Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown Book Summary

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown | Free Book Summary

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown

Essentialism is the organized, systematic approach for determining what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

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

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The way of the Essentialist: Relentless Pursuit Of Less But Better

  • It means asking yourself frequently, “Am I investing in the right activities?”
  • The Essentialist rejects the idea that we can fit it all in; we have to deal with trade-offs and make tough decisions.
  • The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. It is the path to being in control of our own choices.

The Paradox Of Success

Having a clear sense of purpose enables us to succeed in our endeavors.

When we have success, we gain a reputation as a “go-to” person, and we are presented with increased options and opportunities.

Having many options and opportunities translates into demands upon our time and energy and leads to diffused efforts.Free book, podcast summaries


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 logic of Essentialism

The beliefs we must conquer: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.”

The beliefs to replace them with are: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”

Evolution of “Priority”

The word “priority” came into the English language in the 1400s.

It was singular, it meant the very first or prior thing and stayed singular for the next five hundred years.

Only in the 1900s we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.

Essentialist thinking: the three realities

  1. Individual choice: We can choose how to spend our energy and time.
  2. The prevalence of noise: almost everything is noise, and very few things are exceptionally valuable.
  3. The reality of trade-offs is that we can’t have it all or do it all.

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

The 90 Percent Rule For Decision Making

When assessing an option, think about the one most important criterion for that decision, and then 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.

“If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”

How To Evaluate Opportunities That Come Your Way

Write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered.

Write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. If the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is obviously no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no.

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