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BW Businessworld

Lead Review: Better Less Than Never

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Greg Mckeown has written a compelling book to help people achieve more by a disciplined pursuit of less. For people among us who have felt stretched too thin or those who are making a “millimeter of progress in a million directions” but not getting to goals fast enough, McKeown’s book promises a way out.

The recipe is somewhat like this: one, be highly selective in what you do (essentials); eliminate everything else (non-essentials). Two, now that you have time, use it to explore, play and sleep — so that you select the right things to do and are better at what you do. And finally, make this a lifelong habit. Simple, right? The author spends the rest of the book making this deceptively easy recipe a reality with stories from Mahatma Gandhi to the author’s own travails in becoming an ‘essentialist’. There is an interesting quote from essentialist, Warren Buffett, whose legendary “investment strategy” of selecting very few companies and betting on their long-term success “borders on lethargy”.

We have been bombarded with productivity books in the self-help aisle (or sub section, if you are shopping online) — from brilliant ones like Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen to countless forgettable ones. These books are about doing more in less time. The author’s approach is not a time management strategy, nor a productivity technique, but a refreshingly different way of doing “less but better”.
Srikanth Velamakanni
We live in a world characterised by too much choice and “stuff”, interruptions and distractions, where we are coaxed into saying yes to many things, and attempt to “have it all”. All these lead to stress, sleep deprivation and a lack of time for things we value in our lives. The author argues convincingly that we need to  “reclaim control of our own choices” because “if you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will”. He uses the metaphor of a closet stuffed with things that we will probably never wear but are unable to discard — by the end of the book, we know how to organise the closet of life with things we absolutely love and discard those that we may wear “someday, maybe” (to borrow a phrase from David Allen).

McKeown, who co-created the course, “Designing Life, Essentially” at Stanford University, is a popular speaker at Silicon Valley companies such as Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. What I like most about the author’s approach is that he shares his own journey of becoming an essentialist. I like to see if authors practice what they preach and this one clearly seems to do so. The only exception is that the book is wordy and somewhat repetitive (and not cut to its essentials) though it is only 246 pages long and can easily be read in a day. This may be more about making it long enough to meet book industry’s norms for getting published. 

The reviewer is Co-founder & CEO, Fractal Analytics

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 11-08-2014)