Doing The Right Things The Right Way

Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

Gregory Mckeown’s books Effortless and Essentialism feed off each other and provide great insight into how you should rethink your daily life.



Why does essentialism matter? Well, the paradox of choice always presents itself and often it is natural human instinct to pick small things that don’t really matter. Especially when it comes to our daily work life, we often make small progress on many things. Instead, if we give ourselves permission not to do it all, say no, and focus only on what is vital, that is when we make tremendous progress on one high impact thing.

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.

The Essentialist lives by design, not by default. Essentialism then is the disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless. Further, essentialism is the disciplined pursuit of less. This includes pausing to discern what really matters, saying no to everything but the essential, and removing obstacles to make execution easy.

A common sequence of phases that happens which prevents us from doing less is the following:

Known purpose=able to succeed= success leads to reputation as “go-to” person=increased options and opportunities= diffused efforts/spread thin=distracted from what would be highest level of contribution

Three core truths help one embrace the essence of this practice:

  1. “I choose to”
  2. “Only a few things really matter”
  3. “I can do anything but not everything”

How can we start to decide what really is essential? Well, we first need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.

What is that criteria? For a given opportunity, write down a list of 3 minimum criteria the options would need to pass in order to be considered. Then, write down a list of 3 ideal or extreme criteria. If the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set, say no. And if it also doesn’t pass 2 of your 3 extreme criteria, the answer is still no. People are effective because they say no, says management expert Peter Drucker. Nonessentialist, on the contrary say yes because of feelings of pressure or social awkwardness.

What should leaders be doing to carry out an essentialist mindset?

  • Be ridiculously selective on hiring talent
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Narrows the focus on strategy: what is the one thing we should be working on?
  • Empowers each team member to work on highest role and level of contribution
  • Check in with people to see how obstacles can be removed and how small wins can be achieved
  • Unites a team through a big contribution, not small progress in a million directions


This second book I believe to be a nice follow-up to Essentialism. Once you are able to understand the right things to do, what is the best way to do them?

How can you push the easy button? The effortless state is one where you are physically rested, emotionally unburdened, and mentally energized. Trying too hard often makes it harder to get the results you want. Invert-Getting to the effortless state involves an inversion of approaching problems. Asking how you can get things done with less effort in a state of focus, clarity, and calm is the way. Instead of asking “why is this so hard?”, ask “what if this could be easy?”.

Enjoy- Pair the most essential activities with the most enjoyable ones.

Release- Let go of emotional burdens you don’t need to carry.

Rest- Discover the art of doing nothing.

Notice- Achieve a state of heightened awareness by harnessing the power of presence.

Once one achieve this state of being, the effortless state, the next thing to do is act. Accomplish more by doing less by first taking the obvious step. The effortless action.

Define- Part of making things easier for projects is to define up front what “done” looks like. The minimum viable action is the action that will allow us to gain the maximum learning from the least amount of effort. Take that one instead of weighing all viable options.

Start- Make the first action the most obvious one.

Simplify- Don’t simplify the steps in the process, remove them if you can.

Progress- Fail cheaply and make learning-sized mistakes that will lead to small wins forward.

Pace- Create the right range of limits- never do less than X, never more than Y.

State, Action, and then?….results. How do you achieve effortless results?

Learn- First principles vs. just facts and methods.

Lift- Teach others to teach to better learn.

Automate- Free up brain space.

Trust- As the pillar of high performing teams. Get this right and hire for integrity, intelligence, and initiative.

Prevent-Solve problems before they happen. Catch mistakes and end frustrations.

What does Greg want us to take away from this book? Life doesn’t have to be as hard and complicated as we make it.

Adopt the essential and effortless framework and achieve great things.




Data and business strategist who enjoys writing on technology, innovation, and strategy. Lifelong learning through books, thought leaders, and experience.

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John Rodriguez

John Rodriguez

Data and business strategist who enjoys writing on technology, innovation, and strategy. Lifelong learning through books, thought leaders, and experience.

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