232 of 241 people found the following review helpful
While i like the idea of "helping myself", self-help books have always turned me off. Books i've read seem self indulgent, with the author telling you how awesome they are, all these amazing people they've helped, and how once they share their secret with you everything is going to change, blah blah blah.
maybe it just happened to find me at the right time in my own journey, but i loved this book. It talks in a very clear and straightforward manner about how to simplify your life, your thinking, and your purpose to cut out all the extraneous "stuff" that continually distracts us and focus in on what's really important. People and things (like email!) continual to swirl around us, competing for our attention. When we let them have our attention without being thoughtful, they fill up your life instead of YOU filling up your life and deciding for yourself what your priorities are. It also makes the very commonsense point that when we have 15 different priorities, we have no priorities!
Read this book. I felt like it was a great use of time, it had a lot of important things to say, and it was concise in how it said it.
172 of 182 people found the following review helpful
Doing more by doing less is a seductive concept. But is it possible? Yes, says this how-to manual on essentialism. The formula for doing more by doing less is to discern what is absolutely essential, eliminate the rest, and get those things done with as little effort as possible writes author Greg McKeown. McKeown is CEO of a strategy company in Silicon Valley, co-created a course at Stanford titled "Designing Life, Essentially" and speaks at companies including Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce, and LinkedIn.
This book may not be for everybody. If your life is manageable, filled with satisfying activities, and you're progressing at the pace you want, you may not need this book. But for those who feel overloaded, distracted, stuck in the mire of doing a lot but not progressing on what matters to you, you might find it of interest. Although there are time and life management books by Stephen Covey, Brian Tracey, Julia Morgenstern, David Allen etc., this book approaches life management from a fresh angle: essentialism. It is filled with contemporary examples which are relevant in 2014.
Four E's constitute the process of essentialism says McKeown: Essence, Explore, Eliminate and Execute. The goal is to do less, but better writes McKeown. It's a disciplined pursuit of less he writes. "If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will," McKeown says. He recommends asking yourself continually: "Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?" Or, to discern what is essential to you, how about this question: "If you could do one thing with your life right now, what would it be?" The aim is to live by design, not default. You practice distinguishing between the trivial many and the vital few.
Under the umbrella of each of the four E's of essence, explore, eliminate and execute, McKeown lists mindsets and actions to live more essentially. Take execute, one of my favorite sections, McKeown outlines: buffering - prepare contingencies and expect the unexpected, subtracting - bring forth more by removing obstacles, progress - the power of small wins which harnesses the power of steadiness and repetition, flow - capture the genius of the best routines, focus - figure out what's important now and be - the essentialist life of more clarity, more control, and more joy in the journey.
Threaded throughout are abundant examples of individuals who live by the principles and actions described in this book. Warren Buffet seems to practice essentialism in his approach to investing about which Buffet says humorously: "Our investment philosophy borders on lethargy." Doing more by doing less. There's the example of business prophet Peter Drucker who is quoted forecasting: "In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time - literally - substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it." This book offers ideas on how to manage yourself and what is essential to you.
Clarity = success promises this book. It makes sense that if you practice essentialist principles, it will revolutionize your life. You will create more of what you want, and eliminate more of what you don't want, enabling you to do more by doing less. This is life transforming, and one of the best books I have read recently in which the message is potentially life-changing. Like the book's design, too, with the jazzy black and white graphics.
225 of 251 people found the following review helpful
The theme of this book is to simplify your life. Books or self improvement lectures along this theme are hardly new or rare. The slight twist here is that rather than the material, the author ignores possessions and instead concentrates on tasks.
Initially the author goes on about how busy people often don't get that much done because they are distracted by unimportant tasks impeding their work on vital tasks by being distractions. This harks back to advice to separate your work into urgent, non-urgent, important and non-important - advice many have heard before.
The book, as these often are, is anecdotal. In most books, anecdotal tales consist of anonymous and probably apocryphal, such as, "Lisa S came into my office carrying her saxophone. She denied to me she had her sax with her which confirmed my diagnosis that she was musically delusional" and so forth.
Here, the tales are almost always attributed to not only an identifiable person, but one who is at least slightly a public figure - usually a player in the tech industry. The author clearly thinks we'll be impressed not only that he knows these folks but that their having simplified their lives will impress us to follow suit.
At several points, the author shows how employees, in an effort to become an 'essentialist' (the goal here) tells their boss something like, "No, I won't do as you say because I want to finish what I'm working on". This defiance, the author tells us, earned the respect of that boss with no adversity or blow back. I think that rather optimistic outside of the high tech Bentley / BMW / Audi / Benz circles this author seems to orbit about within.
The gist of the book is about 20 pages. Then we go on for another 80 or so repeating the same advice along with some more celebrity anecdotes. Finally, in the last maybe 30% of the book, the author branches off a bit into what an 'essentialist' is verus a 'non-essentialist' the latter is one who is still clogged up with unimportant tasks.
The contrasts have nothing to do with keeping your life simplified. They are just the author's sundry dewdrops of advice on how to conduct your life. Most make plenty of sense but they are clearly in the book only to make it long enough to not look silly.
Overall if the message is new to you, then the book is very worthwhile reading, but for most of us, we know this stuff and we're either doing it or finding some roadblock to being able to do it. Conditionally recommended.
87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
There is only one reason I'm giving this book less than 5 stars - it was too long. Other than that it is outstanding. This book is 246 pages, but the book is not full sized, there are a lot of graphics, etc. so it is not dense. I read it in one day. It is a fairly quick read and yet despite that I did feel that given its message (eliminate everything but the essential) it was just a bit too wordy. I'm only knocking off 1/2 of a star though.
On the other hand the content is right on and excellent - especially the earlier parts of the book. There is something called Sturgeon's law that says 90% of anything is crap. I think this is true in life and work and relationships and everything else. There is the Pareto Principle that says 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort or people (aka the 80/20 rule). The whole idea is to cut commitments, say no, ruthlessly eliminate everything that is not essential and focus your effort on what remains. This is clearly a very oversimplified description - thus you need to read the book. I thought it was inspiring and contains numerous insights.
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
First off, I think this is a very well-laid out book. The text is beautifully done, the images simple, but informative and pleasing. Having a book so aesthetically pleasing always makes reading it that much more of a pleasant experience.
This book is a great introduction to the world of essentialism. Even if you don’t want to be a minimalist and abandon all your world belongings, it’s still a great concept for anyone. It will definitely change how you see the world around you. Many topics are covered. Below is a breakdown of the chapters:
Part I: Essence
1. The Essentialist
2. Choose: The Invincible Power of Choice
3. Discern: The Unimportance of Practically Everything
4. Trade Off: Which Problem Do I Want?
Part II: Explore
5. Escape the Perks of Being Unavailable
6. Look: See What Really Matters
7. Play: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child
8. Sleep: Protect the Asset
9. Select: The Power of Extreme Criteria
Part III: Eliminate
10. Clarify: One Decision That Makes a Thousand
11. Dare: The Power of a Graceful “No”
12. Uncommit: Win Big by Cutting Your Losses
13. Edit: The Invisible Art
14. Limit: The Freedom of Setting Boundaries
Part IV: Execute
15. Buffer: The Unfair Advantage
16. Subtract: Bring Forth More by Removing More
17. Progress: The Power of Small Wins
18. Flow: The Genius of Routine
19. Focus: What’s Important Now?
20. Be: The Essentialist Life
The first lesson you learn is “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” This is extremely important to everyone and it really set the tone for the rest of the book. This book is definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to get a better hold on their life or just start rethinking the way you run your life.
87 of 103 people found the following review helpful
I don't exaggerate when I say I have probably fifty or more books on the topics of simplifying one's life, saying no, managing time, managing expectations, and so on. It is a topic I'm extremely interested in. So I was quite interested in seeing what Essentialism said and how it said it.
Really, there's only so many ways to present this information. Essentialism isn't new or groundbreaking. It doesn't have amazing insight. Still, it does present information which is valuable. If someone hasn't read about this before, maybe this book will be the one that helps them improve their life. It could also be that the book's system of having short, illustrative stories connects with an audience more clearly than other styles of presentation do.
Author Greg Mckeown provides a variety of systems to help the reader become an Essentialist. Keep a journal and watch for changes. Make sure you get ample sleep each night, because lack of sleep leads to issues with brain functioning. Consider each choice and if you don't enthusiastically want to say YES to it, then say no. The time you free up could lead to a perfect opportunity for you. Be present in the moment. Aim for small victories that then add up. Allow time for play - it keeps the brain elastic and creative.
His stories give examples and background for many of his instructions. He talks about an experiment with dogs where the dogs "learned helplessness" - they didn't even try to avoid electric shocks because they'd been taught they were just part of life. Greg explains that often humans are like this. We give up on even trying to change things.
Greg says, imagine you set a goal to drive across town without using the brakes. Sure, if you timed all the lights just right you could do it. But life isn't like that. Life has stoplights and cars pulling out and so on. The only way to maintain your goal would be to build in a buffer of space so that you could account for those things. Life is like that. You need a buffer to account for the normal issues.
So all of this is great. Again it's not new, but it's important. These are things we should keep in mind and practice. I'm a proponent of people learning and understanding these things.
Where I have an issue is with the many other things he snakes into his message which I feel are less healthy. And since they're all in this common "wrapper" they might be ingested by readers without thought.
For example, while sometimes he talks about donating things to charity, at other times he says to "throw away" what you don't want. He denigrates the idea of taking on charity work in a field we adore. Apparently only work you get paid for is worth your time. He praises parents who only allow their child to do "one big thing" in order to get into their chosen college choice. What if the kid also is interested in photography or softball, just at a lesser level? Apparently this is "bad" because the kid should only be allowed to do one thing.
Couple that with his statement that parents shouldn't do ANYTHING for their own creativity like attend book clubs or go golfing. They should spend their days 24x7 focused on their kids as an ideal. Now, I'm all for engaged parents. But I also think kids should have kid-time and parents should have parent-time to keep them all well rounded. If nothing else, a parent who takes an hour a day to celebrate their passion for watercoloring is providing a healthy role model to their child that they, too, should always have space for their own creativity and passion.
I dislike his use of "yes, but" language for turning people down. So many other books explain why this is poor phrasing. Also, he harps on the idea that if you say no to people that they'll grow to respect and love you. Sure, some might - but not all will. It's better to be realistic rather than idealistic in presenting information.
One of Greg's praise is for a person who says "productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people." What?? So even if I adore photography, I shouldn't participate in my local photography club, which I am just so joyful about, simply because it helps other?
Again, I say absolutely that much of the message here is healthy. But there's no need, in my mind, for these unhealthy messages to be mixed in. Will some readers skim over them? Certainly. But other readers won't. And it's like presenting a delicious dinner that has some pesticide-laced items in them. Some people won't eat those - but why in the world have them on the plate? Surely the product would be even better without those items.
So as much as I love the idea of Essentialism in general, this book in particular just has too much questionable material in it to recommend. It's not like it's a choice of this book or none others. It's a choice of this book or HUNDREDS of others which are just about identical. And with so many of those others being awesome, and covering the same material, I highly recommend the others.
As a final note, I was also flabbergasted that, even though I own the hardcover, I had to pay another $10.99 to get the Kindle copy. That's an outrageously high price for a Kindle version of a book that has no printing or other costs involved. The profit margin on that for the author is incredibly high. And, not only that, but the way the Kindle book is laid out is sub-optimal, from asterisks that aren't explained until many pages later to the page layout and the way jumps are handled. So it's not even that you're paying a premium for an extremely well designed Kindle option.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The core essence of this book is "do less, but better" by eliminating the non-essential from our lives we are free to pursue the things that really have value for us. The author begins the book not only by describing the fundamental differences between a Nonessentialist and an Essentialist, but gives examples of the harried, over committed, over stressed, overloaded life of the Nonessentialist, bought on by too much social pressures, too many choices, the idea that "you can have it all", the feeling that you can be all thing as to all people, the inability to say NO, to name only a few. The Essentialist believes in personal choice on how to spend one's energy and time, believes that almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable, and that we can't have it all or do it all. The author teaches us to evaluate our lives, discern what truly matters, accept the trade-offs, eliminate the non-essentials and achieve clarity and gain more control over our lives. This book has helped me tremendously in realizing how over committed my life has become, how much other people's agendas determine to a great extent how my time is spent, and how all these commitments create stress and keep me from doing what I really want to do with my time. I am grateful for this timely book. Buy it and begin your journey of liberation.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Not a day goes by when I don't hear someone complain about being overwhelmed - too much to do and too little time. I have come to realize that in many cases (new mothers being the most notable exception) that most people simply are doing too many things that are simply not that important.
There is a great point neat the beginning of the book that says a lot about the book - "If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will." When we allow others to prioritize our lives, we give up control, become totally reactive to life and this leads to the feeling of overwhelm.
"Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it's about how to get the right things done." Here is a great question to ask yourself several times a day is, "Am I investing in the right activities?" Life is not about doing more - it is about deciding what is important and doing those things that are important. Essentialism helps you do just that.
Greg McKeown, the author, has written an excellent guide to help the average person make extraordinary progress in life by doing less but focusing our energy on doing what is important.
Mr. McKeown asks the reader to answer three very important questions: "What do I feel deeply inspired by? What am I particularly talented at? What meets a significant need in the world?" The answers to these three questions gives a reader the "highest point of contribution" - the intersection of passion, talent and need.
The book is divided into four parts. The first is "Essence" - we must decide on what is important. Part two is "Explore" - look to see what really matters. Next is "Eliminate" - a critical part that most people overlook - the need to eliminate the unimportant from our lives and Part four is to execute.
Mr. McKeown writes in a very clear style. His insights are profound. If you are serious about making significant strides in your life, you must eliminate a lot of unimportant things from your life. You need to get down to the essentials of life. This book will help you figure out what matters and then give you some excellent pointers on how to implement and achieve those important goals.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
According to this book, many people (and I'm among them) get to the end of a day- or a week or a month - and wonder why they didn't complete the goals or projects that were their top priority. Somehow they lose keep track of what is truly important and end up tackling too many irrelevant or unsatisfying tasks.
Admittedly, it is hard to learn to say no. It is difficult to turn down extra "little" tasks at work, the kind that somehow eat up hours instead of minutes. But taking the guts to say no (tactfully) may be the real key to job success. McKeon certainly makes a compelling case for that stance.
Although it may seem productive and ambitious to try and get as much accomplished as possible, this can result in less success...in short, too many "accomplishments" with only average results. Nothing stellar. But by focusing on only the truly desirable choices, the unnecessary ones fall away or go to the back of the line. And the top choices get full attention, with a better likelihood of fulfilling results.
By now you may be thinking this seems easy. Eliminate the extraneous. Pay full attention to the rest. But it is hard to resist all the choices that arise in a day, from listening to the radio while driving to giving in the temptation to get as much done in an hour as possible. Take a conference call. Combine a business meeting with lunch. Limit breaks. Keep working frantically on a multitude of requests.
And that is the mindset that leads to mediocre results. In an increasingly busy world, McKeon urges readers to make space in their day. Time to rest, think, reflect on how things are going. This isn't a waste of time or "being lazy" but an opportunity to recharge and regain focus.
How to do this - and do it well - is truly the "essence" of essentialism . That's what makes the book such a valuable asset to anyone wanting to build a more meaningful life instead of one buffeted by the lure of tackling too much.
39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
This book struck a deep chord. I was busy doing many projects, but had seemed to slow down progress. I was doing too much. Or rather, too many. Do fewer things, but do them better, deeper, and more meaningfully. It really works. This is powerful stuff. There's much more here than the big idea -- there's motivation, examples, how-to, lots of ways to prune and how it won't be as painful as you think.
The book does start to become repetitive, it indeed could have benefited from a little disciplined pursuit of less, but at least it is all on topic. What I got from the book was worth five stars and more. It's clear and compelling. It just may make a big difference.