Summary: Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Summary: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Summary: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

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

Not by Default, But by Design

Essentialists don’t simply react to events and make choices by default. They follow discipline and systems in creating a lifestyle to make their decisions, because they know not all things in life are equally important.

Essentialism is all about making decisions what’s important and what’s not in your own life.

Mine your past for ‘play’ memories. What did you do as a child that excited you? How can you re-create that today?


We feel helpless when we forget our ability to choose.

Replace “I have to”, “I can do both” with

  • I choose to
  • Only a few things really matter
  • I can do anything but not everything

Change your mindset and be free from non-trivial essentials. Essence – It’s all about mindset.

Every second spent worrying about past or future distracts us from what’s important here and now.

In turn, we surrender our power to choose to others. That’s the path of non-essentialist.


Discern ‘vital few’ from ‘trivial many’.

  • Invest a little bit of extra time to prioritize the pay-off. You want to really put all of your time and effort into ‘go big on’.
  • Almost everything else is unimportant. Sit back and explore your options.
  • Exploration is not an end in itself. Do it and do it regularly.
Time and space are only available to you if you design yourself to escape.
  1. Design – away from all distractions.
  2. Concentrate – on all important essentials.
  3. Read – classic literature, not blogs, modern books, news…
If you could truly be excellent at only 1 thing, what would it be?

Be brave. Look deep. There’re always going to be competing priorities but recognize and acknowledge them as a distraction, getting in your way of true intent. It’s difficult to eliminate, but it’s beneficial.


Hell Yeah! or NO

No more yesses. It’s either Hell Yeah! Or No.

  1. Write down the opportunity e.g. speaking at an event.
  2. List 3 key factors to pass to pursue this opportunity e.g. over 1,000 audience
  3. List ideal criteria e.g. over 5,000 audience

If your opportunity doesn’t meet all 3 criteria, learn to say no.


Effective people say ‘No’.

You’re not going to be the most popular. But done with authenticity, they’ll respect you as such.

Either you can say no and regret it for a few minutes or you can say yes and regret it for days, months and years.

Boundaries allow you to thrive when set in limits. Close your door so people won’t barge in. Stop replying to emails or phone calls. As long as you make it clear and set limits, boundaries don’t set you back.

Leave room for unexpected. Add buffer to give yourself breathing room and flexibility. Plus, you’ll feel better finishing early and taking a well-deserved break.

8 Ways to Say No

  1. Awkward No. Pause for a moment. Count to 3. Wait for him to fill the void.
  2. Soft No (No but…). I’d love to get together once the book is finished…
  3. Let me check my calendar and get back to you. It buys you time to think.
  4. Use email autoreplies.
  5. Yes, what should I deprioritize.
  6. Say with humor.
  7. You’re welcome to X. I’m welcome to Y. You’re welcome to borrow my car. I’ll leave the keys here for you.
  8. I can’t do it, but X might be interested.


Start small & celebrate MVP.

Instead of making just a mm progress in million directions, begin to generate tremendous momentum towards accomplishing a thing that’s truly vital.

MVP stands for minimum viable progress. Ask yourself what’s the smallest amount of progress that’ll be valuable to what you’re doing?

Achieve them. Celebrate them. It’s worth doing.


Identify what’s holding you back.

As a scout leader, it’s your responsibility to get all of the team members to the camp site before the sun sets. Some scouts go really fast, some go really slow. One boy in particular, Herby is the slowest of all. You can get the group to stop and wait for Herby to catch up. This keeps the group together but as soon as they walk again, the same gap begins to form all over again.

Or you can put Herby at the front and lines up all the boys in order of speed (slowest to fastest). The pack now begins to move in single group. The downside is the whole group is now moving at Herby’s pace. You’ll arrive late. What should you do?

Do anything and everything easier to make things easier for Herby. If Herby moves one yard faster, the whole group will get there that much faster.

Any improvement with the weakest, however how small, will improve the pace of the whole group immediately.

So, take the weights out of Herby bag pack, extra foods and supplies, and distribute it throughout the rest of the group. Instead of trying to improve every facet of the factory, you need to identify the Herby, the part of the process that is slower relative to every other part of the plant and improve its efficiency.