Essentialism By Greg McKeown

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Updated: November 1, 2022 Reading Time: 3 minutes rating: 10


If you’re struggling with your projects, have too many decisions to make or find yourself always saying yes to everything then this book is a must read!

Notes and Highlights

Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Esentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the non-essentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will.

A choice is an action.

While we may not always have control over our options, we always have control over how we choose among them.

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything” - John Maxwell

Trade-offs are not something to be ignored or decried. They are something to be embraced and made deliberately, strategically, and thoughtfully.

Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not and end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.

The faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” — Roald Dahl

Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore: to germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged. Play is fundamental to living the way of the Essentialist because it fuels exploration.

90 Per Cent Rule

As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 per cent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it.

“If we could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”

Essentialists accept they cannot be popular with everyone all of the time. Yes, saying now respectfully, reasonably, and gracefully can come at a short-term social cost. But part of living the way of the Essentialist is realising respect is far more valuable than popularity in the long run.

“No is a complete sentence.” — Anne Lamott

“To attain knowledge add things every day. To attain wisdom subtract things every day.” — Lao-tzu

The way of the Essentialist is different. Instead of trying to accomplish it all — and all at once — and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress.