Ideas from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

Essentialism is the disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

The Highest Point of Contribution


  1. “I choose to”.
  2. Only few things matter.
  3. I can do “anything” but “not everything”.
  • A choice is an action.
  • Reject the idea what we can fit it all in.
  • By investing in fewer things we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most.
  • Deliberately distinguish the vital few from the trivial many.
  • Eliminate the non-essential.
  • Remove obstacles so that the essential things have a clear, smooth passage.
  • Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective about what we choose to do.
  • Trade-offs represent a significant opportunity. By forcing us to weight our options and strategically select the best one for us, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome we want.
  • Clarity == success
Focussed Impact


  • Which problem do I want? (trade-off)
  • Is there a point where doing less (but thinking more) will actually produce better outcomes?
  • What is the most valuable result I could achieve in this job?
  • What do I want to go “big” on?
If you don’t prioritise your life someone else will.

Step 1 - Explore

Essentialists systematically explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any. Because they will commit and “go big” on one or two ideas or activities, they deliberately explore more options at first to ensure that they pick the right one later.

  • Create space to escape and explore life.
  • Focus is something we have and something we do.
  • Play doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself.
  • If we undereinvest in our minds, our bodies and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution.
  • Choose to do one fewer thing right now in order to do more tomorrow.
  • Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritise.
  • Say “Yes” to only the top 10% of opportunities.
  • You should just do that one thing that you are passionate about and that you can be best at.
  • Look for the one thing where you can make your absolute highest point of contribution.
It is our ability to choose that makes us human.
Madeleine L’Engle

The 90% Rule

When you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision and then give it a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90%, then change the rating to 0 and reject it.


  • One hour more of sleep == several more hours of much higher productivity.
  • Sleep is for high performers.
  • Sleep breeds creativity.
  • Sleep enables the highest level of mental contribution.


  • Is this exactly what I’m looking for?
  • What am I deeply passionate about?
  • What taps my talent?
  • What meets a significant need in the world?

Step 2 - Eliminate

It’s about the emotional discipline necessary to say “No” to social pressure.

  • Make the one decision that eliminates thousand later decisions.
  • The clarity of what is essential fuels us with the strength to say “No” to the non-essential.
  • When we push back effectively, it shows people that our time is highly valuable. It distinguishes the professional from the amateur.
  • Force your superiors to make trade-offs instead of “expecting it all”.
  • We have to get rid of options or activities that maybe good, or even really good but get in the way.
  • Have an overarching intent by which you can check yourself.
  • Hesitate before stepping into a problem. Wait. Observe. See how things develop.
  • Set rules in advance that eliminate the need for a direct “No”.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Setting limits will make you limitless.
  • Give people and opportunity to solve their own problems.

Deal Breakers

Make a list of the types of requests or activities that you simply refuse to say “Yes” to, unless they somehow overlap with your own priorities or agenda.

To find out your deal breakers write down any time you feel violate or put upon by someone’s request.

It is hard to imaging executives in most companies who would be comfortable with employees bringing in their children to work on Monday morning, yet they seem to have no problem expecting their employees to come into the office or to work on a project on a Saturday or Sunday.

Zero-based Budgeting

Every item in the proposed budget must be justified from scratch each time. (Every year, month, iteration etc)

Reverse Pilot

You test whether removing an initiative or activity will have any negative consequences.


  • If I didn’t have this opportunity what would I be willing to do to acquire it?
  • What will I say “No” to?
  • How will we know when we are “done” ?
  • What else could I do with this time and money if I pulled the plug now?
Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

Step 3 - Execute

Essentialists invest the time they have saved into creating a system for removing obstacles and making execution as easy as possible.

  • Build in buffers for unexpected events.
  • Practise extreme and early preparation.
  • Celebrate small acts of progress.
  • Make small improvements in the things that you do often.
  • There is power in steadiness and repetition.
  • There is power in visibly seeing progress towards a goal.
  • Design routines that enshrine what is essential.
  • Make the essential the default position.
  • Do your hardest task of the day the first thing in the morning.
  • Make a list of everything vying for your attention and cross out the non-essential right now.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Abraham Lincoln

The Present

  • Focus on the present.
  • Tune into what’s important right now.
  • Enjoy the moment.
  • Write down things that trigger you to be in the moment. Try to recreate them each day.
In work, do what you enjoy. In family life be completely present.
Lao Tzu

Scenario Planning

  1. What are the risks?
  2. What are the worse-case scenarios?
  3. What are the social impacts?
  4. What are the financial impacts?
  5. How can you invest to strengthen social and financial resilience?


  • What obstacle is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you?
  • What is the smallest amount of progress that will be useful and valuable to the essential task we are trying to get done?
  • What is the minimal amount I could do right now to prepare.