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Essentialism summary

There are 4 parts to this book:

  1. Essence - what is the core mind-set of an Essentialist?
  2. Explore - how can we discern the trivial many from the vital few?
  3. Eliminate - how can we cut out the trivial many?
  4. Execute - how can we make doing the vital few things almost effortless?

Part 1 - Essence

  • Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless
  • If you don't prioritise your life, someone else will
  • The core mind-set of an Essentialist:
    1. Individual choice - We can choose how to spend our energy and time
    2. The prevalence of noise - Almost everything is noise and very few things are exceptionally valuable
    3. The reality of trade-offs - We can't have it all or do it all
  • The disciplined pursuit of less:
    1. Explore
    • When we surrender our right to choose, we give others the power and explicit permission to choose for us
    • This is why an Essentialist takes the time to explore all options. The extra investment is justified because some things are just so much more important that the repay the effort of finding them.
    • Distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many
    1. Eliminate
    2. Execute

Part 2 - Explore

This consists of

  1. Escape
  2. Look
  3. Play
  4. Sleep
  5. Select
  • Escape: create space to design, concentrate and read. In order to have focus, we have to escape to focus.
  • Look: see what really matters. Pay attention to the signal in the noise. Hear what is not being said. Scans to find the essence of the information.
  • Play: embrace the wisdom of your inner child. Play is essential. Play sparks innovation.
  • Sleep: protect the asset and your ability to prioritise. One more hour of sleep equals several more hours of much higher priority.
  • Select: say yes to only the top 10% of opportunities. Use narrow, explicit criteria. If it isn't a clear yes, it is a clear no.

Part 3 - Eliminate

This consists of

  1. Clarify
  2. Dare
  3. Uncommit
  4. Edit
  5. Limit
  • Clarify: what is the essential intent? Make one decision that eliminates 1,000 later decisions.
  • Date: dare to say no firmly, resolutely and gracefully. Say yes only to the things that really matter.
  • Uncommit: be comfortable with cutting losses. Ask yourself, "If I weren't already invested in this project, how much would I invest in it now?"
  • Edit: make things better by subtracting the non-essential. Eliminate distracting words, images and details.
  • Limit: set rules in advance that eliminate the need for a direct no. Recognise that boundaries are empowering. They protect your time from being hijacked and allow you to focus on the true essentials.

Part 4 - Execute

This consists of

  1. Buffer
  2. Subtract
  3. Progress
  4. Flow
  5. Focus
  6. Be
  • Buffer: build in a buffer for unexpected events. Practices extreme and early preparation.
  • Subtract: produce more by removing more (instead of doing more). Remove obstacles to progress.
  • Progress: start small and get big results. Celebrate small acts of progress.
  • Flow: design a routine than enshrines what is essential, making execution almost effortless.
  • Focus: be focused on the present and tune in to what is important right now. Enjoy the moment.
  • Be: live an Essentialist life that truly matters.

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