Simple Productivity: How to Accomplish More With Less | Greg McKeown | Skillshare

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Simple Productivity: How to Accomplish More With Less

teacher avatar Greg McKeown, Author & Speaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Power of Essentialism


    • 3.

      Deciding What Matters


    • 4.

      Finding Space to Focus


    • 5.

      Eliminating Non-Essentials


    • 6.

      Mastering the Slow Yes


    • 7.

      Learning to Uncommit


    • 8.

      Executing Essentialism in Your Life


    • 9.

      Creating Accountability


    • 10.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

We all have the power to craft a productive, balanced life we love. The key? Focus on the essential and let go of the rest.

Years ago, best-selling author and speaker Greg McKeown found himself in a work meeting the very afternoon his daughter had been born. He realized he was trying to do everything—and please everyone—all of the time. Since then, he’s honed a whole new approach to productivity: Essentialism. Focused on quality instead of quantity, Greg controls his own time, spends his energy deliberately, and has crafted an intentional life that works.

Now, in a productivity class like no other, Greg is sharing the key tenets of Essentialism. Through reflective questions, examples, anecdotes, you’ll discover:

  • How to decide what’s most important to you
  • Tactics for saying no to non-essential commitments
  • Day-to-day tips for running an Essentialist life
  • Ways to hold yourself accountable for the long-term

Plus, Greg shares his favorite actionable tips that you can start using in your life today, from the art of the “slow yes” to finding focus in any environment.

After this class, you’ll think about productivity in a whole new way. Instead of feeling the pressure to fit more in, you’ll find yourself evaluating the worth of new tasks, commitments, and goals from the start, giving you the power to curate a fulfilling, balanced life.

Meet Your Teacher

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Greg McKeown

Author & Speaker


Greg McKeown has dedicated his career to discovering why some people and teams break through to the next level—and others don’t.

The definitive treatment of this issue is addressed in McKeown’s New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  As well as frequently being the #1 Time Management book on Amazon, this book challenges core assumptions about achievement to get to the essence of what really drives success.

McKeown is the CEO of McKeown Inc. Clients include Adobe, Apple, Google, Facebook, Pixar,, Symantec, Twitter, VMware and Yahoo!.

His writing has appeared or been covered by The New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, HuffPost, Pol... See full profile

Related Skills

Productivity Time Management
Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: You can do fewer things, done better, do the most important things, feel a greater piece, feel a greater sense of control that your life is not at the mercy of the things that don't matter at all. Hi, my name is Greg McKeown. I'm the author of Essentialism. In today's class, we're going to fly essentialism to you so that you can operate at your highest point of contribution. There are so many forces pulling on us now. One moment of distraction, you get a text, before you realize it, you've spent half an hour of what could have been quality time focused on something that really mattered. It's actually been spent on almost total trivia. Essentialism is about doing more of the right stuff, and that, as it turns out, makes all the difference. I spend my life trying to help people to figure out what's essential, eliminate what's not, and then build a system to be able to make execution as effortless as possible. In today's class, we're going to begin with one question, what is essential? Don't worry if that question seems a little overwhelming or you're not quite sure what is essential for you right now, that's what the class is about. We are going to go through the mindset of what it means to be an essentialist and also then the skill set, the tool set required to be able to put this into practice. The difference that I see in people's lives when they embrace essentialism is that they take back control. They take back control not just from other people, but from their own assumptions about how life should be lived. As we go on with this class, please be part of the discussion, engage fully so that you can communicate with other people who are taking the class, learn from each other, and inspire each other to be able to become more essentialist in your creative work. I'm so glad that you have joined me here. Let's get started. 2. The Power of Essentialism: My mission with essentialism began years ago when I got an email from my boss at the time which said, Friday between 1:00 and 2:00 would be a very bad time for your wife to have a baby. But sure enough, on Friday, we're in the hospital, our daughter has been born, and I'm feeling torn, how can I keep everybody happy? How can I keep the boss happy, my wife, Anna, happy, my daughter, everything. To my shame, I went to a meeting. After meeting, I remember my manager saying, "Look, the client will respect you for the choice you just made." I'm not sure that the look on their faces, events that sort of confidence. But even if they did, it's clear in hindsight that I made a fool's bargain, that I violated something more important for something less important, and what I learned with the simplest of lessons, which is this, if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will. So let's just clarify what essentialism is. Essentialism is really three things. It's to explore, eliminate, and execute. That is to explore what is really essential, to eliminate what is non-essential or less essential, and then third, to build a system that makes execution as routine and effortless and easy as possible, so that you can do it consistently. This is essentialism. Essentialism overlaps with productivity, but it's not the same as productivity. Productivity emphasizes doing more things as efficiently as possible, and there's definitely a place for that, but essentialism is about doing more of the right things. So it's a new mindset. It's the mindset of doing the right things at the right time for the right reasons, instead of doing everything now as efficiently as possible. These are two really different things when you look at them like that. What I found is that a lot of people feel busy but not productive, stretched too thin at work or at home, often feel that their day is being hijacked by other people's agenda. Most people don't really realize that they are making a strategic choice in this, do everything for everyone without really thinking about approach to life. Because they observe that other people seem to operate like that, they think that's just the way you live. They're not aware that they're making a deliberate strategic trade off. So to give this a name, it's non-essentialism. This is one way to approach life, career, creative work. There is an alternative way, essentialism is an alternative. So what I'm trying to encourage you to do is to realize that this way of working isn't the only way, it's just the default way, and that there are people who are making great contributions in the world, who are breaking through to the next level in fact by pursuing essentialism. So that's what this is about, making that shift. So this class isn't a traditional time management or vanilla productivity class. This is about making sure that the right things get on your to-do list in the first place. In this class, we're going to be going through the three elements of essentialism; exploring what's essential, eliminating what's not, and building a routine to make execution as easy as possible. But we're not just going to do that in a conceptual way, philosophical way, we're going to be doing it in a very concrete, specific process for you, to choose one area that matters that you wish you could make more progress on, and then to apply the whole rest of the system and all of the methods that go with it to making that as easy as possible so that you can do it, so that you can do it consistently and make time for those things that really matter most. Don't worry if you don't know what's really essential right now. We're going to start in the next section giving specific tips and tricks for how to figure out what is most essential, so that you can focus on what's most essential. 3. Deciding What Matters: The first step towards putting essentialism into practice is to figure out what's most important. So the key idea here is to try to work out those things that are 90 percent or above important. Those are the essential things, that very important things. Now, I'm not saying that you have to immediately get rid of everything else, but you ought to be able to figure out what they are because you cannot focus on them if you do not know what they are, and that's what I see a lot of people doing. They make their to-do lists, they make their schedules, but they haven't actually figured out the things that are vital. So that's where we begin, and the reason we begin there is really because every time we say yes to something less important, we are taking time and attention away from those vital few items. I would advocate that you think of yourself as a journalist, and that your job is to ask questions, and to explore, and to create space to figure out, amidst all the dots of your life, what the lead is. One way to find a lead to your life is with this simple question. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it isn't useful in really getting to the news. The question is this, what is something essential in your life that you're under-investing in? Don't overthink it, just the first answer that came to your mind. What is something that's essential that you are under-investing in right now? Write it down. I've heard a whole variety of answers to that question. But what I've heard people say are things like, I have a book that I've been wanting to write, or a book that I started to write. I've got a screenplay. I've got a key relationship in my life. It's really important to me, but I'm under-investing in that relationship, and so it's a bit strained. I'm keen to point out that there's not really a right or wrong answer to that question, at least not from my point of view. I think that each of us has within us, our own voice that will give us guidance to what is really important. So I'm agnostic to the answer, but I have a point of view on making sure or emphasizing that people are listening to that voice. Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who talked to people on their death beds and tried to gather their answers about what their regrets in life were, and she found that the number one regret of the dying, I know this is a bit serious, but people regretted having allowed the expectations of others to guide them rather than their own internal voice of conscience guiding them. So that's so true in creative pursuits of all kinds, and it's certainly true in this journey to become more of an essentialist. A lot of people think that if they have a list in front of them, that each item is approximately the same value. They might not think that if they really were asked about it, but in the way that they approach the list, it's almost like it's all equally important. Without realizing it, they're using a non-essentialist mindset there. A non-essentialist basically believes that everything is equally essential, everything's important. An essentialist thinks almost nothing is essential. Only a few things really matter. They understand that the most important thing on a list isn't a little more important than the second item, it might be twice as important, or 10 times as important. That's exactly what allows them to justify the time every day, every week to figure out what matters. What is important doesn't follow a linear line, it's an exponential line, it's called a power law. The most important item in any list will be twice or more important than the next item on the list. That's an important mindset to get. Remember this, you simply cannot do it all. If we could, no need to prioritize. But as soon as you realize you can't do it all, you realize you're making trade-offs every day, every decision you make, every time you say yes, you're saying no to something else. That led me to this idea. I call it the 90 percent rule, which is that you think about your life through lens or a continuum, where on the one hand are all the things that trivial, and then as you move up the continuum, it's averagely important, then it becomes really important, and then at the high-end, 90 percent or above, that's where the really essential activities are. So the 90 percent rule means that when something comes your way, when an idea comes to you, either just from you, you're brainstorming, and you're thinking about something, or another idea from someone else comes to you, or a request from a client or a potential client comes your way, and instead of saying yes without thinking about it, you pause and you ask yourself, on a scale of 1-100, how important is this thing to me? How excited am I about this? I'm really enthusiastic or is it just I feel just okay about it? So you start to discern the difference between this 90 percent and above, the clear yeses and everything else. I'm not saying you have to suddenly say no to everything else, but I think you ought to at least pause before saying yes because when you say yes to the other stuff, you may simply be taking away space from the things that are 90 percent or above, vitally important, fulfilling, energizing, and essential. One way to understand the 90 percent rule in practice is to think about your closet. For a lot of people, when their closet gets overfull, they go in there as if to take an item off the shelf, as if to give it away, and in that moment, something almost mysterious, almost magical happens, as you're looking at the item, and what happens to that item? It goes back on the shelf, it goes back in there. The reason for that is that people are using, maybe that realizing it, the world's broadest criteria, like could I ever possibly use this in the future maybe? The answer to that question has to be yes, it could possibly be used. So the essentialist approach would be really different. The question would be, do I love this item? Do I wear it often? These questions help you to identify only the most essential items in your closet, so that you can at least consider getting rid of everything else. It turns out to be better to have just those things that are really great in your closet than having all the clutter around you. That's the metaphor, and that's the closet, but the closet of our creative pursuits are similar. We have lots of clutter in our minds, lots of ideas, lots of different projects that clients would like from us, and our job is to filter through those items so that we just have a closet full of the projects we love, that make the biggest difference, that make the best impact, that we feel the most alignment with, that are really important. So this is why the closet metaphor, I think, helps in thinking through how to become more selective, how to do what's essential. Let's bring this all together with a few simple questions that you can ask right now to get you moving forward to becoming more of an essentialist. The first and biggest question is, what is something that's essential that your under-investing in right now? Now, a few supportive questions there. Why does it matter so much to you? Really, articulate it. It doesn't have to be one big reason, it could be a few reasons. But why does it matter? What change would you need to make in order to bring this about? Specifically, what time Delta is required? If you spent how much time per day or per week, would you feel that you were investing appropriately in the item that you've identified? What does success look like for you with this area? Concretely, how would you know you were done? When you've answered those questions, you'll be ready to move on to the next step of the essentialist process, which is how do we eliminate the non-essentials, the things that we're investing in instead of these key activities? 4. Finding Space to Focus: In order to figure out what's essential, you have to create space to focus. You have to actually create space on your calendar, in your day, routinely if possible. So think into being designful. Think of Bill Gates in the midst of his intense work at Microsoft with all of these people wanting things from him and this tremendous pressure that he put on himself as well. If he didn't create space, he could just get pulled off center almost instantly. So he came up with the idea, what he called a think week, where every six months, he took a full week where he wouldn't take any phone calls, any digital distraction, ironically enough, and instead, just spent time connecting the dots, trying to work out, what is the news? Where are things going? What things have I missed? What really matters? The big picture. Maybe that seems unrealistic to you, but in smaller ways, you can start spending a few moments a day, maybe an hour a week where you just clear out all the rest of the clutter and you make space to try to figure out what actually is essential. In my own life, I spend an hour or two every week, I do it on Sunday, going through a process of really getting clear about what matters. I'm reviewing the last week, what things am I grateful for? What essential things have happened that I can enjoy and celebrate? Then I'm reviewing this coming week, what's already committed to so I have the opportunity to uncommit if I need to and if that feels like the right thing to do. Also, to be able to identify one, two, or three things and area of focus that I want to pursue and schedule and protect in this coming week. For me, that's an absolutely priceless process. It helps me to stay on track. When I get off track, it helps me to get back on track quicker than just allowing other people's agenda to do that for me. My weekly planning process is done in a journal, a paper and pen process. That's my favorite technology in the whole world. I'm no Luddite, I'm in favor of technologies, but this still is the best technology. It's what it can't do that's almost as important as what it can do. It can't distract me. It can't pull me into other people's thinking. It centers me. It's a space and I'd spend time on this. I mean, literally every day, I bring that with me. Everywhere I go, I bring my journal with me. I haven't missed a day, I'm sure in, well, many years now. I would think eight or nine years, I haven't missed a day. It might be 15 or more now, but certainly not even one day in that time. That's how vital it is to me. 5. Eliminating Non-Essentials: Step 1 was about figuring out what really matters, and step 2 is about eliminating what doesn't matter, or eliminating the non-essentials from your life. The specific question that gets straight to the heart of the matter, is just to identify things that are non-essential that you're over-investing in. It's the first thoughts, the first things that come to mind. Occasionally, people feel like they've already cut out the very most non-essential things in their lives. They've already done that, because they care about efficiently doing the things that matter. But even there, I would encourage you to think about things maybe that are less essential than the item you've already identified as being the most essential that you want to work on. The thing that you have identified essential that you're under-investing in. Anything less important than that is a candidate for elimination, and that's where we really need to go next. Eliminating non-essentials is something that's not that comfortable for most of us. We're novices at saying no to other people, but also in lots of ways, novices at saying no to ourselves. Sometimes it's the element of this conversation that gets people's attention right away, so much so that they overemphasize it, and I'm always keen to point out that I wrote a book called Essentialism, not Knowism. But I am saying that of necessity, when you say yes to one thing, you will be automatically saying no to something else. you're already doing that. What I'm encouraging you to do, is to do that more deliberately, more intentionally, so that the essentials get the yes, and the less or totally non-essential things get the no. For lots of people, they get to the point in their lives, they feel they don't have a choice. They have to do the things they have to do. I have to do this for my boss, I have to do this for my clients, I have to do this for my family, I have to do this, everything's I have to, and I'm sympathetic for that. I do recognize that there are lots of competing elements for our attention, and also, that there are consequences for people if they just start to say no to everyone and everything. Even that language I have to, implies that that isn't a choice in the matter. If we instead change our language from I have to, to I choose to because if I don't, this thing will happen. I remember one time my file leader came to me and he said, "look, I have all these, I have another assignment. I've been thinking of you, I think this would be a good fit for you." He shared what the idea was, I liked the idea. It wasn't a definite yes. It wasn't a 90 percent or above yes, but it was good, and what I said to him was this. I said, "Look, right now I have probably four or five major projects, this would be number 5. I can do an average or maybe even a good job on all of these. But I'm wondering whether there's something amidst this group of projects that's especially important to you. So I can do an exceptional job at one, or maybe two of these things." It didn't take him half a bit. He said, "That's a great question, and I think there probably is something, let me talk about this, and I'll get back to you." He came back, he cleared the list. One of those assignments was far more important to him and to the organization than anything else. I spent the next year pursuing that single project, being successful with it, making a bigger contribution than if I had divided my attention amidst the others. So again, the idea is to remember there is a choice, and in that choice is the space to negotiate, so that we can make sure we're being used at our highest point of contribution. 6. Mastering the Slow Yes: There are many problems that we cause for ourselves simply by saying yes too quickly. As one of my experienced executive friends counseled me, he said, we've got to learn the art of the slow yes and the fast no, because normally we do the opposite. So let's just review what we've covered. A few specific ways to say no, you can say, "Yes, I'm happy to do this, what should I deprioritize?" That's what I do with my boss? You can say, "Well, look, we've come to an agreement, so I'm just really going to have to stick to that." You can say, "Look, let me check my calendar and I'll get back to you." You can say, "Look, this is a great project, but I don't think I'm the right person for it. Let me suggest a few people that could really be a good fit." I think that's a great thing you can do in creative projects where clients come to you, they think that you're the right fit and you need to educate them. Let me give you a very concrete example of this. As many of you will know, PowerPoint presentations are often the lowest desired work. You create. It takes a long time to create it, somebody uses at once then it's thrown away. It throwaway graphics. But Nancy Duarte suddenly realized it was an opportunity in that she was running the Duarte Creative Agency at the time and she was doing a full spread of all of the creative projects that graphic agency is likely to do, and among them PowerPoint slides. She's suddenly realize what I just chose one area, and what if I chose the area everybody else doesn't want to do? We're just going to do slides and presentations. She suddenly saw there was a value in it, she wasn't just trying to choose the thing that other people didn't want. She saw that it was something special there, that this was the opportunity to help people communicate important messages. This has become the focal point of our whole practice. She's done Ted Talks on this books on this or whole practices a whole company, the best in the world that this thing. So when she gets other creative project, she's able to pass them on to other people, and the other people whenever they know that someone's looking for presentation work, they've sent it to her. She's turned this for some people's lower value creative work into something that's an art form and she's been able to make a great contribution in that. This is a good example of saying no in a way that actually helps everybody involved. 7. Learning to Uncommit: So what do you do if you already said yes, but now you've realized that you don't even have the resources to complete it or it's stressing you out like crazy to do it or you're just not going to deliver something on time or on budget in the way that you'd originally hoped. What can you do as an essentialist? One thing that I recommend is to uncommit. That's different than just flaking on a commitment you've made. It's different than just not doing it, which I think is often the path of least resistance for people is that they get overwhelmed and they just go silent. They stop responding to email. It's just too much. To uncommit is the honest path of eliminating a previous commitment. You go to somebody, you say, "Look, I know that we talked about doing this, but here's what I've been thinking about since. I'd like to uncommit from it. I'd like to see if there's something better that might really meet your needs." This honors the fact that you've made the commitment in the first place without just thinking, well, I'm stuck. I have to either do it or just flake on someone. You go back and you have the conversation. One of the things that makes uncommitting hard for people is the sunk cost bias. Is a tendency that most of us have. Sunk cost bias means that once we invest in something, we become more committed to it. This is a perfectly useful heuristic to have until when doing something that doesn't actually deserve to be completed. Just because you started it, just because you invested in it doesn't mean you ought to carry on doing it. When Concorde the plane was produced by the British government and the French government, even early on in that project people knew or highly suspected it would be an unprofitable project. But the sunk cost bias kept them going in to the count of a billion dollars. It never did make a commercial success and so an enormous amount of money was spent simply because it had been announced, committed to and so you carry on going down that path. There's a term for this particular kind of sunk cost bias is called the endowment effect. The endowment effect is well established in the literature. It means that we overvalue something simply because we own it. It's a good principle in the sense that you value your home because you own it, that's good. You take care of it more because you own it. That's a good principle. The endowment effect means that you have this project, you keep doing it, you keep just because it's yours. So how did you get out of this? You get out of it by really tricking your brain by asking a different question and the question is, how much would I invest now to get into this project? If I were starting right now, how much would I pay for this project? How much would I pay for this opportunity? It helps you to evaluate from its current value, not from what you originally estimated and not from this place of overvaluing it because you have invested in it before. If you're going to uncommit from something, I generally think that a phone call is better than an email or a text, but you'll know based upon your relationship. Some relationships the trust is so high that there's room to be able to just text somebody and just say, "At least you're sorry. I know I'd say I was going to come to this event this weekend. I've got to get out." If the relationship it has a lower level of trust, I think you have to step up your social intelligence and investment in that moment. There are ways I think, is two ways that you can invest in the relationship even as you're saying uncommitting from something by the care that you take about it. Here's why it's so important to do this is because we all know that we do over commit. The whole world is overcommitted. When we constantly overcommit, we're not really being honest. Uncommitting is a part of validating the character principle of being honest with people. I thought I could do it. I overestimated how much time I have available. I underestimated what this would take. So I just need your permission to uncommit. Dr. Henry Cloud tells a powerful story about the importance of setting boundaries so that we know when to say yes and when to say no and how to negotiate them. The story is that husband and wife, parents come in to see him and they're concerned about their son. They are paying for him, they're paying his bills, they're making his wafer. He asked them, "Where is he?" He said," Well, he doesn't think he has a problem, so he wasn't willing to come today." Dr. Cloud said, "Well, I think that your son might be right" which took them back at first. He said, "Imagine if your neighbor looked out to the window in the morning and their grass is perfectly green and your grass is dying and the reason that it works that way is because your sprinkler heads are spraying the wrong grass. Who has the problem? When they look out the window, their grass is green. When you look out the window, your grass is dying. Who has the problem?" He said that's the same with your son. Your son doesn't have a problem because you're taking them all from him. Your job is counter intuitive advice is to help your son to have a problem, is to help him to deal with his own responsibilities. Now that's a pretty dramatic story. I suppose most of us aren't faced with exactly that kind of situation. But in other ways, sometimes we allow other people to continually make their problem our problem. I'm not advocating that we don't serve in the world or that we become selfish, I want for us to become the most helpful, most useful that we can to other people. But part of that is not just doing what other people put on our plate. Concretely, what I think you can start doing is making a list of the times that you say yes, that you feel a little resentful afterwards and the times you said yes that you felt good about it, you felt this was in your sweet spot. You felt that you were being utilized well so that you can have a point of view about where your boundary should be. Because if you don't have a point of view, if you don't see clearly, you can't make it clear for other people and that's the beginning of getting this relationship boundary right. Let's tie all of this together by going back to the metaphor of the closet. To really have the full benefit of that process, you must actually eliminate. You must take items out of the closet, get rid of it, pass it on to somebody else. Let it be useful in somebody else as well so that you can have the space to enjoy the items that really do matter most. Elimination in the closet of our lives is enormously liberating. To suddenly have space on your calendar, to have space to think, space to create, space to do something that matters. I worked with somebody in the creative field who is doing superb, award-winning work in one company and partially because of that, the whole company got purchased by a larger and as it turns out, more bureaucratic firm. When he went to the new company, he was keen to say yes to everyone and everything. His stress is going up, quality of his work is going down. He almost quits the company. In the end, somebody suggested that he retire in role, meaning that he should pretend that he's been hired back to the company as a consultant, not as a full-time employee. In that new mindset, he started being more selective and thoughtful. After that experience he said to me, "Greg, I got my life back because I found space on my calendar and in my space I found my creative freedom to be able to actually make a bigger contribution." His performance evaluation went up, stress went down. He was able to have dinner with his wife every night, he was able to go to the gym. Again, as a summary, he got his life back. Eliminating non-essentials is all about getting your life back. So far, we've talked about creating space to figure out what's essential. We've talked about eliminating the non-essentials. The next step is to make it as effortless as possible to do what matters most. That's where we're going to go to next. 8. Executing Essentialism in Your Life: The first step in becoming an essentialist is to explore what's essential. The second step is to eliminate what's not essential. The third and really final step is to execute. But by execute, I don't just mean do it, force it, make it happen. What I'm suggesting is that, you create routines, habits, systems to make it as easy as possible to do what matters most. The logic behind this is that there's really two ways of executing. The first way is the way a non-essentialist approaches it. Force it at the last moment, make it happen, and it's a good exhausting way to try and approach execution. It has the really important disadvantage that you may be only do the task you've identified as important once or twice. A journal comes to mind as an example in my own life with this. Many people want to write a journal, I think that's a creative outlet. They've heard of writers and others that have kept journals for years and years. I think that would be a helpful thing. So day one, they put all their energy in, they write three pages, it's an essay. It takes them an hour or more. Day two comes along where they don't have an extra hour, day two. In fact, they've got to make up for the hour they took up on day one, and so they've ended their habit before they've barely begun it. The essentialist approach is really different. It's to do less than you even want to do on the first day. Why? So you have enough energy to do it on day two and day three. So what I learned is this simple habit, which is write no less than one sentence, but maybe no more than four or five sentences, just an upper and lower bound. The idea is to do it consistently. The consistency is where the power is, because you just do a little bit until it becomes habitual, and so then you can keep on doing it for years and years. This is an example of making execution as easy as possible so that you can do it and reap all the advantages, the exponential benefits that come from doing what matters over a long period of time. So another tip for making execution easier is to build triggers into your schedule. With my journal, I literally have my journal in my bag wherever I go. I mean, I have it as it happens literally here, and that's a physical reminder to do it. So whether I'm on a plane or traveling or just at home, it's there with me. It's hard not to keep a journal if it's always with you. The physical reminder is there. But the same principle can be applied in lots of other ways. I was talking to somebody recently who spent hours and hours on doing real estate research. I had nothing to do with their career, not even helpful, and they admitted it quickly. That was an item they wanted to get rid of as non-essential in their lives. I said, "Well, what would you want to do instead? What's your essentially under investing in?" She said, "Well look, it's exercise." I mean, "You should not exercise," and "I need to," and so we said, "Well, what are the triggers?" You can put your tennis shoes under your bed or right by, so when you wake up in the morning they're there. Your workout clothes can be right next to them. In this scenario, the trigger exists in the physical environment so that she doesn't even have to remember to do it, let alone have to think about whether she wants to do it. She just wakes up and it's there, physically there. She'd have to choose not to do it. I know some people and maybe this doesn't work for you, but I know some people who sleep in workout gear, and they're already dressed for it. They'd have to work hard not to do it, and that's another example. This is where triggers help. Your goal is to make it easy to do what's essential and have to do what is non-essential. Another way that we can make consistent execution of what's essential easier is to create a visual representation of our progress. I mean, Seinfeld, when his key activity isn't doing stand-up comedy. The primary work, the most essential, hardest work for him is the writing work. So he uses a calendar, visual calendar that he just puts a red cross through every day that he has written a comedy bit that day. So he's trying to get as many in a row as consecutive as possible. So even if you can only do a little on one day, you still do it because you want repetition. That's one example, but there's lots of other visuals. I've used with my own children a star chart. The last star chart was an image of Spider-man. So every time someone would do something right in our home, you get to color in another piece of this. Once it's filled, then we go and see the movie. Maybe that sounds silly, but it works so well. In fact, even when their cousins came over, once the cousins understood what was going on, they would try to do things to get awarded to coloring another thing. Any other visual representation. As fun as you like, as creative as you'd like, to help you consistently do the thing that you've identified doing. Visual cues really help. Another way that you can make execution easier is just by designing your routines. So every week as part of my planning process, I identify a checklist of items. Pretty much the same things week-in and week-out for me now, carefully curated over time. But now about the same. I change one or two each week depending on what I've learned newly. From that list, the idea of that list is a visual cue like I was just mentioning, you can check it off every day. Instead of having to remember it each day, you just check it off. But also, my goal is to make sure that every item on my weekly checklist is routinized. I don't want to be in a position of having to schedule it again, and again, and again, and again. Sometimes scheduling an activity is as much work as doing it. If you don't have a set time for exercise, the work of just thinking about when to go and how to fit that in takes as much time as actually going and exercising. The job at hand is to routinize these things. It takes a little more work upfront, and then it just pays you back week-in and week-out. Not everything on my checklist is now routinized, but at least half of the items are my goal is to have them all routinized. It's such an advantage to just know I get a set time, I exercise a set time. I check in with our family together at a set time. I play tennis with my son at a set time. All of these things have taken out the cognitive work and effort that leads to such decision fatigue and exhaustion when we have to decide again, and again, and again, when we will do something and how that will fit in. So routines, especially for creative people, routines can seem like a boring thing. "Oh, that's so routine, I don't want to do routine thing." Yes, you do. You want to routinize especially the things that enable your creative pursuits. So that you don't have to spend any of your creative energies thinking about that stuff, and you can pull all of your resources into doing the great work, the best work of your whole life. 9. Creating Accountability: Another key way to make execution of what matters easier is to find yourself an accountability partner. This can be somebody who you live with, it can be somebody you work with, it can be a family member that doesn't live anywhere close, but it's somebody who isn't afraid to hold you accountable. The idea is that you set up and explain to them exactly what we've been talking about in this class. So you actually go through what's something essential that you are underinvesting in. Explain what it is and why it matters to you and you identify with them things that are non-essential that you're over-investing in, that you want to eliminate. Then you go through what your plan is to actually do it. You ask them to hold you accountable. If you want to go even further with this, you create an actual social contract, and I mean it quite literally where you write out what it is you want to focus on, what it is you want to eliminate, how you intend to do that, what your time period is, and you actually write this up, you could just write it on a piece of paper or type it up. But you also put your name, the space to sign it, their name and a space to sign it, and a consequence that goes with it. For example, just for fun, you might say something like, "Okay, if I don't do this, I'll give you $100." Something where there's a cost to not following through, and even though it sounds like a bit of a strange thing to do to actually write it up and then just sign it, the difference it makes is measurable, noticeable, real, between just saying you'll do something that actually taking the time to commit in this more formalized way. You've put up that contract where you can see it, where it reminds you so that you can actually pursue this forward. Just think of the value of completing this process the way that we've described it. Think of the thing that you've identified as being essential, as important to you, and what it looks like six months from now, a year from now when you've completed that work, when you've done the masterpiece that you know is within you, what a value that is? How much more valuable that is than the many non-essential things that could otherwise get in the way? That to me, really matters. 10. Final Thoughts: I recognize that for you life is fast and full of opportunity, and the complication is that you may have been conned into thinking you have to do it all, everything that everyone's doing. The implication of that is that you may plateau in your progress or fail altogether and doing the things that really matter. My position to you through this class has bean you can make a different choice. That if you choose something that's essential that you're under-investing in, identify non-essential things that your over-investing in, and tradeoff between those two make it as easy as possible to do what really matters, that you can actually break through to the next level personally and professionally. I just look forward to seeing what that looks like for you, and how magical and exciting that can be and what you'll bring to the world by making that kind of trade off. That to me, that's exciting. To me, that's essential. Thank you for being with me in this class.