Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (George McKeown)

Some essential notes from an essential book that reminds you to focus on the important things and how to say no to everything else.

Getting Side-tracked by others

Most things that people want from you are unimportant.

If you don’t prioritize then someone else will do it for you and you will find yourself committed to every one else’s agenda.

Hell Yeah

Learn to look at everything with Derek Sivers’ “Hell Yeah” attitude so that you’re not saying “yes” by default to everything because you don’t know what to say. Say No to everything and make “Yes” a chosen course of action.
Less is more.

The Pareto Principle is that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.

This is also known as the Law of the Vital Few. Figure out what is vital and concentrate on doing that well.

You are not making choices if you say yes to everything. The Essentialist starts with the assumption that everything is non-essential and the Non-essentialist believes that everything is essential. They end up straddling many projects, but neither one of them gets done well.

Realize that “there are no solutions, just trade offs”.

Journal Your Progress

Keep a journal because a) we are forgetful creatures b) it will help you see big trends and document where you came from and c) you can keep track of your progress and remind yourself of where you are headed and this will help you maintain momentum.

Shut off outside distractions and try not to let yourself get too interrupted all the time.

Make sure you get enough sleep to produce with energy and engage in play to stay creative. Be sustainable.

Goals and visions should be meaningful and measurable. Something like I’m going to raise sales by 10% is just measurable. Something like I’m gonig to solve world hunger is just meaningful. but something like I’m going to become a doctor is both meaningful and measurable. You’ll know when you’ve achieved success.

Steven Covey quote:

“The Main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”

How to Say No Gracefully

  • Tell people what you can’t do, but what you are willing to do (I won’t be able to make it then, but I’m willing to give you my keys = No I won’t drive you.)
  • I would love to but I am overcommited right now.
  • I would love to. Which of these other things that I’m working on right now should I de-prioritize?

When learning to say No, you will make mistakes at first and it will be uncomfortable, but over time like anything you will get better at it. People will often learn to respect you even if there is some friction in the short term. When you say no you’re letting everyone else know that your time is valuable.

Uncommit on things that you are currently tied down. Dont fall for the “Sunk cost fallacy”. Ask yourself if you would pursue the project if you weren’t already doing it.

Concentrate on Removing Excess

Become an Editor. Change things that don’t serve the intent. This also means the invisible art of leaving certain things just the way they are.

Create a 50% buffer on all plans. So if you think a meeting will take 1 hour. set it for 1.5hrs. Things always take longer than you expect. Daniel Kahneman calls it the Planning Fallacy and people underestimate how long something will take even if they’ve done it before. Probably because people know how long it will take but will not admit it to themselves or to others.

Bring forth more by removing constraints and obstacles. Instead of adding more sales people to ramp up production (which may work) also think about what things are holding you back and remove those. That is the essence of the Essentialist.

Reprogram Bad Habits

Develop routines and rituals so that things become accomplished subconsciously.
Change bad habits. Habits consist of Queue, Behavior and Reward. When you see the Queue, change the behavior. For example, when you are queued by the pastry shop, make that a queue to go across the street to get a salad. Over time this will create a new habit.

Focus on making incremental improvements on a daily basis. Progress towards your goal is key and small changes towards that goal is what will give you meaning and job satisfaction.

Keep a mindful mindset, living in the here and now. Worry less about successes and failures in the future and focus on changing the present.


About Esotariq

Quantitative Finance Professional with a passion for happy living, self-improvement, nutrition, and minimalist running over maximalist distances.