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The Essential Few Should Dominate

"Think of your life as an overgrown garden. You have a limited amount of time and energy (and money and attention) to cultivate that garden. You can try to tend to every single plant but then the few that truly matter to you aren't going to get the attention they deserve. Or you can go through and pull up the weeds—cut out the nonessentials—so that what remains can really thrive. That is the Essentialist approach to editing your life."

Section: 3, Chapter: 13

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Bring Forth More By Removing More

"Instead of focusing on the efforts and resources we need to add, the Essentialist focuses on the constraints or obstacles we need to remove... Nonessentialists tend to force execution, Essentialists invest the time they have saved by eliminating the nonessentials into designing a system to make execution almost effortless."

Section: 4, Chapter: 16

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Four Principles Of Effective Editing For Work And Life

  1. Cut out options. Eliminate the trivial many to make room for the vital few.
  2. Condense. Look for the single most important point and say it concisely.
  3. Correct. Be willing to make changes based on performance, feedback, and changing circumstances.
  4. Edit less. Restraint is sometimes more valuable than activity. Do less but better.

Section: 3, Chapter: 13

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Sunk-cost Fallacy Makes Us Cling To The Nonessential

Sunk-cost bias is the tendency to continue to invest time, money, or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred the cost that cannot be recouped. Examples include:

  • Sitting through a bad movie because you've already paid for the ticket
  • Continuing to pour money into a renovation project that's way over budget
  • Staying in a job or career we're not passionate about because we've already invested so much time in it Essentialists avoid the sunk-cost trap by:
  • Admitting when they've made a mistake and cutting their losses
  • Setting a stopping point in advance for when they will pull the plug on something that isn't working
  • Focusing on opportunity cost - what they could do with their time and energy if they walked away

Section: 3, Chapter: 12

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

The Time-Bucketing Process

Ready to start time-bucketing your life? Here's how:

  1. Brainstorm a list of all the experiences you'd like to have in your lifetime. Go wild - include anything that excites you, regardless of cost or difficulty.
  2. Group these experiences into 5 or 10-year "buckets" based on when you'd ideally have them. Be realistic - put physically demanding activities in your younger buckets.
  3. Within each bucket, rank your experiences by priority. Which matter most to you?
  4. Begin pursuing your top-priority experiences in your current bucket. Don't put them off - remember, every bucket has an expiration date!
  5. Repeat the process every 5-10 years.

By time-bucketing, you ensure you're always investing your life energy in the most fulfilling way possible. You live life by design, not default.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

If You Don't Set Your Plan, Someone Else Will Set It For You

An essential intent is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable. It is a mission statement with a clear finish line. It answers the question "How will we know when we are done?" Some examples:

  • "Eradicate smallpox from the face of the earth" - WHO's essential intent in the 1960s
  • "I will get everyone in the UK online by the end of 2012" - Martha Lane Fox's essential intent as UK Digital Champion
  • "Build 150 affordable, green, storm-resistant homes for families living in the Lower 9th Ward" - Brad Pitt's essential intent for his Make It Right foundation in New Orleans

Essential intent provides a clear direction and definition of success, aligning and inspiring efforts.

Section: 3, Chapter: 10

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Your Money Or Your Time?

One of the biggest obstacles to investing in experiences is lack of free time. Between work, commutes, housework, errands, and family commitments, most adults have very little unallocated time to pursue experiences, hobbies and relationships. Perkins' solution: buy back your time. If you earn $40/hour, paying $20 for a one-hour task (lawncare, housecleaning, etc.) is a great deal. By outsourcing, you free up time for higher-value activities. Of course, this requires having enough money to begin with. But Perkins argues that for most middle-class and above earners, investing money to buy back time will yield significant happiness ROI over the long run. View time, not just money, as a scarce and valuable asset.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Controlling Your Time Is The Highest Dividend

True wealth is having control over your time. It provides:

  • Freedom to do what you want, when you want, with who you want, for as long as you want
  • The ability to say no to things you don't want to do
  • Flexibility in the face of an uncertain and always-changing world
  • The opportunity to wait for opportunities to come to you, rather than chasing every option

Money's greatest intrinsic value - and this is something that can't be overstated - is its ability to give you control over your time.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: The Psychology of Money

Author: Morgan Housel

Become Hard To Reach

Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don't, you'll never find time for the more important things. Three tips that help:

  1. Make people who send you e-mail do more work. Don't respond to open-ended emails. Have senders filter themselves by making them fill out a form or answer specific questions before you'll engage.
  2. Do more work when you send or reply to emails. Break down tasks into processes in your messages. Don't just send one-line responses that require many more rounds of back-and-forth to resolve. Minimize friction by clearly describing the process (next steps, deadlines, etc.).
  3. Don't respond. Use a sender filter with an auto-response indicating you are busy and may not respond. Don't respond if the email is ambiguous, not truly important or interesting to you, or if nothing really good would happen if you did respond and nothing really bad would happen if you didn't.

Section: 2, Chapter: 4

Book: Deep Work

Author: Cal Newport

Saying No Gracefully Doesn't Have To Mean Saying The Word No

We can say no without actually uttering the word:

  • "I am flattered that you thought of me but I'm afraid I don't have the bandwidth."
  • "I would love to but I'm overcommitted at the moment."
  • "Your project sounds wonderful. I would not be able to do it justice given my current commitments."
  • "I am in the middle of something that I need to focus on, so I am afraid I will have to pass on this."
  • "Let me check my calendar and get back to you." Saying no gracefully allows us to focus on our essential intent without damaging relationships.

Section: 3, Chapter: 11

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Stop Doing Things That Aren't Getting Results

Practice zero-based budgeting. Instead of just continuing what you've always done, start from scratch and justify each activity anew.

  • Apply selective criteria. If your initial evaluation of an opportunity doesn't score 90% or above, change the rating to 0 and walk away.
  • Run a reverse pilot. Temporarily remove an initiative or activity and see if anyone notices. If not, consider eliminating it permanently.
  • Get over FOMO (fear of missing out). Focus on the upside of what you'll be able to accomplish by uncommitting, not what you might miss out on.

Section: 3, Chapter: 12

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

When Everything Is A Priority, Nothing Is

When Greg McKeown worked with an executive team to identify their top 5 priorities, one manager kept insisting on 18 "top priorities." She eventually cut it down to 17 - still far too many to meaningfully focus on. By refusing to make tough decisions on what mattered most, she spread her team's energy and focus too thin.

Contrast this with Apple under Steve Jobs, who would often ask "What are the top 10 things we should be doing next?" and then cross off the bottom 7. Jobs had an almost inhuman level of focus on the very few things that mattered most. An Essentialist strives for this level of clarity, willing to cut good options to invest in truly great ones.

Section: 3, Chapter: 10

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Setting Boundaries With Bosses And Colleagues

  • Be very clear on your role and responsibilities. Gracefully turn down requests outside that scope.
  • Create a system for saying no. Have go-to phrases or strategies to decline nonessential requests.
  • Suggest an alternative. "I can't take on that project, but here is something I could do..."Offer a referral. "I'm not able to do it, but I know Sarah is great at that sort of analysis."
  • Appeal to your essential intent. "My top priority is delivering Project X, so I need to focus there." Setting boundaries is an ongoing practice, but it gets easier with time as others learn to honor them.

Section: 3, Chapter: 14

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Boundaries Create Freedom

Setting clear boundaries on what we will and will not do, or allow others to do, is essential for focusing on our highest priorities. Boundaries:

  • Protect our time and energy from being hijacked by others' agendas
  • Empower us to choose how we spend our resources
  • Free us from the guilt and resentment of overcommitting
  • Show others we respect ourselves and our priorities

While setting boundaries can be uncomfortable in the short term, it earns respect in the long run. It's the only way to retain control over what's most essential. Essentialists set boundaries deliberately and in advance to avoid being caught off guard by unexpected demands.

Section: 3, Chapter: 14

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Time Management Is A Myth - Prioritize And Take Massive Action Instead

People talk about "time management" and "work-life balance" but these concepts are flawed. You can't "manage" time, you can only decide how to use the time you have. And there's no such thing as perfect "balance." Instead:

  1. Get crystal clear on your top priorities and commit to them fully.
  2. Schedule your days around actions that support those priorities.
  3. Take massive action on those few priorities. Forget about trying to do everything.
  4. Be fully present and engaged in whatever you're doing, whether work or family time.
  5. Accept that you'll feel uncomfortable. Push through and keep going anyway.

Section: 1, Chapter: 17

Book: The 10X Rule

Author: Grant Cardone

Establish Boundaries To Protect Your Time

To combat the pressure to be always available, establish clear boundaries to protect your time:

  • Set a cut-off time for checking email at night and stick to it
  • Take vacations and truly unplug from work (no sneaking off to check messages!)
  • Block off personal events like doctor's appointments or school performances in your calendar and don't allow work meetings to be scheduled over them
  • Turn off notifications on evenings and weekends to be more present with loved ones

Boundaries only work if you commit to upholding them consistently. Doing so gives you more control over your time and energy to focus on what matters most.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: Lean In

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

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