Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is a personal development book disguised as a business book. Its principles are certainly applicable towards business but would certainly have greater reach than just the way you accomplish your 9-5. In many ways, the book focuses on ideas that others would call “minimalism,” but Keown does not get into the conversation of belongings. Rather, his book focuses on what you do and what you choose to focus your time on. Consider this quote, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.”
Early in the book, Keown presents the idea of your time and your focus being like a closet. Over time, your closet gets cluttered as you pack more and more things in there. But, when it comes to the closet of your mind and your time, you’re not the only one trying to get the most out of your available space. Your neighbors, your coworkers, your family, and plenty of other folks are trying to add in a few things here and there, as well. With that many people trying to take up just a little room, it all adds up very quickly.
Rather than continuing to allow this over-stuffing, Essentialism calls for strategically cutting back with specific recommendations: sifting the clutter of your to-do list, saying “no” more often, and protecting your commitments to that which matters.
Perhaps one of my favorite chapters in the book revolves around the concept of setting clear goals that specifically answer the question, “How will we know when we’ve succeeded?” Rather than tossing around jargon-filled mission statements, the Essentialist sets a specific goal that encapsulates exactly what the organization is trying to accomplish. For example, Brad Pitt’s organization “Make It Right” specifically set out “to build 150 affordable, green, storm-resistant homes for families living in the Lower 9th Ward.”
In addition, this book is friendly to the skimmer who just wants to cut straight to the point. In each chapter, Keown lays out the way that an Essentialist and a Nonessentialist would tackle each problem. I have to say I found myself on the Nonessentialist side of the chart too often, but I now have some specific action steps that I can take to change that.
Essentialism is an inspiring read that’s definitely worth your time.