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Notes from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less [raw]


Raw Kindle notes for Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less by Greg McKeown

the basic value proposition of Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

Weniger aber besser. The English translation is: Less but better. A more fitting definition of Essentialism would be hard to come by.

The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better.

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

“the paradox of success,”2 which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

PHASE 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it enables us to succeed at our endeavor.

PHASE 2: When we have success, we gain a reputation as a “go to” person.

PHASE 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, which is actually code for demands upon our time and energies, it leads to diffused efforts.

PHASE 4: We become distracted from what would otherwise be our highest level of contribution. The effect of our success has been to undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

the pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure.

“decision fatigue”: the more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.

“What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and “What am I particularly talented at?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?”

We are looking for our highest level of contribution: the right thing the right way at the right time.

Options (things) can be taken away, while our core ability to choose (free will) cannot be.

choice is at the very core of what it means to be an Essentialist.

The Essentialist doesn’t just recognize the power of choice, he celebrates it.

Working hard is important. But more effort does not necessarily yield more results. “Less but better” does.

Getting used to the idea of “less but better” may prove harder than it sounds, especially when we have been rewarded in the past for doing more

Distinguishing the “trivial many” from the “vital few” can be applied to every kind of human endeavor large or small

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

saying yes to any opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others.

An Essentialist makes trade-offs deliberately. She acts for herself rather than waiting to be acted upon. As economist Thomas Sowell wrote: “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?”

Because Essentialists will commit and “go big” on only the vital few ideas or activities, they explore more options at first to ensure they pick the right one later.

The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.

We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many.

In order to have focus we need to escape to focus.

Whether you can invest two hours a day, two weeks a year, or even just five minutes every morning, it is important to make space to escape in your busy life.

In every set of facts, something essential is hidden.

stop hyper-focusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture.

play is essential in many ways.

play has the power to significantly improve everything from personal health to relationships to education to organizations’ ability to innovate.

Play is fundamental to living the way of the Essentialist because it fuels exploration in at least three specific ways.

play broadens the range of options available to us.

play is an antidote to stress,

Play stimulates the parts of the brain involved in both careful, logical reasoning and carefree, unbound exploration.

The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves.

One of the most common ways people—especially ambitious, successful people—damage this asset is through a lack of sleep.

Essentialists instead see sleep as necessary for operating at high levels of contribution more of the time. This is why they systematically and deliberately build sleep into their schedules so they can do more, achieve more, and explore more.

Essentialists choose to do one fewer thing right now in order to do more tomorrow.

While sleep is often associated with giving rest to the body, recent research shows that sleep is really more about the brain.

In a nutshell, sleep is what allows us to operate at our highest level of contribution so that we can achieve more, in less time.

Sleep will enhance your ability to explore, make connections, and do less but better throughout your waking hours.

“If the answer isn’t a definite yes then it should be a no.” It is a succinct summary of a core Essentialist principle, and one that is critical to the process of exploration.

As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it.

studies have found that we tend to value things we already own more highly than they are worth, and thus find them more difficult to get rid of.

Likewise, in your life, the killer question when deciding what activities to eliminate is: “If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?”

clarity of purpose so consistently predicts how people do their jobs.

When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress, and frustration.

An essential intent, on the other hand, is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable. Done right, an essential intent is one decision that settles one thousand later decisions. It’s like deciding you’re going to become a doctor instead of a lawyer.

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

And while conforming to what people in a group expect of us—what psychologists call normative conformity—is no longer a matter of life and death, the desire is still deeply ingrained in us.

The only way out of this trap is to learn to say no firmly, resolutely, and yet gracefully. Because once we do, we find, not only that our fears of disappointing or angering others were exaggerated, but that people actually respect us more.

“people are effective because they say no.”

Nonessentialists say yes because of feelings of social awkwardness and pressure.

Essentialists accept they cannot be popular with everyone all of the time. Yes, saying no respectfully, reasonably, and gracefully can come at a short-term social cost. But part of living the way of the Essentialist is realizing respect is far more valuable than popularity in the long run.

“the endowment effect,” our tendency to undervalue things that aren’t ours and to overvalue things because we already own them.

having fewer options actually makes a decision “easier on the eye and the brain,” we must summon the discipline to get rid of options or activities that may be good, or even really good, but that get in the way.

boundaries protect their time from being hijacked and often free them from the burden of having to say no to things that further others’ objectives instead of their own. They know that clear boundaries allow them to proactively eliminate the demands and encumbrances from others that distract them from the true essentials.

The Essentialist looks ahead. She plans. She prepares for different contingencies. She expects the unexpected. She creates a buffer to prepare for the unforeseen, thus giving herself some wiggle room when things come up, as they inevitably do.

the “planning fallacy.”6 This term, coined by Daniel Kahneman in 1979, refers to people’s tendency to underestimate how long a task will take, even when they have actually done the task before.

Curiously, people will admit to having a tendency to underestimate while simultaneously believing their current estimates are accurate.

One way to protect against this is simply to add a 50 percent buffer to the amount of time we estimate it will take to complete a task or project

Think of the most important project you are trying to get done at work or at home. Then ask the following five questions: (1) What risks do you face on this project? (2) What is the worst-case scenario? (3) What would the social effects of this be? (4) What would the financial impact of this be? and (5) How can you invest to reduce risks or strengthen financial or social resilience?

What is the “slowest hiker” in your job or your life? What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.

An Essentialist produces more—brings forth more—by removing more instead of doing more.

We can’t know what obstacles to remove until we are clear on the desired outcome. When we don’t know what we’re really trying to achieve, all change is arbitrary. So ask yourself, “How will we know when we are done?”

“everyday progress—even a small win” can make all the difference in how people feel and perform.

“What is the smallest amount of progress that will be useful and valuable to the essential task we are trying to get done?”

When we start small and reward progress, we end up achieving more than when we set big, lofty, and often impossible goals. And as a bonus, the act of positively reinforcing our successes allows us to reap more enjoyment and satisfaction out of the process.

“What’s important now?”

to operate at your highest level of contribution requires that you deliberately tune in to what is important in the here and now.

Getting the future out of your head enables you to more fully focus on “what is important now.”

The life of an Essentialist is a life of meaning. It is a life that really matters.