Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Doing Less (2014)
An Instant New York Times And Wall Street Journal Bestseller
Author: Greg McKeown
Reviewer: Bob Moore
I discovered the principles of essentialism when I became connected with Greg McKeown on LinkedIn. I then attended Greg’s EssentialLive: The Personal Quarterly Offsite and saw essentialism in action and promptly got a copy of his book.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Doing Less expands upon the things one needs to keep in mind should they proceed down the path of Essentialism. The principles of Essentialism exposed many of my key challenges. I tend to take on too much and underestimate the time required for completion of projects and tasks. Can you relate to this? Do you tend to say yes to everything?
As an Executive Effectiveness Coach, I knew I had to bring Greg’s work to the attention of my clients and subscribers. Greg says, “There’s a word for trying to do everything all the time. Madness! I truly feel like it’s this perverse disease of thinking and it has an absolute monopoly right now. Do more. Get more. Fit in more. More more more.”
Greg believes that our society is consumed with wanting more and that’s why we consistently take on additional things. “We are facing an unholy alliance between social media, smart phones, and consumerism. It’s not all bad, but certain forces that have come together are producing an unintended result for all of us,” Greg said. “Our whole society has become consumed by the undisciplined pursuit of more. The only way to overcome this problem is to change the way we think—adopt the mindset of only doing the things that are essential—and do it now.
Here are a few of the highlights I gleaned from the Five Parts of Greg’s book.
Part 1: Essence
What is the core mind-set of an Essentialist? The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better and pausing constantly to ask, “Am I investing in the right activities?” Are you getting the right things done? Greg amplifies on Peter Drucker’s principles from his best-selling book, The Effective Executive (1966), which is the foundation of my coaching and consulting work at Effectiveness Connection.
Part II: Explore
How can we discern the trivial many from the vital few? Because Essentialists will commit and “go big” on only a few ideas or activities, they explore more options at first to ensure they pick the right one later.
Part III: Eliminate
How can we cut out the trivial many? This section of the book is all about how to eliminate nonessentials in order to ensure that we can pour our energies into the activities that are most meaningful to us. An Essentialist makes one decision that eliminates one thousand later decisions.
Part IV: Execute
How can we make doing the vital few things almost effortless? Essentialists focus on the constraints and obstacles that need to be removed instead of adding effort and resources to produce more.
Here are three points that show how:
1. Be clear about the essential intent. Ask yourself, “How will we know when we are done?”
2. Identify the “Slowest Hiker.” Question anything that is slowing down the execution of a goal.
3. Remove the obstacle. Start small, like dislodging a boulder at the top of a hill; a little shove, then momentum will naturally build.
The Appendix includes a rich summary with the following seven elements of leading as an Essentialist which contrasts the Nonessentialist and the Essentialist:
The essentialism mindset begs us to join in a movement. “This book is not about tactically straightening chairs on the Titanic. The purpose is to draw more attention to the mindset problem we have because of the period in which we live. Essentialism wakes us up and helps shift us into a whole new way of thinking.
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.
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