Books, Confidence

Books that get you going 2 – Essentialism

In 2014 Greg McKeown published his book “Essentialism”. He himself calls himself an essentialist – a person who is able to focus, to work efficiently, is productive and uses his time wisely.

Some facts

The author, Greg McKeown, is a Stanford University graduate and works as a business consultant and public speaker on leadership (next to writing, obviously). The book is divided into 4 parts (Essence- Explore- Eliminate- Execute) and has 246 pages.

What is it about?

The concept of essentialism is not a quick fix for one or the other problem, but it is a life-strategy. It includes time-managment, the ability to say no, it helps your productiveness and urges you to focus on what really matters in your life. It is great that it is not preaching keywords as “career”, “family”, or “self” as the one and only goal, but rather introduces strategies that you can apply to whatever is most important to you.

Why should I read it?

Giving only a few reasons for reading a book that one loves is always tough. “Essentialism” is one of the books I could extract most from to improve my own life. It sounds cheesy, but that’s the way it is. I can’t claim that I am a full blown essentialist – but at least I can say that I am working on prioritizing! But if my personal experience isn’t enough of a reason for you to grab the next copy (which it probably shouldn’t be), maybe one of the following reasons resonates with you 😉

  1. The structure is amazingly easy to follow – as I have already mentioned the book is split into 4 parts. Those 4 parts aren’t random, but follow a logical sequence – it will make your reading experience very smooth and you won’t be able to put the book away! “Essence” is all about the core concepts of essentialism. “Explore” is showing you the way to decide between what is important for you and what is dead weight. “Eliminate” helps you, well, eliminating the dead weight and “Execute” is finally showing you the way to apply the principles to all areas of your life. You need all of the four steps to fully grasp the book – no dead weight to be found in there 😉
  2. You can decide whether or not this is the book for you by looking at the guiding questions – on the back of the book there are 4 questions. One of them is “Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized”? The next is “Are you often busy but not productive?”. The other ones go in the same direction. If you can answer these pretty precise questions with “yes”, I would say there is no way around this book. I know that I did. And I know that I found some pretty good answers to solving this problem in it. If you answered no, you can still give it a shot, as I don’t think that it is wasted time. But it may not be as necessary for you than for us “Yes”- responders.
  3. It contains a lot of personal experience – McKeown himself is an essentialist. He’s not talking bullshit for you to blindly follow or writes what he thinks might sell nicely, but actually lives by these principles himself. I always find it kind of reassuring, to have the feeling that people write, because they feel the need to share what is really important for them and what worked for them (on a very little scale, one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog). I like reading about his successes and hardships. It shows the author is just like us. And if he could improve his life this way, why shouldn’t we?

Three of my key phrases

Play (as in “playing” S.K.) doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself. (89)

The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. (94)

Essentialists, on the other hand (to Nonessentialists S.K.), see boundaries as empowering. They recognize that boundaries protect their time from being hijacked and often free them from the burden of having to say no to things that further others’ objectives instead of their own.  (166)

(McKeown, Greg (2014). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Crown Business: New York)

I have not only gained a lot by reading “Essentialism”, but I also enjoyed ever page of the book. It isn’t too long, it isn’t too complicated – giving it a try is certainly worth it!


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