.

Keeping a journal for reflection whilst focusing on writing down the essentials without filling pages upon pages is an excellent way of understanding which parts are l valuable and should be prioritised over other trivial tasks.

All these show us how creating space away from your everyday life will undeniably lead us towards making better choices regarding what’re essential or otherwise in life, helping us craft our own paths-towards success!

The Essentialist’S Guide To Play And Sleep: Unlock Your Productivity Through Mindful Recreation And Rest

The Essentialist book makes it clear that playing is vital to unlock your creativity and get the most out of your work experience.

Companies like Twitter, Pixar and Google recognize this by offering improv comedy classes, decorating their offices with dinosaurs and Star Wars figurines—anything to help promote play as an antidote to stress and as a way to prioritize tasks for maximum productivity.

But just like play has its place, so does rest.

Non-essentialists often view sleep as a luxury, not seeing how important it is for cognitive development and the ability to think on your feet.

In reality, getting a full night’s sleep or even just one hour of shut eye can result in several more hours of higher productivity during the day!

Studies also show that going 24 hours without sleep or earning less than four/five hours per night causes a cognitive impairment equivalent to being under the influence of alcohol!

So if you want to sharpen up creative thinking skills and get the most out of your workday, remember: Get your creative juices flowing by playing – just don’t forget to give yourself time to rest.

The 90-Percent Rule And ‘Clear Yes/No’ Rule For Making Decisions

Making Decisions

When it comes to making decisions, it’s important to be ruthless in cutting away anything that’s not essential.

While it might seem tempting to keep things like a howling-wolf shirt that you never wear, the reality is if it isn’t adding any value, then it’s best for you to let it go.

One of the best ways to decide what is essential and what isn’t is by using the 90-percent rule.

This means simply looking at everything you’re deciding on and giving each item a score from 0-100 based off of your criteria.

Anything that scores less than 90 should be discarded as clear non-essentials.

Another good method is setting three minimum requirements as well as three ideal ones for keeping something.

In this way, if an item doesn’t pass your three minimum requirements OR at least two of the ideal ones, then it should be discarded as not essential.

Learn How To Say No And Set Clear Intentions For Achieving Your Goals

We often fear saying no, but sometimes it’s necessary when it comes to prioritizing tasks that are essential.

In order to choose the ones you should commit your time and energy to, Essentialism–a book by Greg McKeown–recommends that you make a list of everything that needs to go, or is not essential in achieving your goals.

Once those nonessential tasks have been eliminated from the equation, you must invest your energy into creating well-defined goals in order to maximize success.

Remember, failing to say no to nonessential tasks can take away from vital opportunities.

Building clear objectives by having an essential intent should be the main focus – an objective that is both inspirational and concrete enough for you to reasonably answer “how will I know when I’ve reached my goal?” With this intention in mind, saying “no” becomes easier and allows for more attention on carefully planning the essential ones.

The Power Of Establishing Boundaries To Avoid The Sunk-Cost Bias

It is easy to get caught up in our commitments and find ourselves stuck in a cycle of sinking cost bias.

An example of this can be seen with the Concorde jet, where the French and British Governments continued investing into it despite full awareness that most of their capital would never be recuperated.

To break free from this, it’s important to learn how to cut your losses and look ahead.

Admit when mistakes have been made and make sure that we don’t pour additional resources into them.

Additionally, create clear boundaries around what we do so that we know exactly when it’s time to focus on work or play – letting us make the most out of our time without feeling constantly interrupted or overcrowded with assignments.

By withdrawing from unnecessary activities and setting boundaries for ourselves, we’ll be better able to focus on tasks that are truly essential for achieving success.

The schoolyard example best illustrates this; by having clear limits on what’s allowed and what isn’t, parents and teachers can both enjoy more leisure time while children can safely run around as they please.

Ultimately, learning how to say “no” can help us manage our obligations more efficiently while avoiding costly sunken costs.

The Last Step To Becoming An Essentialist: Execution With Preparation In Mind

Preparation In Mind

As an essentialist, it’s important to identify and eliminate what slows you down.

This way, you can focus on the important things by having the energy and resources to do so.

A great example of this is provided in Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Imagine a boy scout leader who needs to get their troop to camp before nightfall.

But, some scouts are faster than others, slowing the group down due to uneven weight in back packs.

The traditional solution would be to keep stopping for stragglers.

But, an essentialist sees a better solution: take the heavy items out of those backpacks and even out the load so everyone moves at the same pace.

In addition, always plan extra time as preparation for issues that may arise – give yourself an extra 50% buffer time just in case something happens.

That way, you are prepared for whatever comes your way while still keeping on top of what is most essential in life.

Small Steps Lead To Big Gains: From The Police Department In Richmond To Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps

Living an essentialist life is about prioritizing yourself and your goals, creating a routine to stay on track, and taking small, incremental steps towards achieving them.

While it may be tempting to take the easy way out and get luck-based results in one fell swoop, in reality success is often created by building upon your progress with these small steps.

These small wins create momentum that gives you the confidence to keep going.

They also give you the opportunity to check if you’re heading in the right direction.

An example of this power of incremental steps is the police department in Richmond.

After years of trying sweeping reforms to reduce recidivism and failing, they decided to take a different approach based on smaller rewards; when police saw young people doing something good such as disposing of their trash responsibly, they gave them free movie tickets or entry into youth events.

This policy kept young people away from crime, as after a decade recidivism dropped from 60% to only 8%.

The important part for consistent improvement toward goals starts with routines that become habits over time—like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps who visualized his perfect race every day until it became automatic during real races and resulted in multiple medal wins!

In short, living an essentialist life centers around yourself, a routine and proceeding step-by-step.

Wrap Up

The Essentialism book, written by Greg Mckeown, summarizes an important concept: simplifying our lives can actually help us be more productive and fulfilled.

Contrary to what we often think, the key to success is not always in doing more, but in doing less and being pickier about what is essential.

At the end of this book, readers are presented with actionable advice: be an editor.

Reevaluate your life’s commitments and possessions and make sure to cut out anything that isn’t truly essential or important in some way.

Embracing this idea can truly revolutionize the way you live; it can strip away unhelpful clutter and make room for things that really matter to you.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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