The Art Of Essentialism: When Doing Less Is Actually Doing More


Do you often find yourself chasing more and more everyday and find that 24 hours are simply not enough for all you want to get done in a day? Possibly you may be adopting the wrong strategy and you need to chase less and less every day and get focused on the pursuit of less.

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown is a self-help book that focuses on the concept of essentialism, or the art of prioritizing what is truly important and eliminating what is not. The book guides readers on how to apply this philosophy in various aspects of life to achieve more meaningful and productive outcomes. Here is a summary and key takeaways:

The core idea of “Essentialism” is about doing less but better in every area of life. McKeown argues that our success and personal fulfillment are hindered not by a lack of effort, but by focusing on too many things at once. The book opens with a critique of the “non-essentialist” mindset, characterized by the belief that we can have it all, do it all, and fit it all in. McKeown counters this with the essentialist approach, which involves discerning what is absolutely essential, eliminating the non-essential, and removing obstacles to make the execution of essential activities as effortless as possible.

McKeown divides the book into four parts: Essence, Explore, Eliminate, and Execute. In the Essence section, he defines essentialism and discusses the mindset required to adopt it. This involves understanding the trade-offs, embracing the reality that we cannot do everything, and focusing on where we can make the highest contribution.

In the Explore section, McKeown emphasizes the importance of discernment and exploration to identify what truly matters. This involves saying no to distractions and giving oneself the space and time to think and reflect. He encourages readers to escape the noise of life to better understand their priorities and decisions.

The Eliminate section discusses the need to cut out the trivial many to focus on the vital few. McKeown provides strategies for declining requests and commitments that do not align with one’s essential priorities. This involves learning to say no gracefully and removing obstacles that hinder the focused pursuit of essentials.

In the final section, Execute, McKeown offers advice on how to make execution of essential tasks as effortless as possible. This includes creating routines and systems that reinforce the essentialist way of life, ensuring that efforts are concentrated on activities that yield the most significant results.

Throughout the book, McKeown integrates personal anecdotes, case studies, and practical advice, making the concept of essentialism accessible and applicable to daily life.

Here are some Keywords and Key Takeaways: 

The Essence of Essentialism: Essentialism is the disciplined approach to focusing on what is truly important and eliminating what is not. It’s about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy.

Choice: Recognize that you have a choice in where to focus your energy and time. Essentialism starts with the realization that you can’t do everything and must choose where to direct your efforts.

Prioritize: You must discern what is absolutely essential and eliminate everything else. This requires a shift from trying to do everything, to doing the right thing.

Trade-offs: Acknowledge that there are trade-offs in life and work. Embracing the idea of trade-offs allows you to consciously decide what to pursue and what to sacrifice.

Explore and Evaluate: Take the time to explore and evaluate your options. This involves constantly questioning, reassessing, and being curious about what is truly essential.

Say No: Learn to say no gracefully and often. Saying no to non-essential tasks and demands frees up time and energy for what truly matters.

Sleep and Self-care: Essentialism emphasizes the importance of sleep and self-care. Prioritizing these aspects is crucial for maintaining the energy and clarity needed to focus on essential tasks.

Routine and Focus: Establish routines that reinforce your focus on the essential. Consistent routines help to automate decision-making and reduce the cognitive load of daily choices.

Clarity of Purpose: Having a clear vision of your goals and values helps to make decisions about what is essential. Clarity about your purpose and direction facilitates more effective essentialism.

Empowerment and Boundaries: Essentialism is about empowerment and setting boundaries. It involves taking control of your choices and rejecting the notion that you are a victim of external demands and pressures.

Exploration Before Execution: McKeown stresses the importance of taking time to explore and evaluate options thoroughly before committing to action, ensuring that efforts are invested in truly essential tasks.

Mindfulness and Presence: Essentialism encourages mindfulness and being present in the moment, which helps in recognizing and focusing on what is most important at any given time.