Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Note from the Leadership Hub Coach:

Simplify. Do Less. Do It Better.
Enjoy these extracts from our November Book of the Month.

Rule 1: We can choose how to spend our energy and time.

Rule 2: Almost everything is noise… very few things are exceptionally valuable.

Rule 3: We can’t have it all or do it all.


5 False Myths of Successful Leadership

Myth #1: Successful people say, “If I can fit it in, I should fit it in.”

Truth: Very successful people are absurdly selective.

Myth #2: Successful people sleep four hours a night.

Truth: Very successful people rest well so they can be at peak performance.

 Myth #3: Successful people think play is a waste of time.

Truth: Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.

Myth #4: Successful people are the first ones to jump in with an answer.

Truth: Very successful people are powerful listeners.

Myth #5: Successful people focus on what the competition is doing.

Truth: Very successful people focus on what they can do better.

Discern the Vital Few from the Trivial Many

One paradox of Essentialism is that Essentialists actually explore more options than their Non-essentialist counterparts.

Non-essentialists get excited by virtually everything and thus react to everything. But because they are so busy pursuing every opportunity and idea they actually explore less.

Because Essentialists will commit and ‘go big’ on only the vital few ideas or activities, they explore more options at first to ensure they pick the right one later.

To discern what is truly essential, we need

  1. Space to think,
  2. Time to look and listen,
  3. Permission to play,
  4. Wisdom to sleep, and
  5. The discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make

Ironically, these things – space, listening, playing, sleeping and selecting – can be seen as trivial distractions.

We all know that highly ambitious or productive person who thinks,

“Of course, I’d love to be able to set aside time on the calendar simply to think, but it’s a luxury we can’t afford right now.”


“Play? Who has time for play? We are here to work!”

Or, as one leader said to be in an on-boarding process,

“I hope you had a good night’s sleep. You won’t get much of those here.”

If you believe being overly-busy and over-extended is evidence of productivity, then you probably believe that creating space to explore, think and reflect would be kept to a minimum.

Yet those very activities are the antidote to the non-essential busyness that infects so many of us. Rather than trivial diversions, they are critical to distinguishing what is truly essential.

Extracts copyright Greg McKeown.

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