The book summarized in one sentence: Less, but better. Because we live in a time when everything seems possible, it is sometimes difficult to understand that we cannot do everything. In the book, it is called the undisciplined pursuit of more. The more decisions we have to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.
The essentialist mindset
Essentialism is based on the assumption that almost everything is unimportant while there are very few particularly valuable things. It is therefore worth investing your time and energy in figuring out what is most important.
The essentialist understood that it is better to consciously limit yourself than to allow yourself to be limited by forces that you cannot control. We can either make the tough decisions for ourselves or let others decide for us.
It’s common to find ourselves in situations where we agree to something non-committal or just to avoid major conflict. An essentialist must master the art of assessing the situation and, if necessary, not speaking respectfully and eloquently. This is one of the most important skills in the book, and also one of the most difficult to learn. You also have to accept that it isn’t always popular. This is even more true in situations where people are not used to hearing “no”. But whenever we say yes to something, we automatically say no to something else.
The so-called possession effect represents a major hurdle because we attach far too high value to the things we already own. We find it difficult to part with them.
Oftentimes, people don’t admit they made a mistake and hold onto projects that are doomed to fail. The essentialist, on the other hand, sees no problem in admitting a mistake and redirecting time and effort to a more productive project, even if he has already invested a lot of time, effort, and money.
Essentialists consciously shape their lives. They take breaks to check that they are investing their resources in the right activities. An essentialist doesn’t want to be busy all the time but wants their life to be easier and better. The essentialist therefore construct systems that simplify and/or relieve him of as many everyday decisions as possible.
An essentialist increases productivity by removing obstacles rather than trying to produce more.
Preparation is critical to avoid unexpected issues hindering project progress. The essentialist accepts that it is not possible to predict or control the entire context and plans that even the worst outcomes can occur.
Multifocus is drastically different from multitasking. Multifocus is a problem because we cannot focus on two things at the same time, by trying to fool ourselves, we lower our productivity. However, multitasking is not hostile to essentialism because we can do things at the same time, such as listening to music while working and maybe even become more productive.
That was just a glimpse of the book. The principles McKeown outlines in this book are capable of improving your performance, wellbeing, and happiness. But only if you treat them with the seriousness they deserve.