Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown


prior notes: 2015-08-02-Essentialism


  • Only a few things really matter
  • Almost everything is noise

Chapter 1: The Essentialist

  • Missed his baby for a meeting: “If you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

Chapter 2: Choose

  • Despite decision fatigue and learned helplessness, you can decide. Step back to do so.

Chapter 3: Discern

  • Pareto principle, and the best are 10k x more productive. Essentialists spend a lot more time exploring options so they can find the really impactful things to focus their effort on. Push only the levers that matter most.

Chapter 4: Trade-offs

  • Don’t straddle: don't try to implement conflicting strategies. You must choose.
  • J&J credo in stone
  • “There are no solutions, only trade-offs”...”don’t ask what I have to give up, ask what I want to go big on”

Chapter 5: Escape (Solitude)

  • Deliberately set aside distraction free time in distraction free space to think
  • He wrote this book 5 am- 1pm 5 days per week
  • Read classic literature for the first 20 min of the day: Zen, Reason of unreason, Bible, Ghandi, Walden, Mormon, Marcus Aurelius, Upanishads

Chapter 6: Look

  • Journalism: look for the lead, not just the facts but why it matters
  • He recommends keeping a journal; and this has been a huge impact since I started in September 2015
  • But every month or 90 days you need to read your journal and look for the patters and “leads”

Chapter 7: Play

  • Play is essential to broadening our horizons, helps relieve stress, and helps our brain's executive function

Chapter 8: Sleep

  • Protect your asset (you)

Chapter 9: Select

  • “Either hell yes or no” - Derek Sivers
  • Say yes to only the top 10% of opportunities
  • If it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a clear no
  • Career: what am I deeply passionate about, what taps my talent, and what meets a need in the world?
  • What do you really want out of your career over the next five years?

Chapter 10: Clarify

  • Goals must be inspirational but also concrete

Chapter 11: Dare

  • How to say no with grace...

Chapter 12: Uncommit

  • Sunk costs on Concorde program
  • Admit failure to begin success: you’re only admiring that you’re now wiser than you once were

Chapter 13: Edit

  • subtract and refine

Chapter 14: Limit (Set Boundaries)

  • Set boundaries early and firmly because it’s a slippery slope
  • Boundaries are like the Christian concept of freedom: freedom for rather than freedom from
  • Forcing people to solve their own problems helps both of you

Chapter 15: Buffer (the unfair advantage)

  • Create buffers to prepare for the unexpected

Chapter 16: Subtract

  • The Goal: find constraints
  • Make a one-time investment in removing obstacles

Chapter 17: Progress

  • the power of small wins

Chapter 18: Flow (routines)

  • Use routines to free up your mind

Chapter 19: Focus (be present)

  • You can do multiple things at the same time, but you can’t concentrate on multiple things at the same time
  • Mindfulness

Chapter 20: Be

  • Live a life of simplicity and meaning
  • He tried to tie it to major religions
  • Clarity = success

Two major lessons he learned:

  1. Family is most important
  2. We don’t have much time left and it is precious