Essentialism, written by Greg McKeown was first published in 2014. The book is about how to be more productive and getting the most important tasks done within the time you have. It also teaches you how to say no to the many trivial things that will come your way to derail you from what is important.
Many people have been caught in the repeated cycle of saying yes to everyone. In the quest to please others, you have lost sight of what is essential for you to do and therefore you are not productive.
This Essentialism summary gives a brief of what you expect from the book – the chapters and the lessons you will learn from each.
The Essentialist – who really is an essentialist? This chapter focuses on what it means to embrace essentialism in your life. Greg puts it simply that “If you do not prioritize your life, someone else will.” An essentialist is someone who takes time to understand what is important so they can do that first.
To get what is important to you done, you need to be able to say no to people. If you are always saying yes you will be fulfilling the agenda or goals of others and neglecting yours in the process.
“There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: ‘I have to,’ ‘It’s all important,’ and ‘I can do both.’” It is essential to understand as an essentialist that you cannot do it all. The choices are too many, and there is a lot of social pressure. It is therefore imperative to separate the trivial from the essentials and do the latter.
Choose – The Invincible Power of Choice – “When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up becoming a function of other people’s choices—or even a function of our own past choices.” It is the power of choice that really defines your life. Your career, the car you drive, the course you pursue, the food you eat, the clothes you dress, the things you do all depend on your choices.
You have to be able to make the right choices by discerning what is important. Your ability to choose will not be taken away or given to you, you can only forget it and when you do your life will be in the power of others. Take control by making your choices consciously.
Discern – The Unimportance of Practically Everything – “An essentialist discerns more so he can do less.” Many people think that everything is essential which is why they are torn when it comes to making decisions. As an essentialist, you have to think of everything as unimportant so you can discern what is more important than the rest. Only a few things will be valuable to you, so identify them and prioritize those ones first.
Trade-Off – Which Problem Do I Want? – An essentialist approaches two things with the mindset of “which one do I go big on?” For a non-essentialist, they will feel like they are losing out if they do not do get both things done. However, you have to approach trade-offs as necessary and helpful and not feel like you are losing out when you compromise. To achieve this, you need to apply a high level of selective criteria to your choices. Life will bombard you with options that are seemingly important to you, but one will always take the upper hand.
Escape – The Perks of Being Unavailable – This is all about finding your focus so you can be able to discern the essentials from the trivial many.
Look – See What Really Matters – if you want to find out what really matters, you need to see the bigger picture. You should investigate your life so you can see all the minor details you have been focusing on. You can keep a journal to help you achieve this.
Play – Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child – when you play you explore, you learn, and you drift your mind away from the little factors. Making time to play opens you up to new connections with other people. By playing you are able to see things from a new perspective.
Sleep – Protect the Asset – you need time to sleep and recover so you can be able to perform better tomorrow. Without sleep, you can burn out, and your creativity reduces. You are also not productive if you do not get enough sleep. Essentialist do not view sleep as a barrier to getting things done.
Select – the Power of Extreme Criteria – Mckeown explains the 90 percent rule in selecting. If you are faced with an important decision you have to make, rate it from 0-100. If it falls below 90 percent discard it as unimportant. If you do this, then you will be able to respond with either a HELL YEAH or a profound NO.
Clarify; One Decision That Makes a Thousand – your goals need to be clear so that you know when you have succeeded. When clarity is lacking, there is a lot of confusion, stress, and frustration. Roles will not be set out properly, and meaningful activities will also lack.
Dare – The Power of a Graceful No – an essentialist should be courageous enough to say no. You will realize that people will not dislike you more because you have learned to say no. On the contrary, they will respect you for it. Accept that you cannot be popular with everyone at all times.
Uncommit – Win big by Cutting Your Losses – as an essentialist you should have the courage to admit your mistakes and detach yourself to avoid further damage.
Edit – The invisible Art – you need to be the editor of your life. Take away multiple meaningless activities and replace with one meaningful activity. As an editor, you don’t just subtract things you also add what is valuable.
Limit – The Freedom of Setting Boundaries – set boundaries that will help you stay on your essentialism path. This means staying away from people who derail you. Do not compromise your boundaries because if one falls off, all the rest follow.
Buffer – The Unfair Advantage – it is vital that you be prepared when life throws you the unexpected. You need to have a buffer that will protect you from that. Take time to be well prepared so that when the anticipated happens, you are protected.
Subtract – Bring forth more by removing obstacles – identify obstacles and remove them so you can achieve your goals. The barriers might not be so obvious. Look for things that are slowing your progress and remove them so you can realize what is essential. Focus on removing the one obstacle that when removed will eliminate other barriers on your way.
Progress – The power of Small Wins – as an essentialist you will need to go for the small wins that are essential instead of going for big flashy wins that do not matter. When you notice the small victories you will be more motivated and focused on doing what is essential. Breaking your essential goals into minimal goals you need to achieve along the way will help you stay motivated and focused to the end of the journey.
Flow – The genius of Routine – as an essentialist you need to have a routine that will ensure you achieve what is essential by default. With a routine, you are able to get rid of the obstacles.
Focus – What’s important now? – To make most of your time, you need to focus. To focus you need to be in the present moment. Wipe away the worries of tomorrow and the regrets of the past. Focus on now, and you will WIN.
Be – The Essentialist Life – in this modern life, you will be faced by so many choices, so many trivial things. To be an essentialist you only need to ask yourself what is important and neglect everything else.
What I Like About the Book
This book is highly relatable. At some point in life, you might find yourself stretched thin and unable to perform to your very best. You feel like at the end of the day, besides being very busy you have been majoring in the minors. This book reflects the modern life that is being lived today. There is a lot to do in a day but what is really important?
Without doing what is really important today, you will have accumulated tasks that you need to do tomorrow which means you do not get the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction regardless of how many hours you work in a day. I like that this book addresses issues that are continually putting many people down today.
Why You Should Read the Book
If you feel like you have been spending too much time fulfilling the agendas of other people or you have been spending lots of time being busy but not productive, then Essentialism is the book for you. This book will give you principles that you can use to have the most important things done first, so you get the best out of your time.
You should read this book because it will make you more productive. You will be able to discern between what is crucial and what isn’t. You can then focus on what is important and avoid the rest.