Essentialism: Do Better with Less

Greg McKeown, the co-author of Multipliers, gives a detailed, workable method for reducing your life with this book “Essentialism”. 

Greg McKeown makes an enthusiastic, credible case for downsizing in this New York Times million-copy bestseller. He advocates simplifying your life processes, particularly those related to your job. He endorses avoiding reactive decisions in favour of mindful ones, doing only what you want to do, removing noise from your life, and accepting trade-offs. McKeown writes like a professional blogger, presenting complete ideas quickly and clearly. He is a great place to start if you want to live and work more efficiently.

Pare Down

McKeown recommends starting by identifying which problems must be solved. “There is only now,” he says, expressing the classic Zen underlying his approach. He believes that having faith in the illusion that you can have it all is harmful. He claims that doing more meaningless work or even more meaningless play increases stress and makes you less satisfied with your accomplishments. Essentialism is actually simplifying your life.

Many best-selling books teach you how to tidy up your bookshelves, kitchen, and especially your clothes closet. McKeown explains how to apply similar principles to your life to reduce clutter. Identify activities that fulfil your priorities, then get rid of the rest, he advises. This necessitates specific tasks and methods. Because reducing life to its essentials goes against the nature of most people, he admits it takes a dedicated, concerted, and conscious effort.

Pay Heed to Three Areas

McKeown defines essentialists as people who are invested in three critical aspects of life. 

The first is a matter of personal preference. Only you can and should decide how to spend your money, and anything that does not help you achieve your goals is noise. Essentialists cut through the noise to focus on what is important. Third, essentialists recognise that you cannot do or have everything.

As an example of a positive trade-off, consider Southwest Airlines, which is consistently profitable. Southwest’s CEO, Herb Kelleher, makes deliberate trade-offs. The airline only flies from one city to another and does not serve meals to avoid raising ticket prices to cover onboard food. It only has one ticket type: economy. Kelleher doesn’t mind if these options drive passengers to other carriers. He set out to run a low-cost airline and never intended for Southwest to be everything to everyone. He made difficult decisions that led to and sustained success.

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default.”

McKeown conforms to his “90 Percent Rule”: it’s all or nothing. When deciding between options, he suggests identifying your most important criteria and scoring your options from 0 to 100. Remove any that have a score of less than 90. 

To use the 90% method, you must first understand trade-offs. Be ruthless in your rejection of viable but mediocre alternatives. He emphasises that rejecting a near-perfect option implies that you believe a near-perfect option will appear; this empowers you because you choose on purpose, rather than “by default.”

Using the 90 percent rule will teach you that if you don’t have high standards, having a lot of options will overwhelm you. Tough criteria eliminate indecision, emotion, and compulsion by forcing you to think through every step. Essentialism necessitates courage, and the author believes that part of that courage is the ability to say no.

Selectively Eliminate Obstacles

McKeown warns that in a crisis, essentialists take a long, slow look to see what factors are impeding their progress. He makes an important and illuminating distinction: Essentialism identify and remove obstacles, while nonessentialists seek solutions.

The key is to start small, encourage progress and celebrate small wins.


McKeown advises hiring with care and leading open, difficult discussions with your teams to determine their and your true intent. Make your points in as few words as possible, and constantly check in with and follow up with your teams. Encourage your employees, but make sure they understand what you’re inspiring them to do and what areas you’re not.

A Zen Book about Zen Behavior

Greg McKeown lives what he believes. His book’s goal is to teach you how to eliminate the unnecessary and embrace the most efficient, self-rewarding path to success. He demonstrates his dedication to his ideals by writing in simple, stripped-down sentences that are so easy to read that you may have to scan them twice to recognise the depth and applicable elegance of their advice.

Thus, McKeown provides a multifaceted understanding of his principles. The words on the page form the first layer. The deeper layer is how few words he requires to convey his complex ideas. His methodology for evaluating is also reflected in his frequent references to productive Essentialism behaviour by corporate leaders, ensuring that you understand how to apply his philosophy to your life and work. 

If you love the concept of zen; you should read the follow summary book “Zen Mind Beginner Mind”

Leave a Comment