Are you always busy but not so productive? Are you constantly overwhelmed? Do you feel that your time is being "hijacked" by other people's commitments?

If you identify with these situations, the practices of "essentialism" can change your life. Want to know more? Keep reading this summary!


About the book


Greg Mckeown's book "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less," seeks to teach to be better by doing less things.

Divided into 4 parts, the work presents practical solutions that help eliminate everything that hinders you from being productive and efficient.

The book reached the bestseller level by the New York Times and was recommended by other authors and successful entrepreneurs, such as Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linkedin.

The complete edition is available for purchase at the link: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.


About the Author


Greg Mckeown is author and management consultant. He has lectured on companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. In addition, he is one of the leading writers of the Harvard Business Review blog.

As an academic background, Greg holds an MBA in management from Stanford University.


For whom is this book suitable?


The practices suggested by the author are useful to anyone who wants to be more productive, efficient and plans to have a better management of time and activities.

In addition, it can also help people with difficulties in identifying their priorities in life.


Main ideas of the book


The key points of the book are:


  • Less is more;
  • Few things are really essential in your life;
  • Creating a routine is important to focus on what is essential.


In this summary, we will explain the 4 parts of the book, explaining the main ideas of the author in each one of them.

So let's begin?


Overview: Part 1 - Essence


In this first part, the author defines what is essentialism and shows the mentality necessary to practice this discipline.

Mckeown explains that to be an essentialist, we need to replace the false assumptions: "I need to do"; "This is all important" and "I can do both" by the three fundamental truths of essentialism:


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


In the book, the author devotes a chapter to talk about each of these expressions. Here are the ideas behind each of them:


The power of choice


According to the author, the first step is to recognize that you have a choice. When we forget that possibility, we are left at the mercy of other people's choices.

Therefore, an essentialist is someone who values ??the power of choice.


Few things really matter


Many people fail to deliver their maximum performance because they believe that everything is important. So it is important to invest some time to evaluate your options.

With this evaluation, an essentialist can separate what is vital (usually few things) from what is trivial.




When we find a difficult choice between two things we long for, this is what we call a trade-off. Normally, our will is to do both, which often goes awry.

In this situation, an essentialist does not ask himself how he can do both, but decides in which one he can grow more.

With this reflection, he can judge what will give him the greatest opportunity and focus on that, that is, focus only on what is essential.


Overview: Part 2 - Exploring


In this segment, Mckeown describes five practices that should be used to differentiate what is really essential.

So let's get down to business. The practices are as follows:




Our lives are very busy now, right? Often we have the perception that we do not have time for anything, much less to think about life.

In this chapter, the author touches precisely on this point: the importance of stopping a little and thinking.

What he suggests is to invest as much time as possible (and do not get in the way of your tasks, of course) to escape the rush of everyday life and focus, read, and think about life.




The main lesson of this chapter is basic but fundamental: we must stop focusing too narrowly on small details and pay attention to the big picture.

For this, the author provides some tips:


  • Keep a diary to record and analyze your life;
  • Explore the problem in practice so it will be easier to assess the cause;
  • Pay attention to abnormal details.


Have fun


According to the author, the fun must stop being seen as a "neglect" of its responsibilities.

He explains that fun is essential in stress management. As a consequence, it also influences their productivity, creativity and quality of life. That is, it is part of the essential matrix of your life.

So you should allow yourself to have a few moments to have fun.


Sleep and recover


The author makes it clear that the greatest asset we have is ourselves, whether contributing to the world or our own lives. Therefore, we must protect this asset, that is, our health.

The essentialist understands that one more hour of sleep represents several hours of high productivity, so treats sleep as essential.

In addition, a good night's sleep enhances creativity and enables higher levels of contribution to be achieved.




During this chapter, Greg deals with the "90% rule" used in making important decisions for you.

Its operation is simple: you must give a note to each option. Those who are under 90, you should reject. That way, you avoid getting caught up with medium options.

When finding a new opportunity, the author recommends the following approach:


  1. Write on a paper what the opportunity is being offered to you (Eg give a talk at an event);
  2. Below, decide 3 criteria by which the opportunity should be approved so that you start considering it (eg, public of more than 1000 people, transportation costs paid);
  3. Finally, write down the ideal criterion for the opportunity to be approved. (Eg, 5000 people will attend the lecture and you will receive a bonus).


According to the author, you should only accept an opportunity that meets all your initial criteria and by at least 2 ideal criteria.

That way, you can separate which are the opportunities that will bring great benefits and are essential.


Overview: Part 3 - Delete


In the third part of the book, the author shows how to eliminate everything that is not essential. Thus, we can increase our level of contribution with the activities that really matter.

We separate the main aspects of this segment of the book:


The force of "no"


It is common to find ourselves in situations where we agree to something out of obligation or just to avoid major conflicts.

In these cases, Mckeown explains that an essentialist must master the art of assessing the situation and, if appropriate, speaking not in a respectful and eloquent manner.

This is one of the book's most important skills, and also one of the most difficult to learn.

Also, you must accept that it will not always be popular. Even more so in contexts where people are not accustomed to hearing "no".


The Pitfalls of Commitment


Have you continued to invest effort and time into a decaying project? People often refuse to admit that they have made a mistake and remain committed to projects that are doomed to failure.

The essentialist, on the other hand, sees no problem in admitting an error and redirecting the time and effort for a more productive project.

To avoid falling into this kind of trap, the author provides some tips:


  • Do not over-value your own projects. Always ask yourself, "If I was not involved, how much effort would I make to get into this activity?
  • Do not think that giving up something flawed is wasteful;
  • Ask for the opinion of someone neutral;
  • Admit failure to start succeeding.


It is important to impose limits


With the new media, people have the idea that we are available all the time. This makes the line between work and family more and more tenuous.

According to the author, the non-essentialists see the limits as a demonstration of weakness and incapacity. However, what happens most is loss of quality in the results caused by the lack of limits.

In contrast, the essentialist recognizes that boundaries are crucial because they allow you to eliminate the demands and problems of others and focus on what is really essential.


Overview: Part 4 - Perform


In the last part of the book, Mckeown teaches you how to create a system to perform those activities that you have identified as essential. The steps suggested by him are:


Prepare yourself


A good preparation is crucial to prevent unexpected problems from hampering the progress of the project. The essentialist accepts that it is not possible to predict or control the whole context. So he always prepares for the worst.

To help you, the author proposes the following practices:


  • Always add 50% of the time needed in your estimate. That way, you protect yourself from any surprises.
  • Simulate different scenarios. Thus, you can draw up a plan and already know beforehand how to act in certain circumstances.


Identify and Remove Obstacles


The main idea of ??this chapter of the book is that an essentialist increases his productivity by removing obstacles that are hindering rather than trying to do more to produce more.

To do this, the author explains that you should stop and think before you start the project: "What are the obstacles in my journey to complete this task?".

This insight lets you find the best way to solve the problem and increase your progress, which is covered in more detail in the next chapter.


Visualize your progress


According to the author, the essentialist advances slowly and, in the end, achieves great results. Throughout the process, he makes a point of celebrating every little victory.

This progress visualization is a powerful tool to increase satisfaction while performing the task.


Create a routine


When we are doing things inside a routine, your accomplishment ends up being easy and natural, is not it?

The idea of ??this chapter is that you should establish a routine for your progress. For this, you should eliminate non-essential habits and work on those habits that bring benefits to you.

Greg quotes a part of Charles Duhigg's bestseller, The Power of Habit, which explains how you can harness habits to be more productive.

To know more, take a look at our review of this work: The Power of the Habit.


Stay Focused


Finally, the author talks about the importance of staying focused on what is most important at the moment, according to the priorities you have set in previous practices.

He makes an important distinction: "multitasking" is not inimical to essentialism, but "multifocal" is.

The multifocus is a problem because we can not concentrate on two things at once, trying to do this only deceive ourselves and decrease our productivity.


Okay, but how can I apply this in my life?


The teachings of this book are not easy to apply. It is important to keep in mind that you will not turn into an essentialist overnight.

However, following suggested practices, it is possible to change. Here are some tips:


  • Start slow. Gradually identify and eliminate things that are not essential in your life.
  • Put as much effort into what you consider essential.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.


In addition, to know the details of all of these practices suggested by the author, you can buy the complete book, just click below:

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