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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Hardcover – Abridged, April 15, 2014
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"Do you feel it, too? That relentless pressure to sample all the good things in life? To do all the 'right' things? The reality is, you don’t make progress that way. Instead, you’re in danger of spreading your efforts so thin that you make no impact at all. Greg McKeown believes the answer lies in paring life down to its essentials. He can’t tell you what’s essential to every life, but he can help you find the meaning in yours.”
-- Daniel H. Pink, author of TO SELL IS HUMAN and DRIVE
“Entrepreneurs succeed when they say "yes" to the right project, at the right time, in the right way. To accomplish this, they have to be good at saying "no" to all their other ideas. Essentialism offers concise and eloquent advice on how to determine what you care about most, and how to apply your energies in ways that ultimately bring you the greatest rewards.”
-- Reid Hoffman, co-founder/chairman of LinkedIn and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller “The Start-up of You”
"Greg McKeown’s excellent new book is a much-needed antidote to the stress, burnout and compulsion to “do everything,” that infects us all. It is an Essential read for anyone who wants to regain control of their health, well-being, and happiness."
-–Arianna Huffington, Co-founder, president, and editor in chief, Huffington Post Media Group”
“Essentialism holds the keys to solving one of the great puzzles of life: how can we do less but accomplish more? A timely, essential read for anyone who feels overcommitted, overloaded, or overworked—in other words, everyone. It has already changed the way that I think about my own priorities, and if more leaders embraced this philosophy, our jobs and our lives would be less stressful and more productive. So drop what you’re doing and read it..”
--Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take
“As a self-proclaimed "maximalist" who always wants to do it all, this book challenged me and improved my life. If you want to work better, not just less, you should read it too.”
- Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of The $100 Startup
"Great design takes us beyond the complex, the unnecessary and confusing, to the simple, clear and meaningful. This is as true for the design of a life as it is for the design of a product. With Essentialism, Greg McKeown gives us the invaluable guidebook for just such a project."
-Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO
"In Essentialism, Greg McKeown makes a compelling case for achieving more by doing less. He reminds us that clarity of focus and the ability to say ‘no’ are both critical and undervalued in business today."
-Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn
"While everyone else is still leafing through Lean In or Outliers, get a competitive jump on the new year with....Essentialism... learn how to identify the right things, focus on getting them done, and forget the rest. In other words, 'do less, but better.'” -Forbes
“Essentialism is a powerful antidote to the current craziness that plagues our organizations and our lives. Read Greg McKeown’s words slowly, stop and think about how to apply them to your life – you will do less, do it better, and begin to feel the insanity start to slip away.”
- Robert I. Sutton, Professor at Stanford University and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and Scaling Up Excellence.
In a world of increasing chaos and complexity, the ideas and tools of Essentialism turn chaos into commitment and complexity into accomplishment. This timely, well written book is a must read and do for any employee, manager, leader, or parent whoever feels overwhelmed. It is truly the right book at the right time.
- Dave Ulrich, Professor, University of Michigan School of Business and Partner, the RBL Group
"Essentialism is a rare gem that will change lives. Greg offers deep insights, rich context and actionable steps to living life at its fullest. I've started on the path to an Essentialist way of life, and the impact on my productivity and well-being is profound."
-Bill Rielly, Senior Vice President, Intel Security
"In this likeable and astute treatise on the art of doing less in order to do better...McKeown makes the content fresh and the solutions easy to implement. Following his lucid and smart directions will help readers fine "the way of the essentialist" -Success Magazine
"Essentialism will give you richer, sweeter results and put you in real control, giving greater precision to the pursuit of what truly matters.” -Forbes.com
About the Author
Greg McKeown writes, teaches, and speaks around the world on the importance of living and leading as an Essentialist. He has spoken at companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com, Symantec, and Twitter and is among the most popular bloggers for the Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn Influencer’s group. He co-created the course, Designing Life, Essentially at Stanford University, was a collaborator of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Multipliers and serves as a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum. He holds an MBA from Stanford University. www.gregmckeown.com
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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.
"If you have a big presentation coming up over the next few weeks or months, open a file right now and spend four minutes starting to put down any ideas. Then close the file. No more than four minutes. Just start it."
" MIX UP YOUR ROUTINES It’s true that doing the same things at the same time, day after day, can get boring. To avoid this kind of routine fatigue, there’s no reason why you can’t have different routines for different days of the week. Jack Dorsey, the cofounder of Twitter and founder of Square, has an interesting approach to his weekly routine. He has divided up his week into themes. Monday is for management meetings and “running the company” work. Tuesday is for product development. Wednesday is for marketing, communications, and growth. Thursday is for developers and partnerships. Friday is for the company and its culture.9 This routine helps to provide calmness amid the chaos of a high-growth start-up. It enables him to focus his energy on a single theme each day instead of feeling pulled into everything. He adheres to this routine each week, no exceptions, and over time people learn this about him and can organize meetings and requests around it."
“In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”
“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”
"The Prophet Muhammad lived an essential life that included mending his own shoes and clothes and milking his own goat and taught his followers in Islam to do the same."
Henry David Thoreau (who wrote, “I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; … so simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real”).
"While other people are padding their résumés and building out their LinkedIn profiles, you will be building a career of meaning."
"The life of an Essentialist is a life lived without regret. If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your time and energy in it, then it is difficult to regret the choices you make. You become proud of the life you have chosen to live."
"If you take one thing away from this book, I hope you will remember this: whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, “What is essential?” Eliminate everything else."
Technology was supposed to make our working lives easier, and our workdays shorter. Two decades later, we are still waiting for promised spare time.
Author Greg McKeown describes a seminal experience that led him to a profound conclusion. He was in the maternity ward with his wife and newborn child. A colleague called and asked whether he planned to attend the meeting scheduled at that time, and he said yes. “To my shame, while my wife lay in hospital with our hours-old baby, I went to the meeting.” His colleague mention that the client would respect him for making the decision to be there, but the look on the client’s face showed little respect. “I had hurt my family, my integrity, and even the client relationship.”
(What is your story? Pause and recall one. It will make the solution this book offers so much more meaningful.)
The important lesson McKeown discovered from this experience was that if you do not prioritise your life, someone else will.
Many forces make this prioritization no easy matter for even intelligent, thoughtful, and capable people. The result is the remaining in the “death grip of the non-essentials.” One of the reasons for this is that our society punishes the good behaviour (saying no,) and rewards the bad behaviour (saying yes.)
At a more subtle level, there are two reason mentioned in the book that stood out for me. The first is that the success often distracts us from focusing on the essentials that were the reason for the success in the first place. The second is that we have so much choice that it overwhelms our ability to manage it. Psychologist point out that a glut of choices causes “decision fatigue” which reduces the quality of the decision we do make.
When the word “priority, ” first entered the English language in 1400s it was in the singular. Today, it has a plural form allowing people to talk of their top ten priorities! This is part of the reason we entertain the myth that you can have it all, you can have ten top priorities. With ten priorities, it is not surprising that we lose sight of everything that is meaningful and important, in business and our private lives.
We need to separate the essential from the non-essential only because we cannot meet all our commitments to work, friends, family, social causes, and the rest. The time required simply is unavailable. There are only 24 hours each day. That is it.
The basic proposition of Essentialism is that “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.” Essentialism is not simply a matter of saying “no” more often, or honing your time management skills. Rather, it is asking, “What is the most important thing I should be doing now?” It is all about how to get the right things done.
Mckeown captures the method he presents for becoming an Essentialist in the “wardrobe” metaphor.
Your wardrobe is cluttered and disorganized. You have difficulty finding clothes, and have no place for new ones. The Essentialist would address this problem in three parts.
The first is to “Explore and Evaluate." Rather than considering whether you might ever wear garment again in the future, ask more focused and stronger question: “Do I love this?” and “Do I look great in it?” and “Do I wear this often?” If the answer to this question is negative, put the garment into the black bag for delivery to a charity.
In your personal or professional life this question would be “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution towards my goal?” As you work through this book, you will clarify what your goal is in the various aspects of your life.
The next step in wardrobe management is the “Eliminate” step. This is the step that prevents you having 10 top priorities or in term of the metaphor having a “probably should get rid of” pile. If you are not ready to put this pile into the black bag, you could ask this question: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” The business equivalent is “If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?”
The Eliminate step is a critical part of the value of this book, with the most value coming from the methods. McKeown describes how to rid yourself of the non-essentials in a way that earns you respect from colleagues, management, and clients.
The third step in wardrobe management is to “Execute.” To do this, you need to decide on a charity that will be the recipient of the clothing, what time they are open, and to schedule that into your diary. Without the plan to see this through, they will return to your wardrobe, sooner or later.
There is a discipline required to be an essentialist, and some courage. Your work-life is not like a wardrobe. In your work-life, the clothes get out the black bag and back into your wardrobe without you doing anything. A schedule you set can be scuttled within 20 minutes of your arriving at the office. Even being able to say “no” well, requires courage.
Learning how to do less is the only way to get the maximum return on every irreplaceable moment of your life. Stephen Covey, clearly an Essentialist, put it this way: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Readability Light -+--- Serious
Insights High +---- Low
Practical High +---- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of Strategy that Works.