Cultivate What Matters Book Review | Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Cultivate What Matters Book Review | Essentialism by Greg McKeown

At the beginning of this year, Team Cultivate did something we hadn't done in awhile: read a book together! The book we chose? Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Defined as "the disciplined pursuit of less," we thought it sounded like an impactful pick for a year when we were hoping to do fewer things, better (something we hope to lead this community in, as well!).

From the book's description:

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Are you often busy but not productive? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas? If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist. The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

The things that really matter—yes! That's something this community is passionate about. Here, I wanted to share three of my favorite takeaways from Essentialism, and I'd love to hear yours in the comments, too!

1. The Essentialist starts small and gets big results. Friends, we know this one! Little by little adds up, right? "Instead of trying to accomplish it all

—and all at once

—and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress," writes Greg. "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." 

He goes on to share that research has shown that of all forms of human motivation, the most effective one is progress. A small, concrete win creates momentum and affirms our faith in our further success. Each win builds on the one that came before it, and "by the time we have a significant breakthrough, our progress will become so frictionless and effortless that the breakthrough will seem like overnight success."

In his Progress chapter (chapter 17!), Greg lists several techniques for making small wins more likely, and they'd all be helpful for PowerSheets® users!

2. The Essentialist designs a routine that enshrines what is essential, making execution almost effortless. There was a lot to unpack in this chapter, but my main takeaway was when we create routines that prioritize the things that matter most to us, it becomes easy to fill our days with what matters most. "We won't have to expend precious energy every day prioritizing everything. We must simply expend a small amount of initial energy to create the routine, and then all that is left to do is follow it."

Greg offers several suggestions for creating effective (instead of restrictive!) routines, but I love the idea of being inspired by your PowerSheets Prep Work. What's on your yes or no list? What's on your vision board? What did you describe in your vision for your cultivated year? And most importantly, how could you incorporate these insights into daily, weekly, and monthly routines to make them almost effortless to execute?

3. The life of an Essentialist is a life lived without regret. "If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your time and energy in it, then it is difficult to regret the choices you make," writes Greg. "You become proud of the life you have chosen to live." 

I was saying all the yeses! and amens! and high fives! when I got to this page in the book. None of us makes the correct choice every time, and none of us lives a "perfectly meaningful" life

—but because we have invested in the PowerSheets process, we are regularly identifying what really matters (through the Prep Work and monthly pages), and making a plan to invest our time and energy in it (through our Tending Lists). And that leads to a life we can be proud of, a life that can positively impact the people around us.

Friends, I'd love to hear your favorite takeaways if you've read Essentialism! Drop them in the comments and let's share.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas has been writing content for Cultivate What Matters for over four years. Her passion is helping women unlock what matters most in their lives and living the lives they’ve always dreamed of. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband, three kids, and Golden Retriever, Dolly.

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