Thus far in 2015, a high percentage of my reading has been in the field of productivity, but more that just that: it’s been about essentialism, a term I now use as a result of this book. Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is a great read any time, but perhaps particularly at the start of a new calendar year.
McKeown poignantly explains, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
In an age of information and material overload, self-discipline is absolutely essential to saying “no” to the excess in order to focus on the best. Essentialism is similar to productivity, but more broad in its scope. It’s also similar to minimalism, yet the goal is not to hone down life to as little as possible, but to better focus on what is truly essential. Essentialism incorporates many of the core principles of popular productivity books. But it also goes a step beyond.
Essentialism is divided into four main parts: Essence, Explore, Eliminate, and Execute, with each section comprised of four to six chapters. McKeown begins by laying the foundation of how an essentialist must think and focus. Next, he gives principles to help the budding essentialist determine the essential components of his or her specific life roles, gifts, and seasons. The third section gives tips to learning to pare down life to the essentials (including the power of “no”), and the final portion deals with creating habits and productivity hacks to better improve the true essentials.
Ironically, in a book about pursuing less, I wonder if the author could have shortened the book at times when the content seemed repetitive (not that I’m any kind of expert on this). But overall, Essentialism a superb read. And at the risk of sounding forced, it’s an essential read for learning to prioritize life and pursue less in a culture of ubiquitous excess.
This book also dovetailed nicely with my reading of Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next (my review here), though Essentialism takes a more singular, focused angle, and certainly does not include the specific theological connection.