Latish Sehgal's Blog

Book Notes: Essentialism

Read On: June 2017
Reading Time: 7 hours
Rating: 7/10


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.


  • Essentialism is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It’s not about getting more things done; it’s about getting the right things done. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.
    • By investing in fewer things, we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most.
  • If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
  • A choice is not a thing; it’s an action. We may not always control on options, but we always have control over how we choose among them.
  • The way of the essentialist is to evaluate and explore a broad set of options, before committing to any.
  • Write a daily journal and scan it periodically to detect patterns and areas for improvement.
  • Play: Anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end. Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity. It fuels exploration in at least 3 specific ways:
    1. It opens our mind, broadens our perspective and helps us to make connections that we would have not made otherwise.
    2. It is an antidote to stress. Stress increases the activity of the amyogdala (responsible for monitoring emotion), while reducing hippocampus activity (responsible for cognitive function).
    3. Play has a positive effect on the executive functioning of the brain, which inludes planning, prioritizing, scheduling, anticipating, delegating, deciding and analyzing.
  • The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we under invest in ourselves (our mind, body and our spirits), we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution. We need to pace ourselves, nurture ourselves and give ourselves fuel to explore, thrive and perform.
  • When there is a lack of clarity, people waste time and energy on the trivial many. When teams lack clarity of purpose, 2 common patterns emerge:
    1. Playing Politics: The team becomes overly focused on the attention of the manager. Instead of focusing their time and energies on making a high level of contribution, they put all their efforts into games like attempting to look better than their peers, demonstrating their self importance, and echoing their manager’s every idea or sentiment.
    2. It’s all good: Teams without purpose become leaderless. With no clear direction, people pursue the things that advance their own short-term interests.
  • We should say ‘No’ frequently and gracefully to the non essential so we can say yes to the things that really matter. Saying “No” often requires trading short term popularity for respect.
    • We need to learn to say the slow yes and the quick no.
  • Sunk Cost Bias: The tendency to continue to invest time, money or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred, or sunk, a cost that cannot be recouped. The more we invest in one thing, the harder it is to let go.
  • We can never fully anticipate or prepare for every scenario or eventuality; the future is simply too unpredictable. Build in buffers to reduce the friction caused by the unexpected.
  • The two primary internal motivators for for employees are achievement and recognition for achievement.
  • If we create a routine that enshrines the essentials, we will begin to execute them on autopilot. With repetition, any routine is mastered and the activity becomes second nature
P.S I have moved all my Book Notes to Read My Book Notes.