Essentialism Basics: Do Less To Be a More Successful Business Owner
June 20, 2019
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Greg McKeown is the CEO of a leadership and strategy design agency based in Silicon Valley. In 2014 he published a book entitled “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”. The main premise of the book – that we need to concentrate more on doing less – struck a chord with stressed out souls everywhere in the U.S. The book was an instant NY Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller.

Despite its lofty-sounding title, the central theme of Essentialism isn’t anything to do with religion. It’s a mindset, a way of life to combat society’s ever increasing need to get more, do more, fit in more. But taking on more and more is leading to an increase in stress and a marked decline on our collective mental health.

In Greg’s words “Our whole society has become consumed by the undisciplined pursuit of more. The only way to overcome this problem is to change the way we think—adopt the mindset of only doing the things that are essential.”

Essentialism therefore is the practice, every day, of being discerning. To recognize and prioritize what is important in our lives and forget the rest. For some people the concept of doing less is quite revolutionary. We’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that busy = successful, but Essentialism turns this idea on its head and says that, actually, busy = mediocre.

The best thing about this concept is not only that it can not only be applied to your personal life but to your career as well. In this article we’ve picked out some key features of Essentialism that you can adopt to help be more focused in your business endeavors.

“Make a decision based not on external pressure. Make it based on internal clarity of purpose.”

Don’t just say yes, pause and consider

Greg says that we need to live by the ‘delayed yes’. This means don’t impulsively say yes to everything that comes your way simply because you want a full calendar. Take a moment and reflect on what is being asked of you and whether it aligns with your business goals.

For example, you may have been invited to a two-day Symposium that is being held in a 5-star hotel. It would be a good chance to connect with several business acquaintances and eat buffet food but you’ll have to pay a substantial entry fee and the actual content of the Symposium won’t be useful to your business.

Essentialists would suggest not bowing to external pressure (i.e constant emails from the organizers asking for your attendance), pausing to consider, and politely saying “no”.


Pausing is important as it helps you to determine if something is truly essential. “Make a decision based not on external pressure. Make it based on internal clarity of purpose,” says Greg.

Takeaway tip – Be more particular with what you choose to do. Practice saying “Let me get back to you” while you consider and “No” to whatever is not essential. Be okay with it.

“We’ve been oversold the value of more and undersold the value of less.”

Embrace JOMO vs FOMO

No one likes to be out of the loop, and you can experience FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) if you’re not constantly liking and commenting on Social Media, attending meetings or making calls. While all these activities play a part in the running of your business it’s better to do only what you need to do, or outsource them so you can focus on more important business goals.

Essentialists believe that JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out) can be more valuable and manifest opportunities in itself. Once we clear away all the clutter or ‘white noise’ being thrown at us and realize that not everything is important, we can pursue what is most essential to our business.

As Greg says, “We’ve been oversold the value of more and undersold the value of less.”

Takeaway tip – Be discerning about which platforms you comment on, selective about which clients you take on and only reply to emails that have relevance for your business.


Get more sleep

We’re slowly becoming a nation of walking zombies – around 1 in 4 Americans develop insomnia each year. But for Essentialists sleep is a top priority, and necessary for protecting your ability to prioritize. If you’re sleep deprived you’re less likely to make good choices and operate at optimum levels.

Not a good sleeper? Don’t worry napping is fine too. In fact, naps can increase creativity and expand the brain’s capacity to learn, improving mental and physical health. People who nap have also been found to live longer.

“The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves,” says Greg.

Takeaway tip – Nap more. The most beneficial nap is for 10-20 minutes, 6-7 hours after waking.

get more sleep

What are the benefits of Essentialism?

There are many advantages to Essentialist thinking but the main benefit is that it helps move you towards what you really want in life. There are so many distractions in our lives these days that it can be a constant struggle to stay on track. But trying to do everything can lead you down an endless road, where you’re spinning your wheels and never actually reaching your destination.

In Greg’s words “There’s no wiggle room—just enough to complete the essential purposes in our life, so what are yours? What are you here to do? Essentialism will give you richer, sweeter results and put you in real control, giving greater precision to the pursuit of what truly matters.

There are many more Essentialist takeaways in the book than what we’ve mentioned here. You can get a fuller summary by reading this article or going onto Amazon and buying the book and making it an Essential read. Happy prioritizing!

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