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July 27, 2015


EssentialismWhen I picked up ESSENTIALISM last month, the intention was double-edged. I was going to write a review and learn how to quit my non-essentialist ways at the same time. The rewards of learning the way of the Essentialist are compelling. “Greg McKeown’s excellent new book is a much-needed antidote to the stress, burnout, and compulsion to “do everything” that infects us all. It is an Essential read for anyone who wants to regain control of their health, well-being, and happiness”. The glowing praise comes from Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. The fact that I had yet to finish writing a review weeks later is telling. I had to learn the secrets of Essentialism soon if I wanted to bring balance, focus, and order into my life.

Firstly, what is an Essentialist? The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. Not just giving a nod to the principle but pursuing it in a disciplined way. It’s pausing constantly to ask whether one is investing in the right activities. The reality is there are far more opportunities and activities in the world than what we can ever partake in. While many of them may be very good, living the Essentialist life means being able to distinguish between the trivial many and the vital few. My immediate response to this was to divide my to-do list into two. It’s a start but I still have a long way to go. Essentialism isn’t just about getting more things done; it’s about getting the right things done. And it’s certainly not about doing less for the sake of less. Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where one’s highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless. No one said turning Essentialist was going to be a cake walk!

Becoming an Essentialist entails three steps, namely exploring, eliminating, and executing.  The author compares it to organizing one’s closet. What happens to your closet when you never organize it? Without a conscious effort to keep it neat and tidy, the closet eventually becomes overstuffed. To get things under control, one needs to purge. In order to do so, a disciplined system is necessary. One must explore and evaluate (“Am I in love with this?” “Do I wear it often?”), eliminate (I give away, sell on eBay or throw out), and execute (for every item that goes in, another item goes out).

Our life is obviously never going to be as simple as closet. Execution is not going to be easy since many of our nonessential routines are deep and emotional. One of my favorite lines in the book goes: if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. The author includes examples from the lives of numerous successful Essentialists (including Stephen Covey, Michael Phelps and Mahatma Gandhi), ensuring that while the process is not easy, living the Essentialist life is ultimately rewarding.

ESSENTIALISM by Greg McKeown is available in bookstores.


PRHPenguin Random House is the world’s first truly global trade book publisher. It was formed on July 1, 2013, upon the completion of an agreement between Bertelsmann and Pearson. Penguin Random House employs more than 10,000 people globally across almost 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses that collectively publish more than 15,000 new titles annually. Its publishing lists include more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.

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