I read Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism back in 2020. It had been sitting on a shelf in our house for a long time, but I picked it up on a sunny pandemic Sunday and read the whole thing in one go. It’s a good book for that type of reading, lots of anecdotes and the central point is “say no to more things” which isn’t a terribly complicated message.
I was browsing Libby the other day and saw his new book, Effortless was available. Sure, I said, why not.
TL;DR: If you were only going to read one of the two, read Essentialism. Really, read neither.
The central theme here starts with the “rocks in a jar problem”. If you have big rocks, little rocks, and sand, and needed to fill a jar, you’d start with the big rocks, then the little ones, then fill in the gaps with sand. Use that as a metaphor for prioritization: big rocks first, sand last. But what if, the book wonders, you have too many big rocks to fit in the jar? McKeown gives a productivity book great hits list as the solution to this problem: time-block your life, make checklists, ask how to make something “easier” by rejecting notions of how it is currently hard. Automate common actions, prefer solutions that have non-linear application, set reasonable goals that can be repeatedly daily rather than burning bright and burning out fast.
My problems with the book:
McKeown suggests not just reading books, but understanding books. Write a one-page summary afterwards. Well, here it is. To follow the lessons of his first book, here’s the 10% version: don’t read it.