Essentialism by Greg McKeown

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My Rating: 5/10
Published or Updated On: 
November 21, 2022

Big Picture Thoughts

Greg's writing is better than mine, but it's writing I don't aspire to. He's clearly a smart guy & this topic has meat, but instead of filet he's serving a frozen McDonalds patty. Rating reflects core idea.

The Main Ideas

  1. This books is about deciding what to go big on, eliminating the "good" to focus on the "best".
  2. Almost everything is noise (most things don't matter).
  3. An essentialist lives by design rather than by default.

Summary Notes

Essentialism is the disciplined pursuit of less. At it’s core, this book is about selecting a focus to go big on, knowing that means sacrificing priority for other things that also would yield benefit, but not as much. It’s about selecting “what do I want to go big on?” And then building a mindset and lifestyle to make “going big” on that thing easy, by eliminating clutter of all kinds.

Essentialism - creating a system for handling the closet of our lives. It is a discipline that you apply it each and every time you make a decision about whether to say yes or decline.

It’s a method for making the tough trade between lots of good things and a few really great things. It’s about learning how to do less but better so you can achieve the highest possible return on every moment of your life.

Individual choice

Prevalence of noise

The reality of trade offs

“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.’”

“To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.”

Paraphrased concept: The idea is to edit your life to eliminate non-essentials. But this is hard. It is difficult to be concise (joke: “I must apologize: if I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”)

Instead of just jumping into a project, take a few minutes to think. Ask yourself, “What are all the obstacles standing between me and getting this done?” and “What is keeping me from completing this?” Make a list of these obstacles. They might include: not having the information you need, your energy level, your desire for perfection. Prioritise the list using the question, “What is the obstacle that, if removed, would make the majority of other obstacles disappear?”

On progress and the psychological power of small wins to beget further progress: “Instead of trying to accomplish it all—and all at once—and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress.”

Adopt a method of “minimal viable progress.” Ask yourself, “What is the smallest amount of progress that will be useful and valuable to the essential task we are trying to get done?”

“When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress, and frustration.”

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