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028 Greg McKeown: Essentialism

Focus on the essential and eliminate the non-essential to live a more purposeful and fulfilling life.

Greg McKeown: Essentialism


Essentialism is a mindset and a method for making tough choices and focusing on what really matters in life. By saying no to non-essential tasks and distractions, we can create space for the things that truly matter and make a significant impact in our personal and professional lives.


Title: "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less"

Author: Greg McKeown

Publishing Year: 2014

Publisher: Crown Business

Length in hours: 6 hours and 14 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Essentialism is about pursuing less, but better, by focusing on the things that truly matter.
  2. Saying no to non-essential tasks is essential to living an essentialist life.
  3. An essentialist mindset helps to create space for deep, focused work and personal relationships.
  4. Essentialists prioritize self-care and well-being to ensure they have the energy and clarity to focus on the essential.
  5. Essentialism is not just a personal philosophy, but a business strategy for maximizing productivity and impact.
Greg McKeown: Essentialism

5 funny quotes

  1. "Remember, if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."
  2. "We can't have it all, but we can have what really matters."
  3. "The word 'priority' came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next 500 years."
  4. "We cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything."
  5. "The word 'decide' comes from the Latin 'decidere,' which means 'to cut off from.'"

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure if success is not defined."
  2. "An Essentialist produces more – brings forth more – by removing more instead of doing more."
  3. "The most successful people I know are not busy. They're focused."
  4. "We need to distinguish the trivial many from the vital few."
  5. "If it's not a clear yes, then it's a clear no."

5 dilemmas

  1. How do we balance essentialism with the need for exploration and creativity in personal and professional pursuits?
  2. What are the consequences of failing to prioritize and eliminate non-essential tasks and activities?
  3. How can we maintain an essentialist mindset in a culture that celebrates busy-ness and multitasking?
  4. How can we apply essentialism to larger-scale societal and environmental challenges, such as climate change or inequality?
  5. How do we determine what is truly essential in a world where the definition of success and happiness can vary widely between individuals and cultures?

5 examples

  1. Bill Gates is known for taking regular "Think Weeks" to focus on high-level strategy and planning for his company.
  2. Mark Zuckerberg famously wears the same gray T-shirt every day to minimize decision fatigue and free up mental space for more important decisions.
  3. Tim Ferriss is an advocate for the "80/20" rule, which suggests that 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results, so focus on that 20%.
  4. Barack Obama limited his wardrobe to only gray or blue suits while he was president to reduce the number of decisions he had to make each day.
  5. JK Rowling famously wrote the first Harry Potter book in cafes and on trains, but she also had a clear writing schedule and a set word count goal each day to ensure she made progress.

Referenced books

  1. "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change" by Stephen R. Covey
  2. "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" by Cal Newport
  3. "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl

Share a quote

"The most successful people I know are not busy. They're focused."

Greg McKeown: Essentialism
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