3 Key Concepts From Essentialism By Greg McKeown

We live in a world full of competing demands

Family lives. Social lives. Hobbies. Passions. Work.

We get pulled in a lot of different directions. And we want to do it all and have it all. 

But unfortunately, we can’t.

And trying to only leads to exhaustion burnout and disappointment.

Not to mention the poor performance that comes along with trying to do too much.

So compromises have to be made.

But how do we choose? How do we know what to focus on?

You have to figure out what’s essential to you.

When you can only take on so much, you have to be able to discern what’s worth taking on and what should be ignored.

Essentialism helps you do that.

It helps you find and focus on what matters most.

It helps you do less, but better, so you can make the biggest contribution toward what’s most important to you.

Each chapter is full of valuable takeaways but there are three that were really important for me.

1: Priority Is Singular

In the first chapter Greg McKeown tells a brief story about the origin of the word priority.

Priority found it’s way into the English language in the 1400s and was originally singular. It meant the very first or prior thing.

And for the next 500 years it stayed singular.

Until sometime in the 1900s where we pluralized it to describe our multiple priorities.

But in reality you can’t have more than one first thing.

By definition, there’s only one first. That’s the priority.

Your family can’t be the most important thing to you… AND your career is most important too.

There can only be 1 most important. Only 1 priority.

And when you try to have multiple priorities, you have to make trade-offs.

You’re forced to make sacrifices that you’d never choose (or want) to make.

We have to figure out our singular priority at a given time.

Then we have to be deliberate with our time and energy.

We have to focus on that singular priority until it’s no longer the priority.

Because we can only have one priority at a time. If we try to have multiple priorities, we have no priorities.

2: The 90 Percent Rule

When we have lots of options, it’s hard to choose what to say yes to and what to turn down.

The 90 Percent Rule is a tool to help you make those decisions.

It’ll help you decide if you should invest your time and energy on an opportunity or if you should pass on it instead.

The 90 percent rule goes like this…

When you’re evaluating an option, pick the single most important criterion for the decision.

Then score all your options, based on that criteria, on a scale of 0 to 100.

If the option doesn’t get 90 or above, consider it zero and move on.

This eliminates all your mediocre options and makes your decision easier.

For example, let’s say you’re deciding where to go for vacation.

You decide that the most important thing about the destination is relaxation.

The cruise you were thinking about gets a 65 on relaxation.

The ski trip you’ve been wanting to take scores a 50.

But that sleepy seaside town on the Spanish coast you’ve had your eye on? That’s a 92 on the relaxation scale. Forget the other options and book it.

Things become more clear when you use The 90 Percent Rule.

Sure the other options are ok.

Going on a cruise or skiing would have been a fine vacation.

But you decided relaxation was the most important thing.

And when you view it from that perspective, the Spanish coast is by far your best option of the three.

Life is short, why spend your time with options that are 50s and 60s when you can choose 90s?

Use the 90 Percent Rule to get rid of the mediocre options so you can select from the best ones instead.

3: The Importance Of Subtraction

When we have a goal or something that needs to get done, our default is to try harder and do more to achieve it.

But when you keep adding stuff, it just causes other problems that need to be solved later.

A better way might be to do the opposite.

Instead of adding more, try subtracting instead.

Before pushing harder and trying to do more to achieve your goal, get rid of the hindrances, bottlenecks and distractions first.

Take your foot off the brake before you start pressing the gas pedal harder.

Kind of like if you’re trying to lose weight.

You could start doing 7 workouts a week, hours of cardio, taking a bunch of supplements and eating nothing but salad.

Or you could try cutting out that huge bowl of ice cream you eat every night after dinner first.

Both options will help you lose weight.

But cutting out a single bad habit is going to be a lot easier, and more sustainable, than adding 5 other good habits.

Before you start doing more and more in pursuit of a goal… try subtraction first.

Look at all the things that are getting in the way of you achieving your goal and remove them.

Make the path to your goal easier instead of adding stuff that just makes it more complicated.

Everyone Needs This Book

Essentialism is one of the books that I read every year.

Not because the information is innovative and ground-breaking but because the message is so important. 

It serves as a reminder that life bombards us with demands.

And if we don’t take the time to clarify what’s essential, and focus on it, then the important stuff gets lost in the mix.

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