Geeks With Blogs
Coaching, Coding and Learning By George Evjen
Book notes from 'Essentialism' by Greg McKeown



  • Essentialist will commit and go big
  • Five practices for Exploring what is essential
  • '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'
  • If you believe that being overextended is evidence of productivity, then you probably believe that creating space to explore, think, and reflect should be kept to a minimum.



  • The Perks of Being Unavailable.
  • 'I think that it's critical to set aside time to take a breath, look around, and think. You need that level of clarity in order to innovate and grow'
  • We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many.
  • We only get that be design  - not by default.
  • Instead of giving himself the space to talk and debate what is really going on and what really needs to happen, he squanders his time sitting through endless presentations and stuffy, cross-functional conversations where nothing is really decided.
  • Essentialist: Creates space to escape and explore life
  • Nonessentialist: Is too busy doing to think about life.
  • For some reason there is a false association with the word focus.
  • Focus is something we do.
  • In order to have focus we need to escape to focus
  • Creating space to explore one hundred questions and possibilities.
  • Stanford Business School: they are given assignments to practice deliberately discerning the essential few from the many good.


Space to Concentrate

  • Richard Westfall: 'in the age of celebrity - Sir Isaac Newton - Newton discovered the law of universal gravitation. 'By thinking on it continually' was Newton's reply.
  • What he thought on, the thought on continually, which is to say exclusively and nearly exclusively.
  • Deliberately setting aside distraction-free time in a distraction free space to do nothing other than think.
  • The faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking into our schedule.
  • The noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.
  • Jeff Weiner - CEO of LinkedIn
    • Schedules up to two hours of blank space on his calendar every day.
    • What will the company look like in 3 to 5 years.
    • What's the best way to improve an already popular product.
    • Address unmet customer need.
    • How to widen a competitive advantage or close a competitive gap.


Space to Read

  • Bill Gates - takes a regular week off from his daily duties at Msoft to simply think and read.
  • He created time and space to seclude himself for a week to do nothing but read articles and books, study technology and think about the bigger picture.



  • See What Really Matters.
  • Where is the knowledge in all the information that we have.
  • Journalism class - leads contain: why, what, when and who of the piece.
    • Journalism is not about regurgitating the facts but about figuring out the point
    • It is not enough to know about the who, what, when, and where - you have to understand what it meant. - why it mattered.
  • In every set of facts - something essential is hidden.
  • The best journalists do not simply relay information - their value is in discovering what really matters to people.
  • Be a journalist in your own life - will force you to stop hyper-focusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture.
  • Look for the lead - you will see what you have missed.


Filter for the Fascinating

  • The best journalists (according to Thomas Friedman - NY Times) listen for what others don’t hear.
  • Essentialists are powerful observers and listeners.
    • They know they cant pay attention to everything
  • Nonessentialists listen too
    • They listen while preparing to say something.
    • They get distracted by extraneous noise
    • They hyper-focus on inconsequential details.
    • In their eagerness to react - they miss the point.


Keep a Journal

  • The faintest pencil is better than the strongest memory.


Get Out into the Field

  • Stanford Business: 'Design for Extreme Affordability' class.
  • Class took the time to find out what really mattered.
  • They were able to better clarify the question and in turn focus on the essential details.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for abnormal or unusual details

  • Stanford Business: finding the lead and spotting the essential information are skills that can be acquired.


Clarify the Question

  • What question are you trying to answer?
Posted on Monday, July 4, 2016 8:22 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Essentialism - G. McKeown 4

# re: Essentialism - G. McKeown 4
Requesting Gravatar...
This really teaches us the important of focus and the objective to achieve our goal. - Mark Zokle
Left by George Wallace on Sep 14, 2016 2:28 AM

Your comment:
 (will show your gravatar)

Copyright © George Evjen | Powered by: