Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

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by Greg McKeown

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Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Are you often busy but not productive? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people's agendas? If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist. The Way of the Essentialist isn't about getting


Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Are you often busy but not productive? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people's agendas? If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist. The Way of the Essentialist isn't about getting more done in less time. It's about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter. By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy - instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us. Essentialism is not one more thing - it's a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
McKeown began his mission for a less overcommitted life after he left his wife and hours-old baby in the hospital for an ultimately unproductive client meeting. Punctuated with zippy, thoughtful one-liners, this guide to doing “less but better” offers strategies for determining what is truly necessary, and shedding what is not. Too many people fall for the having-it-all myth, and would benefit from shifting from a non-essentialist mindset (unable to distinguish and parse out the truly important) to an essentialist one (capable of identifying the goal), contends McKeown. Instead of attempting to achieve everything, readers need to figure out how to do the “right thing the right way at the right time.” According to the author, the first step is un-committing: resisting the urge to join clubs, take on hobbies, and maintain unsatisfying friendships. Readers can stop making casual commitments, and can get over their fear of missing out. By making better choices, and not taking on the weight of other people’s problems, readers can realize the non-essential nature of virtually everything in life, and learn to be present and spend more meaningful time with family and friends. This is a smart, concise guide for the overcommitted and under-satisfied. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Do you feel it, too? That relentless pressure to sample all the good things in life? To do all the 'right' things? The reality is, you don’t make progress that way. Instead, you’re in danger of spreading your efforts so thin that you make no impact at all. Greg McKeown believes the answer lies in paring life down to its essentials. He can’t tell you what’s essential to every life, but he can help you find the meaning in yours.”
Daniel H. Pink, author of TO SELL IS HUMAN and DRIVE
“Entrepreneurs succeed when they say "yes" to the right project, at the right time, in the right way. To accomplish this, they have to be good at saying "no" to all their other ideas. Essentialism offers concise and eloquent advice on how to determine what you care about most, and how to apply your energies in ways that ultimately bring you the greatest rewards.”
— Reid Hoffman, co-founder/chairman of LinkedIn and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller “The Start-up of You”

"Greg McKeown’s excellent new book is a much-needed antidote to the stress, burnout and compulsion to “do everything,” that infects us all. It is an Essential read for anyone who wants to regain control of their health, well-being, and happiness."  
-–Arianna Huffington, Co-founder, president, and editor in chief, Huffington Post Media Group”

Essentialism holds the keys to solving one of the great puzzles of life: how can we do less but accomplish more? A timely, essential read for anyone who feels overcommitted, overloaded, or overworked—in other words, everyone. It has already changed the way that I think about my own priorities, and if more leaders embraced this philosophy, our jobs and our lives would be less stressful and more productive. So drop what you’re doing and read it..”
—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take

“As a self-proclaimed "maximalist" who always wants to do it all, this book challenged me and improved my life. If you want to work better, not just less, you should read it too.” 
- Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of The $100 Startup

"Great design takes us beyond the complex, the unnecessary and confusing, to the simple, clear and meaningful. This is as true for the design of a life as it is for the design of a product. With Essentialism, Greg McKeown gives us the invaluable guidebook for just such a project." 
-Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO
  "In Essentialism, Greg McKeown makes a compelling case for achieving more by doing less. He reminds us that clarity of focus and the ability to say ‘no’ are both critical and undervalued in business today."
-Jeff Weiner, ‎CEO, LinkedIn

"While everyone else is still leafing through Lean In or Outliers, get a competitive jump on the new year with....Essentialism... learn how to identify the right things, focus on getting them done, and forget the rest. In other words, 'do less, but better.'” -Forbes

“Essentialism is a powerful antidote to the current craziness that plagues our organizations and our lives.  Read Greg McKeown’s words slowly, stop and think about how to apply them to your life – you will do less, do it better, and begin to feel the insanity start to slip away.” 
- Robert I. Sutton, Professor at Stanford University and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and Scaling Up Excellence.

In a world of increasing chaos and complexity, the ideas and tools of Essentialism turn chaos into commitment and complexity into accomplishment.  This timely, well written book is a must read and do for any employee, manager, leader, or parent whoever  feels overwhelmed. It is truly the right book at the right time.
- Dave Ulrich, Professor, University of Michigan School of Business and Partner, the RBL Group

"Essentialism is a rare gem that will change lives.  Greg offers deep insights, rich context and actionable steps to living life at its fullest.  I've started on the path to an Essentialist way of life, and the impact on my productivity and well-being is profound."
  -Bill Rielly, Senior Vice President, Intel Security

"In this likeable and astute treatise on the art of doing less in order to do better...McKeown makes the content fresh and the solutions easy to implement. Following his lucid and smart directions will help readers fine "the way of the essentialist" -Success Magazine

"Essentialism will give you richer, sweeter results and put you in real control, giving greater precision to the pursuit of what truly matters.”

Product Details

The Crown Publishing Group
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Random House
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4 MB

Meet 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,, 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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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
clahain1 More than 1 year ago
Corporate cog, small business owner, artist, or harried stay-at-home parent--we all have big goals we'd like to pursue if we could just find enough time in the day. The number one piece of advice offered by teachers, mentors, life coaches and time management gurus? Prioritize. Sounds great. But how does one do that when faced with a never-ending list of must-dos?  According to author Greg McKeown, the first thing to dump is the list. A "priority," he says, is ONE thing. The First thing. Discovering what your First thing is--and how to structure life so that you're able to focus on it--is what ESSENTIALISM: THE DISCIPLINED PURSUIT OF LESS is about. The concept is simple enough: Do less but do it better. Yet, as we know, simple doesn't mean easy. There's nothing easy about admitting to your boss that you cannot possibly do justice to project he's set on your desk when there are three other ones demanding your attention. It isn't easy to give up your bowling league, your online gaming group, and your book club to finally finish that novel you've been "writing" since college. And it's downright excruciating to say to your kids: will it be karate, soccer OR drama? Because mom and dad need their time, too. What McKeown proposes is a radical re-think of how we design our days and focus our attention. ESSENTIALISM is directed to the corporate world, but the ideas and suggestion are easily adaptable for those in public service, the self-employed, students or those looking to make the most of a hobby they're passionate about. It really is up to each of us how far we want to take this philosophy--from solving a particular problem (How do I plan a wedding for 500 AND sleep AND not lose my job?) to a total life makeover that strips our days down to the barest and most meaningful essentials. The book provides a framework for individual readers to explore, adapt and build upon. I do wish Essentialism was a bit longer and included more case studies of people in varying life/work situations. I guess that would undermine the premise--that our lives are OUR lives and only we know what our priority (in the singular!) should be. Nevertheless, it  would have been helpful for McKeown to delve a bit more into the problem of competing demands--as a father of small children, he must have plenty of experience with the challenge of balancing family and work. Also, some might say that his view of how bosses will take take an employee's decision to skip time-wasting meetings or reject new projects is overly optimistic, especially in our still-recovering job market.  I borrowed my copy of ESSENTIALISM from the library, but I'm going to buy my own. It looks to be one of those books that become more and more useful as you put its ideas to work. It'll be something to turn to when, invariably, I find myself allowing the trivial to hijack my  "one wild and precious life."  
Asispeak More than 1 year ago
I didn't complete Chapter 1 before I paused, set the book down, and immediately began to simplify my office space. This book has become a way of life for me. Greg McKeown's statement "Separate the vital few from the trivial many" has helped me to become disciplined not MORE disciplined. Think you are disciplined now? You will find out quickly that, in fact, you are not. You will breathe a sigh of relief as you enjoy the "disciplined pursuit of less". This book is not just for the CEOs and corporate executives in the world, it is for anyone desiring to make the highest contribution they can to the world in which we live. I love this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It helps you rethink your priorities.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dr_James_Scott More than 1 year ago
The business world worships at the alter of multi-tasking, and it's leaders are heralded when they can figure out how to do more with the same or less amount of time. Individuals think they don't have a choice but to become proficient at multi-tasking because there's always so much to do! And therein lies the problem ... the thought that we have to do all that stuff that could possibly be done. Greg McKeown wants to rock your world by teaching you there's another way to think, live, and work. That other way revolves around doing "less but better," based on the concept he's an evangelist for called "Essentialism." McKeown does an effective job teaching this concept in his book, "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less," published by Crown Business. The book is more than an explanation of "Essentialism" followed by filler. The author does an intelligent yet understandable job of explaining and making an argument for Essentialism, and then walks the reader through the essential core-mindset of an essentialist, and how to go about developing a lifestyle that pursues doing "less but better" by focusing on what is essential. Many readers may initially be tripped up by the very concept. Life is stuffed with so many things to do and so many choices to make; aren't we supposed to see how many of them we can take on and get done? No. But that's not what we've always been taught, and it's certainly not what has been modeled for us or expected from us. What would your life look like if you purposely, thoughtfully started saying no to options and choices that were not essential to how you have decided to live your life, both personally and professionally? Chances are, your life would be very different, but the result would likely be your doing "less but better." We've developed as the norm the idea of life being about doing a lot, and only some of those things being done very well. But life could be about doing less --- just the essential things --- extremely well and saying no to the rest. Building such a lifestyle requires changing one's thinking and being disciplined in the application of this new mindset. McKeown lays out the essential elements of essentialism with a smooth writing style, easy-to-understand terms, and relevant stories to illuminate his teaching. Applying what McKeown teaches could result in a more unencumbered, more fulling, and even more productive life. For that reason, I recommend you read this book and let it challenge you to assess whether you're really spending your time and resources on the essential things in life, or if you're packing your life full of every option made available to you, no matter how unimportant it might be. The contrast might just motivate you to make some changes. I received this book free from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago