What is the Book Essentialism by Greg McKeown About?

While students read dozens of books throughout their MBA journey, leaders and business owners continue to read books throughout their lifetime. Learning from the mistakes and successes of others is possibly the least expensive way to learn a lesson.

In Greg McKeown’s Book Essentialism, he dives into simple ways to improve productivity without much effort. After all, it’s easier not to do something than do something.

A photo of the book cover Essentialism

Recap of Greg McKeown’s Book Essentialism

Written in 2014, Greg McKeown’s Book Essentialism teaches you how to do better by doing less. Practical solutions help you get your priorities straight. The book outlines ways to help you eliminate all the junk in your routine that prevents you from being productive and fulfilled.

He says, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” It’s not only about getting a lot of things done; it’s about getting the right tasks done — not all tasks are essential or imperative. Even more dramatically, he asks, “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if, instead, we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?” Being busy isn’t everything if there is no exponential benefit or growth. It detracts from the outcome.

Doing More with Less

Increasing productivity, simply put, means you can do more with less time and resources. More isn’t always “more,” — especially when it depletes you. McKeown discusses the definition of“priority,” where there can only be one priority. Your boss or client cannot list five items that are all priority — that’s not how the definition of that word works. 

To put things in perspective, ask them, “If this new task is a priority, what will it replace in the list of other items?” This pattern disruptor is also suitable for self-talk. Just because you can do it all doesn’t mean you should do it all. 

Small-to-large business owners and employees worldwide have appreciated Greg McKeown’s Book Essentialism because it easily resonates with everyone. It’s the ah-ha! moment people didn’t realize they needed to gain focus and clarity on the actual task at hand. It helps readers accept that mindfulness in decision-making leads to clarity. Feeling good about a task confirms that you’re aligned and on-task — and even taking a moment outdoors is a great reset. Further, simplicity in its purest form helps you glean that clarity.

Greg McKeown’s Book Essentialism is one of many books for business owners that permit them to think more simply about approaching tasks, yet it remains the best poignant reminder that more is less. Don’t forget to review your existing setup every few months. What was important when you created it may no longer be necessary.

Here is a quick checklist to keep your priorities in check from Greg McKeown’s Book Essentialism:

  1. Explore and evaluate: all your choices and ask yourself, “Do I love this?” and not, “Is there a chance this is useful?”
  2. Eliminate unimportant tasks
  3. Execute: Use a routine aligned with your goal, anything secondary to this falls away quickly.

As you work through the book and engage with the reflections, you’ll often be reminded that you can do anything, but you don’t have to do everything. This permission and reminder truly help illuminate everything truly important.

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Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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