This is a comprehensive summary of the book Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
An extraordinarily ordinary book by the best-seller of Essentialism, Greg McKeown. Plainly, in this read, he talks about how the right things shouldn’t take Herculean efforts to complete. Mr. McKeown tries to convince us, by sharing widely popular stories of successful people you’ve already probably heard (especially if you’re a fan of self-help books), that important tasks can be easy to do. The not-everything-has-to-be-so-hard mantra is presented in a 3-step process called The Effortless Way. And while I can label most of the text as common sense, there are few gems hiding beneath the dusty veneer of mediocrity.
The Core Idea:
Apparently, the author wasn’t living to what he suggested in his previous book and that’s why he wrote another one – this one. As he states: “Essentialism was about doing the right things; Effortless is about doing them in the right way.” Not everything that is important should be hard. That’s the main message. Thus, the text is helping us divorce the concept that important things should be hard and find an easier, simpler path to achieve our goals and live the life we want. The idea might sound laughable at first – “Important tasks are always hard,” we say to ourselves. But when you think about it, you can sense why it’s precious to stop and consider how you can reduce your efforts.
Reason To Read:
Effortless is a good fit for overthinkers and overachievers. And I’ll highly recommend it to perfectionists who set impossible-to-achieve goals and adopt the habit of working their fingers to the bone – but eventually quit because what they’ve created is not perfect according to their standards. If when there is a problem you say, “I will work harder” instead of “how can I become more efficient,” get and read the book.
- Establish a new way of thinking about important tasks – i.e., they shouldn’t be so hard to do.
- Stop struggling by constantly pushing uphill. Find a way to push your business, goals, etc., downhill.
- Throwing more effort at problems doesn’t guarantee success. The only thing that guarantees is exhaustion.
5 Key Lessons From Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most:
- Lesson #1: Think How You Can Make The Essential Projects Easier To Do
- Lesson #2: Constantly Ask Yourself: What If This Project Could Be Easier?
- Lesson #3: More Effort Doesn’t Produce Better Performance
- Lesson #4: Find Levers. Build Systems. Aim for Residual Results
- Lesson #5: Choosing The Lighter Path Can Save Your Life
Lesson #1: Think How You Can Make The Essential Projects Easier To Do
Stop powering through. Avoid burnout. Make what matters easier to do. That’s the grand goal. What the author is trying to communicate with the book.
But transforming the most important things in our life to become easy-peasy tasks seems, I don’t know, too good to be true. Doesn’t it?
It does. Mainly because the current mindset of a regular worker is that success requires struggle. That all important decisions should be hard to make. That everything that matters should require a lengthy process, a lot of meetings, money, and time away from your family.
When there is a problem, we usually start working longer and harder. This is the default option.
“To hell with that way of living,” says Greg McKeown.
Instead of adding more load on your plate and making everything seem impossible to finish, he recommends the Effortless Way. Yes, it immediately brings the motto of the Mandalorian religion to mind (This is the way!) but it’s not at all related to bounty hunting or roaming the galaxy.
And while I am yet to implement the Effortless Way with all its glorious strategies in my life, one thing is certain when I heard the author talk about making hard things easier: The mere fact of thinking about making hard things easy is helpful – it changes your perspective.
The Effortless Way gives you the opportunity to think, actively, about alternative solutions.
Life is already hard. We have family, friends, other people who we need to meet and remember their names – or strategically avoid. Bills to pay. A job. And probably a side hustle we’re hoping to turn into a commercial success.
So, instead of settling for an impossible life that involves constant struggle that will probably lead you to exhaustion and breakdown. We can ditch the burnout badge of honor and think about how we can make our life lighter.
That’s pretty much how the book starts. Greg McKeown shares a story of how he, the Father of Essentialism, collapsed mentally and physically because there were so many important things on his plate that were suffocating him. But instead of removing important things from his to-do list. He decided to make them easier to do.
It’s not only him, but generally speaking, we are on the verge of becoming a chronically exhausted society. Always on. Always hustling. Consuming information like the world is about to end.
Fortunately, there is a way out. Greg McKeown tells us that there is a better, simpler path. It’s about making the most essential activities easier.
By focusing on these 3 components (this is actually how the book is structured): Effortless State; Effortless Action; Effortless Results.
Plus, on a most basic level, change the way you think about important things. Shift from saying things like: “Anything worthy should take tremendous effort”; To saying things like: “Important things can be easier to achieve.”
“What could happen in your life if the easy but pointless things became harder and the essential things became easier? If the essential projects you’ve been putting off became enjoyable, while the pointless distractions lost their appeal completely? Such a shift would stack the deck in our favor. It would change everything. It does change everything.” Greg McKeown
Lesson #2: Constantly Ask Yourself: What If This Project Could Be Easier?
“If you keep it simple, less can go wrong,” said Elena Delle Donne. The best free-throw shooter. Yes, surprisingly, it’s not Michael Jordan or one of the other famous basketball players.
Donne’s secret when performing her free throws to achieve a success rate of 93.4 percent is incredibly simple. Basically, she follows a process she practiced since eighth grade and actively blocks distracting thoughts from getting inside her head.
The author describes this as the Effortless State – the first stage in reaching the Effortless way. You clear your mind and focus on doing only one thing at a time without overthinking it.
Personally, I think that McKeown simply borrowed the concept of the famous flow state and adjusted it to fit his concept, but let’s not hate him for this usage of a popular term without any reference in the book, shall we?
So what’s the Effortless State exactly?
The author describes it as clearing the browser cache on your computer. I know, strange. But it kind of makes sense.
Think about it for a moment. If you’re searching something online and if you have 40+ tabs open and can’t figure out from where the music is coming from, do you actually comprehend the information from all the tabs or you’re simply suffocating your mind? It’s surely the latter.
Both your brain and computer slow down.
Instead of adding more tabs open – both inside your head and on your computer – we should change our perspective.
Or invert it as the author states. In his words, “To invert means to turn an assumption or approach upside down, to work backward, to ask, “What if the opposite were true?”
We assume that huge efforts are needed to solve a problem. Any problem. But if this is true, it will basically mean that we’ll never rest. We’ll have to work 100 hours a week if we want to reach the glorious goal we created for ourselves.
Effortless Inversion – another popular term tailored to fit the goal of the author – is giving us an alternative view. We think about ways to put less effort into what we’re trying to do. We ask ourselves, “What if this could be easy?”. Then, we go ahead and think about, “How I can make this task easier?”
In other words, not everything you think is necessary to do is actually necessary. We often convince ourselves that we should do certain things because 1) of outside pressure; 2) this is how we’ve always done things in the past.
But adding more will always lead to more work. A lot of times, more is not what people want. Especially today. We can do less and increase the quality. Hence, reduce our efforts while keep doing a good job.
“Marketing author Seth Godin once shared the following: “If you can think about how hard it is to push a business uphill, particularly when you’re just getting started, one answer is to say: ‘Why don’t you just start a different business you can push downhill?’” Greg McKeown
Hey there, sorry to interrupt…
Since you’ve come this far, it seems that you are really passionate about books and learning. I’m too! And while what I’m about to say next probably won’t quite excite you, I have to say it…
Look, this is members-only content.
(Already a member? You can log-in using this link, here.)
See, I digest acres of complex ideas from various books and morph my findings into straight-to-the-point book summaries. The main goal is not only to help you understand the underlying ideas from famous, and not-so-famous, titles. But, also, to help you stay curious, inspired, and well-informed. Above all, though, I want to help you transition from a passive online consumer to an active mindful go-getter with a sense of purpose.
By becoming a supporting member, you’ll unlock a well-curated online selection of book summaries that aim to move you in the right direction.
You can join as a MONTHLY ($29.95 USD), or QUARTERLY ($59.95 USD) member. Read more about the membership, here.