Dan Kim @dankimio

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less — Mckeown, Greg

1. The Essentialist

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.

Determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

In trying to keep everyone happy I had sacrificed what mattered most.

If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” This usually does the trick.

What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think.

3. Discern: The Unimportance of Practically Everything

The extra investment is justified because some things are so much more important that they repay the effort invested in finding those things tenfold.

5. Escape: The Perks of Being Unavailable

One practice I’ve found useful is simply to read something from classic literature (not a blog, or the newspaper, or the latest beach novel) for the first twenty minutes of the day. Not only does this squash my previous tendency to check my e-mail as soon as I wake up, it centers my day. It broadens my perspective and reminds me of themes and ideas that are essential enough to have withstood the test of time.

9. Select: The Power of Extreme Criteria

“If the answer isn’t a definite yes then it should be a no.” It is a succinct summary of a core Essentialist principle.

Says yes to only the top 10 percent of opportunities

He simply asks if the person is someone he’d want to work with every day. “One of the ways we think about this is,” he says, “could this person have been one of the founding members of the team?

10. Clarify: One Decision That Makes a Thousand

The fact is, motivation and cooperation deteriorate when there is a lack of purpose. You can train leaders on communication and teamwork and conduct 360 feedback reports until you are blue in the face, but if a team does not have clarity of goals and roles, problems will fester and multiply.

Makes one decision that eliminates one thousand later decisions.

11. Dare: The Power of a Graceful “No”

Remember that a clear “no” can be more graceful than a vague or noncommittal “yes”.

12. Uncommit: Win Big by Cutting Your Losses

Sunk-cost bias is the tendency to continue to invest time, money, or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred, or sunk, a cost that cannot be recouped.

If I did not have this opportunity, how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?” Similarly, we can ask, “If I wasn’t already involved in this project, how hard would I work to get on it?”.

There should be no shame in admitting to a mistake; after all, we really are only admitting that we are now wiser than we once were.

It might sound obvious, but pausing for just five seconds before offering your services can greatly reduce the possibility of making a commitment you’ll regret.

13. Edit: The Invisible Art

Essentialist thinks that making things better means subtracting something.

14. Limit: The Freedom of Setting Boundaries

Similarly, when we don’t set clear boundaries in our lives we can end up imprisoned by the limits others have set for us.

15. Buffer: The Unfair Advantage

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

This implies that often we actually know we can’t do things in a given time frame, but we don’t want to admit it to someone.

One way to protect against this is simply to add a 50 percent buffer to the amount of time we estimate it will take to complete a task or project.

17. Progress: The Power of Small Wins

Instead of starting big and then flaring out with nothing to show for it other than time and energy wasted, to really get essential things done we need to start small and build momentum. Then we can use that momentum to work toward the next win, and the next one and so on until we have a significant breakthrough.

Done is better than perfect.

18. Flow: The Genius of Routine

The way of the Nonessentialist is to think the essentials only get done when they are forced.

You were probably easily distracted. This is perfectly normal. But once you performed the function over and over, you gained confidence.

19. Focus: What’s Important Now?

Do you spend time and energy worrying about the future? Do you spend more time thinking about the things you can’t control rather than the things you can control about the areas where your efforts matter?

Nonessentialists tend to be so preoccupied with past successes and failures, as well as future challenges and opportunities, that they miss the present moment. They become distracted. Unfocused.

What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time.

After a moment of reflection I realized that until I knew what was important right now, what was important right now was to figure out what was important right now.

When faced with so many tasks and obligations that you can’t figure out which to tackle first, stop. Take a deep breath. Get present in the moment and ask yourself what is most important this very second—not what’s most important tomorrow or even an hour from now.

Get the future out of your head.