Essentialism Summary – Focus On What Truly Matters

Author: Greg McKeown

Essentialism (2014) reveals the mindset and process of getting more done in less time by saying “no” to the good so you can say “yes” to the best. The premise of this book is to learn to be “essential.” This book is an actionable guide to help you discover what matters to you and what works for you. With the information given in this Essentialism summary, you can eliminate everything else that might be holding you back from being your best self. 
essentialism summary

Detailed Summary of Essentialism

The premise of this book is to learn to be “essential.” It is not to become influential or famous. A question that the reader might consider is: What do you want your life to stand for? If you could distill your life’s meaning into one idea, what would that idea be?

This book aims to help the reader figure out personal essentialism, or what ten things are essential to your quality of life.

The message in this book is essentially about getting out of the weeds. The important thing is not to keep adding tasks and projects, and goals to your life until you have nothing left to do. This applies both to work and personal life. The author believes it’s good to have a lot of options, but perhaps it’s better to have very few priorities.

There are two kinds of choices we make every day. Should I do this or that? Or perhaps, I should do this but not that? Most people go through life constantly, making both types of decisions. We are, for the most part, reactive and not strategic.

But what if there were a way to start intentionally choosing the essential from the non-essential?

We all know what non-essential means because we live it every day. It’s all the stuff that crowds our life and pulls us into distraction and busyness. It’s the stress that keeps us away from accomplishing our goals.

Essentialism Summary Key Points

Here are some key points describing the importance of what truly matters and making them a priority. Moreover, this book emphasizes on focusing on important things to achieve better and more impactful results. However, all these essential things can only be achieved by creating discipline and effort in your life.

You might also like to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Summary.

To do Nothing and Sometimes do Everything are Signs of Learned helplessness

One of my favorite quotes of all time is, “It’s not what you do once in a while that shapes your life; it’s what you do consistently.” You might be wondering if I’m doing everything, then I’m being consistent, right? The problem with that line of thinking is that it robs you of choice.

The human mind evolved to adapt to change and conserve energy. Faced with too many options, you start to do nothing.

We give up trying when we believe that we have no power or control. You see it in the way that prisoners of war stop trying to escape their captors. They go from trying to do nothing to try to do everything, both signs of learned helplessness.

While doing nothing could look quite different for everyone, there seems to be a common theme that is quite prevalent: over-commitment. Most people tend to schedule themselves for way too many things on their plate. When something does come up that doesn’t fit their schedule or conflicts with something else, they react by either making excuses for why they can’t do it or giving up altogether.

Doing nothing is also a sign of learned helplessness. In many ways, it is the ultimate form of giving up your power to choose. You don’t need to do anything because you’re convinced that doing something would be impossible.

To escape learned helplessness and regain your power to choose, you must start doing something, even if it seems futile or insignificant. Even if you feel overwhelmed, you need to start doing a tiny bit of work and get your hands dirty. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you start taking action – even if it’s only procrastinating!

Apply the 90% Rule in your Life

The 90% rule has been called many things: the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule, and the Velocity Framework. It’s described in many ways, but all are similar because they prescribe identifying and removing the worst 20% of everything you can do.

Why do we need anything else? Why do we take the time to read a book or an article? Because it’s only going to be 20%, that is worth our time. All the other 80% is either time wasted or could be replaced by something much better.

At the beginning of pretty much every book about productivity, a variation of the following productivity hack is mentioned: The 90% rule. It’s as simple as it sounds; when you look at a project, task, or decision in front of you, only evaluate the most important criterion. Ignore all the other criteria, or you’ll become overwhelmed and give up.

The 90% rule can help you do the same with your work. One of the most common ways we lose time and forget to focus on what’s important is that we read more emails than we have time for, more articles than we have time for, and more books than we have time for. We convince ourselves these are important because we believe all our options are equally important.

Always add 50% of the time you think you need to do a particular task

I have some project management experience, so my work estimates tend to run pretty close to accurate. I just finished a project due yesterday, which was done faster than I thought. When I realized it, I was a little surprised. So I asked myself, why did waiting until later turn out to be so much easier than I thought?

The amount of time you need is always longer than you think. So when planning, add 50% of the time you think it’ll take. That way, you have some room to breathe and won’t freak out if something comes up and things run long.

When I say add 50% of the time you think something will take, I mean extra time in the schedule for things that take longer than you think they will. Your buffer is not for unexpected tasks that crop up but for tasks you’ve planned for that take longer than you think they will. So if you plan for a task to take 2 days and it takes 4 days, you’re still within your buffer zone.

This seems like the most obvious thing in the world. However, I found it very interesting when I noticed myself, even being aware of this concept, often adding less buff time than I should.

They have two things in common: the element of surprise (I didn’t plan anything) and the feeling of stress. It’s a no-brainer that a lack of planning equals disorganization, which is a constant source of stress. I know it sounds so simple. But if you don’t plan your time, you tend to waste it. Like a lot. It’s a challenge for everyone – as a freelancer, solo-pruner, or team leader.

Essentialism Quotes

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.” Greg Mckeown

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” Greg McKeown

Essentialism Review

This book is great because It helps you discover what is essential in your life or matters to you. We always overestimate ourselves by giving priorities to things that don’t matter. The Essentialism Summary on Blinkist has detailed tools and strategies you can learn, but It is better to read the book. A must-read.

To whom would I recommend Essentialism Summary?

  • Anyone who has many goals in his life but does not know where to start first.
  • Anyone who wants help in knowing how to prioritize things.
  • Whoever overestimates or underestimates them.