Table of Contents


Tags: simplify

Note: Eliminate the non-essentials

evaluate requests based on the timid criteria, “Can I actually fulfil this request, given the time and resources I have?” If the answer was no then he would refuse the request. (Location 52)

Tags: no, prioritisation

Note: .prioritisation

when a request would come in he would pause and evaluate the request against a tougher criteria: “Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” (Location 54)

Tags: priotitise

Note: Is this the very most important thing i should be doing with my resources now

His newfound commitment to doing only the things that were truly important – and eliminating everything else – restored the quality of his work. Instead of making just a millimetre of progress in a million directions he began to generate tremendous momentum towards accomplishing the things that were truly vital. (Location 65)

Tags: focus

Note: focus on the highest priorities

In this example is the basic value proposition of Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter. (Location 74)

Tags: essentialism, prioritise

Note: Don’t say yes to everything. Focus on the top priorities

Less but better. (Location 89)

Tags: quotes, simplify

Note: .simplify

The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn’t mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way. (Location 90)

Tags: essentialism

Note: Disciplined pursuit of less but better

Constantly ask, “Am I investing in the right activities?” There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in. (Location 91)

Note: There are more opportunities in the world than we have time and resources

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at your highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential. (Location 96)

Tags: essentialism, focus

Note: .focus focus on getting the right things done

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the non-essentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. (Location 105)

Tags: essentialism

Note: Live by design, not by default

Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless. (Location 107)

Tags: essentialism, priotitise

Instead of asking, “Is there a chance I will wear this someday in the future?” you 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 a candidate for elimination. (Location 227)

Tags: minimalism, clothes

Note: Ask "do i love this" rather than "will i wear this again"

The prevalence of noise: Almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. This is the justification for taking time to figure out what is most important. Because some things are so much more important, the effort in finding those things is worth it. (Location 265)

Tags: discovery, planning

Note: Very few things are important. Take the time to find out what is

The reality of trade-offs: We can’t have it all or do it all. If we could, there would be no reason to evaluate or eliminate options. (Location 267)

Note: We cant have it ll or do it all

Essentialists systematically explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any. Because they will commit and “go big” on one or two ideas or activities, they deliberately explore more options at first to ensure that they pick the right one later. (Location 274)

Tags: execution

Note: Explore widely and go big on one/two

can conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: “What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and “What am I particularly talented at?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?” (Location 280)

Tags: purpose, favorite

explore, eliminate, execute (Location 301)

Tags: execution, essentialism

Note: Exlore, eliminate and execute

doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like? (Location 314)

Tags: quotes, capitalism

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” (Location 324)

Tags: life

Note: .life

“Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.” (Location 350)

Tags: focus, essentialism

Note: .essentialism

“If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?” (Location 373)

Tags: life

Note: .life

The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away – it can only be forgotten. (Location 390)

Tags: choice

Note: .choice


Tags: essentialism

Note: .essentialism

Many capable people are kept from getting to the next level of contribution because they can’t let go of the belief that everything is important. But an Essentialist has learned to tell the difference between what is truly important and everything else. (Location 502)

Tags: priotitise, favorite


Tags: strategy

Note: .strategy strategy is about making choices

The reality is, saying yes to any opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others. (Location 548)

Tags: no

Note: Saying Yes to one thing means saying no to many others

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” (Location 606)

Tags: focus

Note: Rather than "what do I have to give up" , "what do i get to go big on?"

“Imagine a four-burner stove,” she instructs the members of the party. “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work. In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.” (Location 614)

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. (Location 627)

Tags: favorite, focus

Note: Essentialists explore many and go big on a just a few ideas

run around with fire extinguishers in times of flood. (Location 807)

Tags: metaphor, favorite, quote

Note: .quote

the faintest pencil is better than the strongest memory. (Location 821)

Tags: favorite, memory

Note: .memory

also suggest that once every ninety days or so you take an hour to read your journal entries from that period. But don’t be overly focused on the details, like the budget meeting three weeks ago or last Thursday’s pasta dinner. Instead, focus on the broader patterns or trends. Capture the headline. Look for the lead in your day, your week, your life. Small, incremental changes are hard to see in the moment but over time can have a huge cumulative effect. (Location 825)

Tags: reflection

Note: .reflection read your journal every 3 months

That is, until we look at a less well-known finding from the same study: that the second most important factor differentiating the best violinists from the good violinists was actually sleep. The best violinists slept an average of 8.6 hours in every twenty-four-hour period: about an hour longer than average. Over the period of a week they also spent an average of 2.8 hours napping in the after-noon: about two hours longer than the average. Sleep, the authors of the study concluded, allowed these top performers to regenerate so that they could practise with greater concentration. So yes, while they practised more, they also got more out of those hours of practise because they were better rested. (Location 1040)

Tags: sleep

Note: .sleep increased sleep leads to better performance

“No More Yes. It’s Either HELL YEAH! Or No,” (Location 1107)

Tags: yes

why not conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “What taps my talent?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?” (Location 1218)

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. When there is a high level of clarity, on the other hand, people thrive. (Location 1295)

Tags: teams, goals

Note: .goals people need clarity

But while rhetoric can certainly inspire, we need to remember that concrete objectives have the power to elevate and inspire as well. A powerful essential intent inspires people partially because it is concrete enough to answer the question, “How will we know when we have succeeded?” ... the actor/social entrepreneur Brad Pitt, who, appalled by the lack of progress in rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, had started an organisation called “Make It Right” with the essential intent “to build 150 affordable, green, storm-resistant homes for families living in the Lower 9th Ward.” That statement took the air out of the room. The concreteness of the objective made it real. (Location 1359)

Tags: mission statement

Note: A personal intent should be powerful enough so you can measure when youre successful

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” (Location 1432)

Tags: focus

Note: .focus

either we can say no and regret it for a few minutes, or we can say yes and regret it for days, weeks, months, or even years. The only way out of this trap is to learn to say no firmly, resolutely, and yet gracefully. Because once we do, we find, not only that our fears of disappointing or angering others were exaggerated, but that people actually respect us more. Since becoming an Essentialist I have found it almost universally true that people respect and admire those with the courage of conviction to say no. (Location 1444)

Tags: no

Note: .no

“I am greatly honored and flattered by your kind letter of February 14th – for I have admired you and your work for many years, and I have learned much from it. But, my dear Professor Csikszentmihalyi, I am afraid I have to disappoint you. I could not possibly answer your questions. I am told I am creative – I don’t know what that means…. I just keep on plodding…. I hope you will not think me presumptuous or rude if I say that one of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours – productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.” (Location 1451)

SEPARATE THE DECISION FROM THE RELATIONSHIP When people ask us to do something, we can confuse the request with our relationship with them. Sometimes they seem so interconnected, we forget that denying the request is not the same as denying the person. Only once we separate the decision from the relationship can we make a clear decision and then separately find the courage and compassion to communicate it. (Location 1469)

Tags: no

Note: .no separate the request from the person

REMEMBER THAT A CLEAR “NO” CAN BE MORE GRACEFUL THAN A VAGUE OR NONCOMMITTAL “YES” As anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of this situation knows, a clear “I am going to pass on this” is far better than not getting back to someone or stringing them along with some noncommittal answer like “I will try to make this work” or “I might be able to” when you know they can’t. Being vague is not the same as being graceful, and delaying the eventual “no” will only make it that much harder – and the recipient that much more resentful. (Location 1500)

Tags: no

Note: .no be very clear in your no

The “No” Repertoire

The awkward pause. Instead of being controlled by the threat of an awkward silence, own it. Use it as a tool. (Location 1507)

Tags: no

Note: .no pause after a request

The soft “no” (or the “no but”). I recently received an e-mail inviting me to coffee. I replied: “I am consumed with writing my book right now :) But I would love to get together once the book is finished. Let me know if we can get together towards the end of the summer.” (Location 1509)

Tags: no

Note: .no no but

Say, “Yes. What should I deprioritise?” Saying no to a senior leader at work is almost unthinkable, even laughable, for many people. However, when saying yes is going to compromise your ability to make the highest level of contribution to your work, it is also your obligation. In this case it is not only reasonable to say no, it is essential. One effective way to do that is to remind your superiors what you would be neglecting if you said yes and force them to grapple with the trade-off. (Location 1525)

Tags: favorite, no

Note: .no yes, what should i deprioritise

“We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.’ (Location 1553)

Tags: quotes, favorite, no

Note: .no


Tags: yes

Note: Yas no quickly an yes slowly


Editing Life

To state the obvious, editing involves cutting out things that confuse the reader and cloud the message or story. It is a matter of record that well-edited movies and books are easy on the eye and the brain. (Location 1734)

Note: Remove anything which clouds the message

The Latin root of the word decision – cis or cid – literally means “to cut” or “to kill.” (Location 1737)

Tags: decision

Note: .decision

“I must apologise: if I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.” (Location 1745)

Tags: writing, concise

Note: .concise


Tags: preparation

Note: .preparation

From chemistry we know that gases expand to fill the space they are in; similarly, we’ve all experienced how projects and commitments tend to expand – despite our best efforts – to fill the amount of time allotted to them. (Location 1929)

Tags: work expands, planning, time, work

Note: Work expands to the time allotted

These days the pace of our lives is only getting faster and faster. It is as if we are driving one inch behind another car at one hundred miles an hour. If that driver makes even the tiniest unexpected move – if he slows down even a little, or swerves even the smallest bit – we’ll ram right into him. There is no room for error. As a result, execution is often highly stressful, frustrating, and forced. Here are a few tips for keeping your work – and sanity – from swerving off the road by creating a buffer. (Location 1968)

Tags: buffer

Note: Create a buffer so you can adapt to the unexpected

Of the variety of explanations for why we underestimate the amount of time something will take, I believe social pressure is the most interesting. One study found that if people estimated anonymously how long it would take to complete a task they were no longer guilty of the planning fallacy.9 This implies that often we actually know we can’t do things in a given time frame, but we don’t want to admit it to someone. (Location 2007)

Tags: estimates

Note: .estimates we estimate overly optimisticly because of social pressure

add a 50 per cent buffer to the amount of time we estimate it will take to complete a task or project (Location 2012)

Tags: estimate

Note: .estimate

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. (Location 2061)

Tags: bottlenecks

Note: Identify bottlenecks


Tags: compound

Note: .compound

To quote Tony Blair, what if they could be tough on crime but also tough on the causes of crime? (Location 2135)

Tags: crime

Note: get tough on the causes of crime

So we introduced a token system.9 The children were given ten tokens at the beginning of the week. These could each be traded in for either thirty minutes of screen time or fifty cents at the end of the week, adding up to $5 or five hours of screen time a week. If a child read a book for thirty minutes, he or she would earn an additional token, which could also be traded in for screen time or for money. The results were incredible: overnight, screen time went down 90 per cent, reading went up by the same amount, and the overall effort we had to put into policing the system went way, way down. In other words, non-essential activity dramatically decreased and essential activity dramatically increased. Once a small amount of initial effort was invested to set up the system, it worked without friction. (Location 2198)

Tags: parenting

Note: .parenting

Bob Bowman, designed this physical routine with Phelps. But that’s not all. He also gave Phelps a routine for what to think about as he went to sleep and first thing when he awoke. He called it “Watching the Videotape.”2 There was no actual tape, of course. The “tape” was a visualisation of the perfect race. In exquisite detail and slow motion Phelps would visualise every moment from his starting position on top of the blocks, through each stroke, until he emerged from the pool, victorious, with water dripping off his face. (Location 2253)

Tags: visualisation

Note: .visualisation imagine the perfect race

The work Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has done on creativity demonstrates how highly creative people use strict routines to free up their minds. “Most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating, and working, and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise,” Mihaly says. “They wear clothes that are comfortable, they interact only with people they find congenial, they do only things they think are important. Of course, such idiosyncrasies are not endearing to those they have to deal with…. But personalizing patterns of action helps to free the mind from the expectations that make demands on attention and allows intense concentration on matters that count.” (Location 2306)

Tags: routine

Note: having a good routine enables you to complete certain tasks effortlessly whilst focusing attention elsewhere

“Focus on the hardest thing first.” After all, as Ray said to me: “We already have too much to think about. Why not eliminate some of them by establishing a routine?” (Location 2358)

Tags: focus

Note: Focus on the hardest thing first

The ancient Greeks had two words for time. The first was chronos. The second was kairos. The Greek god Chronos was imagined as an elderly, grey-haired man, and his name connotes the literal ticking clock, the chronological time, the kind we measure (and race about trying to use efficiently). Kairos is different. While it is difficult to translate precisely, it refers to time that is opportune, right, different. Chronos is quantitative; kairos is qualitative. The latter is experienced only when we are fully in the moment – when we exist in the now. (Location 2404)

Tags: mindfulness, time, favorite

Note: Be in the moment

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. When I talk about (Location 2446)

Tags: multitasking

Note: You can do multiple things at once but only focus on one

Lao Tzu: “In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.” (Location 2483)

David Thoreau (who wrote, “I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; … so simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real”).5 (Location 2530)

Tags: simplify

Note: .simplify

The list goes on, but the point I want to make here is that focusing on the essentials is a choice. It is your choice. That in itself is incredibly liberating. (Location 2588)

As the Dalai Lama, another true Essentialist, has said: “If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness.” (Location 2614)

Tags: simplify

Note: .simplify