Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
by Greg McKeown
Hardcover - 260 pages
ISBN 9780804137386
Crown Business
April 2014

I’ve read a few books this year that have changed my life and this is one of them. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is about getting rid of all those things that make you overworked, stressed and unfocused to get back to the essentials. Author McKeown breaks down the concepts into parts so you can understand the whole picture clearly and even includes some helpful drawings that enhance the message.

McKeown says there are two types of people: Non-Essentialists and Essentialists. Non-Essentialists try to do it all. They multitask and try to fit in as much as they can into their packed days. The more they think they can accomplish the more they feel accomplished. However, the author makes the case that they are stretching themselves too thin and the time and energy they can put into certain aspects of their life and career is decreased because it has to be spread across so many different tasks.

I love how the author implements the drawings and sketches. The one below effectively demonstrates the difference between putting all your energy into one thing versus putting small portions of your overall energy into many things:

The book offers a lot of advice on how to say NO to the non-essentials and yes to the essentials. Readers are encouraged to embrace routine as a means of conserving mental energy. Escape, sleep, editing, clarification, setting limits, creating buffers and boundaries are all elements of the advice. The advice can apply to many people but the examples the author provides are primarily composed of high-power executives. I was a bit offended to have to read about Jeff Bezos’ sleeping habits. I really don’t care about people like him. I’m a professional but I can’t relate to someone like that. I would have liked more examples that would people like myself who inhabit the middle and lower classes can relate to. I don’t think Essentialism is something only the rich can afford. I think anyone can become an Essentialist.

After reading this book I realized that I used to be an Essentialist and that I was happy that way. What changed was my loss of religion. When you are religious you say “no” to many things. Life can become a lot simpler and more focused when you clear the extraneous and whittle things down to what’s most important. When I stopped being religious, it wasn’t like life became a free-for-all and I said yes to everything. However, I did start saying yes to more things and found that life got more complicated and more cluttered as the years passed. I think at heart I’m an Essentialist and the Non-Essentialist lifestyle is not for me. It’s too stressful and harried. I need some simplicity and focus! I’m grateful to this book for opening my eyes to this.

Disclaimer: I received this book as part of Crown's Blogging for Books program.
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