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Essentialism-The Disciplined Pursuit of Less-- Book summary

Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.

By Jay PrajapatiPublished about a year ago 12 min read
Essentialism Book

Summary & Notes:

1. The Essentialist

"The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials."—Lin Yutang

- When request comes pause and think,”Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?”

- Being essentialist means stopping yourself from doing all the thing and putting your all work in things which matters.

The way of Essentialist vs Non Essentialist

Why Non Essentialist is Everywhere:

- Too many choices

- The undisciplined pursuit of more

- Too much social pressure

- The Idea that “You can have it all”

Our lives get cluttered just as closets do. Here’s how an Essentialist would approach that closet.

Essentialism is about creating a system for handling the closet of our lives. This is not a process you undertake once a year, once a month, or even once a week, like organizing your closet. It is a discipline you apply each and every time you are faced with a decision about whether to say yes or whether to politely decline.

1. Explore and Evaluate

2. Eliminate

3. Execute

Step-1: Explore:-Discerning the Trivial Many From the Vital Few Instead of asking, “ Is there a chance I will wear this someday in the future?” You have to ask more disciplined, tough questions: “Do i love this?” and “Do i look great in it?” and “Do I wear this often?” If the answer is no, then you know it is candidate for elimination.

Step-2 Eliminate:-Cutting Out the Trivial Many Let’s say you have pile of clothes devied in “must keep” and “Probably should get rid of” but are you really ready of send it off. There is study which shows that we value things which we own in this case Ask question “If i did’t own this, how much would i spend to buy it?”.

Step-3 Execute:-The Invincible Power of Choice Once you have figured out which activites and efforts to keep- the ones that makes your highest level of contribution. You need system to make executing your intentions as effortless as possible.

Essence: What Is the Core Logic of an Essentialist? To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”

2. Choose-The Invincible Power of Choice

“It is ablity to choose which makes us human” “If you could do one thin with your life right now, What would you do?”

We often think of choice as a thing. But a choice is not a thing. Our options may be things, but a choice — a choice is an action. It is not just something we have but something we do.

How do we forget our ability to choose? “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will” When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up becoming a function of other people’s choices — or even a function of our own past choices.

3. Discern- The unimportance of practically everything

Working hard is important. but more effort does not necessarily yield more results. ”Less but better” does. To practice this Essentialist skill we can start at a simple level, and once it becomes second nature for everyday decisions we can begin to apply it to bigger and broader areas of our personal and professional lives. An Essentialist thinks almost everything is nonessential & An Nonessentialist thinks almost everything is essential

4. Trade off- Which Problem Do I Want?

A Nonessentialist approaches every trade-off by asking, “How can I do both?” Essentialists ask the tougher but ultimately more liberating question, “Which problem do I want?” An Essentialist makes trade-offs deliberately. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound.

5: Escape: The Perks of Being Unavailable

“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” — Pablo Picasso ->An nonessentialist is too busy on thinking about life and essentialist is creating space to escape and explore life.

Space to Design: Find a time to creating space and focus.

Space to Concentrate: No matter how busy you think you are, you can carve time and space to think out of your workday.

Space to read: One practice I’ve found useful is simply to read something from classic literature

6. Look: See What Really Matters

The big picture: Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyper focusing on all the minor details.

Filter of the fascinating: We know instinctively that we cannot explore every single piece of information we encounter in our lives. Discerning what is essential to explore requires us to be disciplined in how we scan and filter all the competing and conflicting facts, options, and opinions constantly vying for our attention.

Keep a journal: Restrain yourself from writing more until daily journaling has become a habit.

Clarify the question

7. Play: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child

Play, which I would define as anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end — whether it’s flying a kite or listening to music or throwing around a baseball — might seem like a nonessential activity. Often it is treated that way. But in fact play is essential in many ways. -> Play is fundamental to living the way of the Essentialist because it fuels exploration in at least three specific ways. First, play broadens the range of options available to us. Second, play is an antidote to stress. Third, play has a positive effect on the executive function of the brain.

8: Sleep: Protect the Asset

Protecting the Asset

The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution. One of the most common ways people — especially ambitious, successful people — damage this asset is through a lack of sleep. Shattering the Sleep Stigma

Sleep will enhance your ability to explore, make connections, and do less but better throughout your waking hours.

9: Select: The Power of Extreme Criteria

The 90 Percent Rule

You can think of this as the 90 Percent Rule, and it’s one you can apply to just about every decision or dilemma. As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it.

The benefits of this ultra-selective approach to decision making in all areas of our lives should be clear: when our selection criteria are too broad, we will find ourselves committing to too many options.

Opportunity Knocks

Here’s a simple, systematic process you can use to apply selective criteria to opportunities that come your way. First, write down the opportunity. Second, write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. Third, write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. By definition, if the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is obviously no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no. -> Eliminate: How Can We Cut Out the Trivial Many?

Of course, finding the discipline to say no to opportunities — often very good opportunities — that come your way in work and life is infinitely harder than throwing out old clothes in your closet.

So once you have sufficiently explored your options, the question you should be asking yourself is not: “What, of my list of competing priorities, should I say yes to?” Instead, ask the essential question: “What will I say no to?” This is the question that will uncover your true priorities.

10: Clarify: One Decision That Makes a Thousand

From “Pretty Clear” to “Really Clear” “When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress, and frustration.”

11: Dare: The Power of a Graceful “No”

Without courage, the disciplined pursuit of less is just lip service. -> Essentially Awkward

Separate the decision from the relationship

Saying “no” gracefully doesn’t have to mean using the word no

Focus on the trade-off

Remind yourself that everyone is selling something

Make your peace with the fact that saying “no” often requires trading popularity for respect

Remember that a clear “no” can be more graceful than a vague or noncommittal “yes” — The “No” Repertoire To consistently say no with grace, then, it helps to have a variety of responses to call upon. Below are eight responses you can put in your “no” repertoire.

The awkward pause.

The soft “no” (or the “no but”).

“Let me check my calendar and get back to you.”

Use e-mail bouncebacks.

Say, “Yes. What should I deprioritize?”

Say it with humor.

Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y.”

“I can’t do it, but X might be interested.”

12: Uncommit: Win Big by Cutting Your Losses

It explains why we’ll continue to sit through a terrible movie because we’ve already paid the price of a ticket. It explains why we continue to pour money into a home renovation that never seems to near completion. It explains why we’ll continue to wait for a bus or a subway train that never comes instead of hailing a cab, and it explains why we invest in toxic relationships even when our efforts only make things worse.

It explains why we’ll continue to sit through a terrible movie because we’ve already paid the price of a ticket. It explains why we continue to pour money into a home renovation that never seems to near completion. It explains why we’ll continue to wait for a bus or a subway train that never comes instead of hailing a cab, and it explains why we invest in toxic relationships even when our efforts only make things worse. -> Avoiding Commitment Traps Beware of the Endowment Effect

“the endowment effect”: our tendency to undervalue things that aren’t ours and to overvalue things because we already own them.

13: Edit: The Invisible Art

In life, disciplined editing can help add to your level of contribution. It increases your ability to focus on and give energy to the things that really matter. It lends the most meaningful relationships and activities more space to blossom.

Editing Life

Cut: Remove the options or activities that get in the way even if they seem reasonable.

Condense: Do more with less to shift the ratio of your activity to be more meaningful.

Correct: Make course corrections to revert activity or behavior back to our purpose.

Edit Less: Have the discipline not to change everything and leave certain things be.

14: Limit: The Freedom of Setting Boundaries

Avoid Solving their Issues as you become an enabler and prevent them from solving.

Boundaries Provide Freedom in terms of clear limits and options for you and others.

Find Your Dealbreakers or the requests or activities that you will refuse to say yes to.

Craft Social Contracts or an agreement outlining your goals, priorities, and boundaries.

15: Buffer: The Unfair Advantage

We live in a changing, unpredictable world, and many of us are unprepared. Therefore, we can be reactive and wait for the worst to occur. Or we can be proactive and create a buffer:

Buffer — “something that prevents two things from coming into contact and harming each other”

Use Good Times to save resources and prepare for the eventual bad times.

Use Extreme Preparation for the most extreme and challenging scenarios.

Add 50% to Your Time Estimate as we tend to underestimate how long a task takes.”planning fallacy”: This term, coined by Daniel Kahneman in 1979, refers to people’s tendency to underestimate how long a task will take, even when they have actually done the task before.

Conduct Scenario Planning We can apply these five questions to our own attempts at building buffers. Think of the most important project you are trying to get done at work or at home. Then ask the following five questions:

(1) What risks do you face on this project?

(2) What is the worst-case scenario?

(3) What would the social effects of this be?

(4) What would the financial impact of this be? and

(5) How can you invest to reduce risks or strengthen financial or social resilience?

Develop a Risk Management Strategy by asking these five questions:

16: Subtract: Bring Forth More by Removing Obstacles

“To attain knowledge add things every day. To attain wisdom subtract things every day.” — Lao-tzu

Constraints are the obstacles holding the whole system back.

The question is this: What is the “slowest hiker” in your job or your life? What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.

They ask, “What is getting in the way of achieving what is essential?” -> Produce More by Removing More 1. Be Clear About the Essential Intent 2. Identify the “Slowest Hiker Ask yourself, “What are all the obstacles standing between me and getting this done?” and “What is keeping me from completing this?” Make a list of these obstacles. Prioritize the list using the question, “What is the obstacle that, if removed, would make the majority of other obstacles disappear?” 3. Remove the Obstacle

17: Progress: The Power of Small Wins

The way of the Nonessentialist is to go big on everything: to try to do it all, have it all, fit it all in. The Nonessentialist operates under the false logic that the more he strives, the more he will achieve, but the reality is, the more we reach for the stars, the harder it is to get ourselves off the ground.

The way of the Essentialist is different. Instead of trying to accomplish it all — and all at once — and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress. Instead of going for the big, flashy wins that don’t really matter, the Essentialist pursues small and simple wins in areas that are essential. Focus on Minimum Viable Progress Do the Minimum Viable Preparation Take a goal or deadline you have coming up and ask yourself, “What is the minimal amount I could do right now to prepare?”

18: Flow: The Genius of Routine

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” — W. H. Auden Making It Look Easy

Routine is one of the most powerful tools for removing obstacles. Without routine, the pull of nonessential distractions will overpower us. But if we create a routine that enshrines the essentials, we will begin to execute them on autopilot

19: Focus: What’s Important Now?

Multitasking Versus Multifocusing

But in fact we can easily do two things at the same time: wash the dishes and listen to the radio, eat and talk, clear the clutter on our desk while thinking about where to go for lunch, text message while watching television, and so on.

What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time. Multitasking itself is not the enemy of Essentialism; pretending we can “multifocus” is.

The Pause That Refreshes

Pay attention through the day for your own kairos moments. Write them down in your journal.

20: Be: The Essentialist Life

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” — Socrates Living Essentially

There are two ways of thinking about Essentialism. The first is to think of it as something you do occasionally. The second is to think of it as something you are.

Here are some of the ways the disciplined pursuit of less can change your life for the better. More Clarity More Control You will gain confidence in your ability to pause, push back, or not rush in. You will feel less and less a function of other people’s to-do lists and agendas More Joy in the Journey with the focus on what is truly important right now comes the ability to live life more fully, in the moment.

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Jay Prajapati

Staying curious and learning new things.

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