Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Book Review

12 Jan / James Eastham

I’ve always read a lot of books, as long as I can remember. Fiction or non-fiction, for the most part, I’m not fussy. It’s the process of reading that relaxes me. Trying to maximize my productivity during the physical act of reading has to lead to me almost entirely focusing on non-fiction. Whether that’s self-help, autobiographies or tutorials. The series of reviews, this being the first, is my way of trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. To help you select the books that can give you that 1% extra.

The Blurb

Have you ever found yourself struggling with information overload?

Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilised?

Do you ever feel busy but not productive?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is to become an Essentialist.

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown, CEO of a Leadership and Strategy agency in Silicon Valley who has run courses at Apple, Google and Facebook, shows you how to achieve what he calls the disciplined pursuit of less. Being an Essentialist is about a disciplined way of thinking. It means challenging the core assumption of ‘We can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’.

By applying a more selective criteria for what is essential, the pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.

Using the experience and insight of working with the leaders of the most innovative companies and organisations in the world, McKeown shows you how to put Essentialism into practice in your own life, so you too can achieve something great.

Taken from Amazon UK 

5 Key Quotes

“by a characteristically succinct principle, captured in just three German words: Weniger aber besser. The English translation is: Less but better. A more fitting definition of Essentialism would be hard to come by.”

“What if the whole world shifted from the undisciplined pursuit of more to the disciplined pursuit of less … only better?”

“As John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

“We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.’ ”


The 2 line review

Productivity around my working life is what got me on this journey to marginal gains. Constantly trying to improve just 1% of my working life has lead to a real tangible increase in my output over the last 12 months. Essentialism has just taken that to the next level. This truly is a fantastic book on how to clear the noise and focus on what really matters.

The longer one

If you fancy a bit of a longer read, then carry on from here. The book is really well structured, introducing all of the key concepts. Going through practical examples and finishing off with real actionable steps that you can take forward into your daily life. That’s one of the key things I always look for in any book, clear and actionable steps.

One of the biggest takeaways is about being able to say no to things and the GAIN in respect from doing this. The common consensus, in both work and personal life, is that if you’re asked to do something the kindest thing to do is to say yes. The complete flip in perspective this book provides is how saying no can actually be more beneficial. As Paula Pant at says, you can ‘afford anything but not everything’. The same broad principle applies to all of life, not just money. Anything you say yes to, instantly means you’re saying no to another option.

Yes, you’ll go out for a drink after work, no you’re not spending quality time with your family.

Yes, you’ll take on the extra project, no you won’t put 100% effort into your current project.

That is Essentialism in it’s absolute rawest form. The implementation will vary from person to person, based on priorities. A single man may have different priorities to a happily married man with 3 children. It’s about knowing your priorities, your essentials, and focusing solely on the pursuit of the goals.

Greg McKeown’s writing style is also very easy to follow. He breaks all the points down into Lehman’s terms, introduces facts/studies seamlessly and gives realistic actionable tips. There’s nothing worse than reading an actionable tip that is not applicable to the everyday person. Greg stays away from this, instead of teaching you really easy ways to say no to the non-essential.

As far as books go, this ranks right up there for me with JL Collins The Simple Path to Wealth. Today’s world is a constant barrage of information; of new things to try; of things to see. If all you took from the book was an increase in awareness of things that are taking your attention then that in itself is a huge step towards your goals.

Buy now on Amazon

Cover of the book Essentialism

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