039:Book Club Review Quarter 1: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Welcome to the first meeting of the Hunkeedori Book Club.

Today we’ll be discussing the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I’m going to read you some quotes from the book followed by some questions I think are important to answer for yourself.  Even if you haven’t read the book, I think you’re going to find a lot of value by going through these questions with me.  You can answer them in your head if you want, but I truly believe that you’ll get more out of this exercise by writing it out on paper. 

I’ve created a download for you with all the questions so you can grab that in the show notes.  Print it out and come back.

Ready?  Let’s do it!

I’ve chosen a few of the sections from the book that stood out to me.  I’ll let you know as we move from one section to the next so you can easily find them in the book.  I’ll include page numbers with the quotes by the author.


I often find myself thinking “If I just had more time” or “If I were just more organized, I would get more done…

” Essentialism makes us stop and reckon with the fact that we only have the time that we have, and we need to spend it as wisely as possible. On page 5, McKeown gives us a single-sentence definition: “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.”

Q1: Name something you want to be essential in your life but isn’t.

Q2: Make a list of everything that you think is essential that you do in your life. Okay, I know that that’s going to be a really long.  Use up that entire section I left for you if you need to!!

Okay. Now — go back to that list. Maybe another day. Maybe after you’ve exercised, and you’ve let loose a bit of the frustration that started to get going inside you while writing that list.  I totally get that!  Or maybe it’s after a snack when you’re not so hungry anymore and can see reality and not expectation you’ve put upon yourself with a little bit clearer vision.

Q3: Go back through that list and now decide: is this really essential? If I cut X out, could I have more time for Y?

Write down those cuts on your paper.

On page 23 he says that “To eliminate nonessentials means saying no to someone. Often, it means pushing against social expectations… It’s about the emotional discipline necessary to say no to social pressure.”

Take a look at that list above, the one in Q3 where you listed what you might cut out to have more time.

Q4: Who do you have to disappoint in order to do that?

Q5: Who do you disappoint if you never make space for Y?

Q6: What’s one thing you said “yes” to a long time ago that you are still doing, but are finding it no longer fits your needs and purpose now?

Q7: What can you do about that?


“Essentialism is not a way to get more done. It’s a different way of doing everything.” – p. 31

“Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.” — p. 44

McKeown describes the Essentialist as someone who can discern between “the trivial many” and the “vital few” — but it’s a muscle that needs to be used in order to grow. His advice is to start small and narrow your focus on tiny decisions. Once you get better at it, you can apply the same principle to larger ones.

Q8: Practically speaking, what’s one area of life where you could decide to do less?


On page 68, McKeown writes: “It seems obvious, but when did you last take time out of your busy day simply to sit and think?

I don’t mean the five minutes during your morning commute you spent composing the day’s to-do list, or the meeting you spent zoned out reflecting… I’m talking about deliberately setting aside distraction-free time in a distraction-free space to do absolutely nothing other than think.”

Q9: Ask yourself that question. When did you last spend an hour or more thinking about the big picture and not the everyday? If the answer is “it’s been a while,” plan to carve out some time this week to make it happen. Write down when you’re going to do it.


In Episode 27 when I introduced the book club, I talked about this section mainly because I was so intrigued by all the benefits of the simple act of play.  The author says:

“… play is an antidote to stress, and this is key because stress, in addition to being an enemy of productivity, can actually shut down the creative, inquisitive, exploratory parts of our brain.” – p. 87

Q10: When is the last time you let your brain play? What about your body? If you’re feeling anxious or stressed right now, take 10 minutes to do something that’s purely fun, not to cross it off a list.


I also talked about this section on sleep in Episode 35 just a few weeks ago.

There are many times when we trade sleep for other things in our lives.  But if we’re really honest, is the amount of time we’ve lost for sleep worth it?  Are we really more productive if we get less sleep?

Q11: Do you need to prioritize sleep more than you do (and you’re in a season where you can do something about it)?  How?


Pursuing good is not good enough, says McKeown. Instead, we must ask ourselves: “If we could be truly excellent at one thing, what would it be?” (page 127).

Q12: Ask yourself that question. If you could be truly excellent at one thing, what would it be?

Q13: What are three other non-essential things you are doing right now that you can stop doing in order to pursue that one?


“Have you ever said “yes” when you simply meant to avoid confrontation or friction?” — p. 132

In this section, McKeown dives into the heart of decision making which he labels as courage.

We often find ourselves wanting to help when someone asks us to do something.  I love it when he said of saying yes in the moment, 

““… we can say no and regret it for a few minutes, or we can say yes and regret it for days, weeks, months, or even years” (p. 135).

I mean, how true is that???

Really take a minute and think on that.  Why do we exchange regret for a few minutes, that uncomfortable feeling that comes when we say no to someone, compared to feeling it for weeks to years???

It only takes a few seconds of courage to do what is essential to you.

McKeown writes that “When people ask us to do something, we can confuse the request with our relationship with them” (p. 137).

Q14: Do you have a request sitting on your plate that you know you ought to say “no” to? Make the call or send the email now. And come up with what you’ll say in the future when someone asks something similar from you.

I wanted to share one of the responses I got from a listener on this topic.  

She said, “I wish I would have known how to say no when I was younger.  I am essentially a personality driven essentialist.  Now, I don’t often do what I don’t want to do.  So that meant I cancelled on people a lot.  But I also want to be a dependable person, so I was always torn.  Over the years, I have learned to say no.  If I say yes, I do it.”

Oh, how I love a good honest response!  Not doing things because she didn’t want to do them but feeling the pull between that and being dependable.  I’m sure we can all relate.


We often feel like we are just managing one crisis after another as women. And when we can see the crisis heading our way, we do our best to anticipate them and then try to stop them before they happen.

We’re pros at this most of the time. Especially when it has to do with helping someone else.  What if we could take that skill into our own dreams and ambitions?  You know, the things that WE want to do?

Q15: Is there an obstacle in reaching your personal goals that constantly trips you up?

The social media notifications that are always going off and interrupting you?

That invitation of a friend to go do something when you had scheduled it to work on your goal?

Name that obstacle and proactively eliminate it from your week.


“Routine is one of the most powerful tools for removing obstacles.” — p. 206

Q16: What’s a routine that you have that you know isn’t good for you? How can you change it to work for you?
Q17: What’s a routine that you have that is working for you? How can you make it even better?

“To operate at your highest level of contribution requires that you deliberately tune in to what is important in the here and now.” — p. 21

The late Amy Krouse Rosenthal once said: “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” That’s where your focus is. That will show you what you are prioritizing.

Q18: What have you been spending your creative time on? Does it align with what you want to be essential in your life?

So, there you have it, our book club meeting about the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

I’d really like to encourage you to answer each of the questions I asked you today.  If you didn’t notice, I didn’t include my answers to them.  I don’t want to influence your honest feelings about each of these.  Take some time for you today or very soon and answer them honestly, then make the changes you feel are right for you at this time in your life.  Even if it’s just one small change.

I’ve created a download for you that has the questions on it from this episode and room to write your answers.  I hope this helps.

I’d love for you to share some of your responses with me.  Email me Marla@hunkeedori.com  I’d love to hear from you.

As always, I’m sending lots of love in your quest for the things that are Essential in YOUR life.

039:Book Club Review Quarter 1: Essentialism by Greg McKeown
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