Essentialism by Greg McKeown

EssentialismAre you tired and overworked? Is your health and happiness suffering due to stress?

Are you under the impression you can “have it all” and constantly strive to achieve this?

Do you feel like you’re constantly spinning your wheels and getting nowhere?

Chances are, you said yes to at least one of these questions, if not all of them. That’s a pretty typical admission of people in this age of technological advancement.

The vast number of choices coupled with the increased amount of social pressure from our interconnected society creates a recipe for tired, overworked people.

These sad souls are constantly striving to achieve the illusion of “having it all”, but pushing themselves further and further away from this goal with every action.

I can speak with authority on this insanity because I am one of those sad souls.

As a working mother, I already bear the burden of balancing work and family while managing a household. Of course, I also don’t want to neglect my own passions, and I want to excel at absolutely everything I undertake.

I also have a problem saying no when someone asks me to take on yet another task.

This mindset is detrimental because as we accept more and more responsibility, we begin to spread ourselves too thin and fail to do any of those tasks well.

The guilt from not being able to achieve perfection begins to weigh on us, so we only push harder at our existing obligations, with the idea that if we’d only invest more time and energy, we’d be able to master everything within our grasp.


What is Essentialism?

“Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.”

Greg McKeown opens his book, Essentialism, with an anecdote about Sam, an executive who is spread too thin.

By accepting all requests and committing himself to too many projects, Sam finds himself overworked and pushed to the limit. He becomes the quintessential “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

Luckily, Sam recognizes his error and starts to pull back. He follows the advice of a mentor and continues his job as before, but this time with the mind of a consultant.

With the mind of a consultant, he concentrates only on the most important aspects of his job — the projects that will have the most positive impact for the company.

Because of Sam’s choice to concentrate only on the essentials of his job, he begins to get more accomplished, earns high accolades, and starts being truly successful in his career.

The path that led Sam to become an overextended professional is one walked by so many people today.

Four Phases to Becoming Overextended

McKeown lays out the four phase process that generally leads us directly to accepting more than we can handle and pushing ourselves to the limit.

  1. Clarity of Purpose Allows Us to Succeed
  2. Because of this Success, We Become a Go To Person
  3. More Responsibilities = Diffused Effort
  4. We Lose Sight of our Greatest Contributions

The steps will likely sound quite familiar to you, as they stem from the explosion of choices we have experienced in the past few decades.

One would be hard-pressed to live in today’s modern society and not be overwhelmed with all the choices laid out before us for any given task, whether it be eating dinner, picking out a movie, or deciding which vendor your company will use.

The Keys to Taking Back Your Life

Essentialism serves as a professional organizer for your life. It guides you into making more deliberate choices and learning to live a life that fulfills the goals you deem important rather than letting everyone around you make those choices for you.

McKeown writes with his “less is more” mentality, getting right to the point without a lot of fluff and filler. That seems only logical for a book focused entirely on essentialism, but it’s also appreciated by someone who has found themselves in that trap of overextension and is embarking on a path to reclaiming their life.

The author has devoted his own career to helping others define what is essential in their own lives and spending 80% of their time on those tasks. He has acted as a consultant to prominent companies such as Adobe, Apple, Google and Facebook.

With Essentialism, he becomes your own personal consultant. McKeown teaches how to make the difficult decisions when it comes to choosing what is most crucial to any aspect of your life, whether it is related to your career or your personal life.

If you are overworked with barely a free moment for yourself, but you can’t figure out why you aren’t achieving that level of success for which you are working so hard, it’s time to take up the practice of Essentialism.

Greg McKeown can help you return to that state of clarity so you can begin living of your own design, rather than letting others decide how you should be living your life.

I believe Essentialism is a book that should be a core part of high school and college curriculum. Perhaps we could teach our youth how to avoid the trap of Nonessentialism before they’re drowning and don’t understand why.

By Greg McKeown
2014, Crown Business
Author’s Site

Read the first chapter of Essentialism here.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sabrina Brawley

I'm an avid reader with a serious self-improvement and motivation addiction!

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