Book: Essentialism

Essentialism is a pursuit of a life when you’re doing less, but better.

The book starts with a great quote on productivity:

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done, it’s about how to get the right things done.

It’s about the wisest possible investment of your time.

Success can be a problem

The pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure.

Focusing on success can become an undisciplined pursuit of more.

We have to answer this question: Tell me what is your plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

We don't want to spend our life doing things we detest or buying things we don't need

with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.

Learn to understand your choices and your ability to choose

The thing is that if we surrender our ability to choose, something or someone else will step in to choose for us. That’s why an essentialist must spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning and thinking. Very often doing less and thinking more really produces better outcomes!

Options (things) can be taken away why our core ability to choose (free will) cannot be.

Change your language: instead of saying "I have to" say "I choose to". This way you really know it’s all up to you!

The essentialist doesn't just recognize the power of choice he celebrates it.

Work hard... but better

We work hard because we think that everything we’re working on is sooooo important... and it’s really not.

You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.

Working hard is important but more effort does not always yield more results! It’s because sometimes what we don't do is just as important as what we do.

Certain efforts actually produce exponentially more results than others.

Everything is a trade-off

A definition of a non-essentialist would be a person who thinks that there are no trade-offs. That you can have a cake and eat it at the same time.

The reality is saying yes to an opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others.


We can try to avoid the reality of trade-offs but we can't escape them

Just like choices, we can’t be rejecting trade-offs, we must embrace them because:

As painful as they can sometimes be trade-offs represent a significant opportunity!

Explore your options

In the world we live in we basically run from one thing to another. We have no time to think, breathe and explore all the possibilities. That’s why very often we choose unwisely.

Before you can evaluate what is and isn't essential you first need to explore your options.

Author says that a true essentialist spends more time thinking and analyzing all the options than anyone else:

The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.

For that we need a space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep

and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.

Focus on your work

In order to have focus we need to escape to focus

We have to make sure we schedule and protect time devoted to deep work and maximize our time spent in this state...

Focus on the flow. The essentialist designs a routine that makes achieving

what you have identified as essential to the default position.


Nothing fires up the brain like play. Play stimulates the part

of the brain involved in both careful logical reasoning and carefree unbound exploration.

Sleep to protect the asset

A good night's sleep actually makes us more productive not less.

It’s because when we sleep, our body really re-builds itself and re-calibrates:

When we wake up our brains make may have made new

neural connections thereby opening up a broader range of

solutions to problems literally overnight.

"If it isn't a clear YES then it's a clear NO"

Say YES to only the top 10% of opportunities

This is so hard... we very often want to do more, think some opportunities are "good enough" and give in to the non-essential...

Social media, news... and FOMO...

Avoid FOMO fear of missing out. If we ever say YES because it is an easy reward,

we run the risk of having later to say NO to a more meaningful one.