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An Exclusive Interview with Greg McKeown, Author of Essentialism


Welcome to an exclusive interview with Greg McKeown, an influential author, speaker, and expert in the field of Essentialism. McKeown is widely recognized for his groundbreaking book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” which has become a globally acclaimed guide for individuals and organizations seeking to achieve greater clarity, focus, and fulfillment.

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with distractions, choices, and obligations, McKeown’s philosophy of Essentialism provides a refreshing perspective on how to navigate the complexities of modern life. His insights have resonated with millions of readers, helping them eliminate nonessential tasks, prioritize their time and energy, and ultimately craft a life that aligns with their true passions and purpose.

Through this interview, we have the privilege of delving into McKeown’s profound understanding of Essentialism, exploring its practical applications, and gaining valuable insights on how we can all adopt a mindset that focuses on what truly matters. Join us as we uncover the principles behind Essentialism, learn how to overcome decision fatigue, and discover the transformative power of saying “no” to nonessential commitments.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to streamline your business, a student seeking balance amidst a demanding schedule, or simply someone who wishes to reclaim control over their life, this conversation with Greg McKeown promises to be enlightening, empowering, and full of actionable advice.

So, sit back, relax, and prepare to embark on a journey towards living a more intentional, meaningful, and essential life with none other than the master himself, Greg McKeown.

Who is Greg McKeown?

Greg McKeown is a renowned author, speaker, and thought leader in the field of productivity and leadership. With his groundbreaking book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” he has spearheaded a movement to help individuals and organizations focus on what truly matters.

McKeown’s philosophy centers around the concept of essentialism, which emphasizes the importance of identifying and concentrating on the vital few things that bring the greatest value and impact. He believes that by eliminating nonessential distractions and saying no to the trivial many, we can create space for meaningful pursuits and lead more fulfilling lives.

As an accomplished public speaker, Greg McKeown engages audiences with his insightful ideas and practical strategies for simplifying life and work. His messages resonate with people from all walks of life, as he addresses the challenges of today’s fast-paced world, where busyness often overshadows purpose and effectiveness.

Through his writing, McKeown has inspired countless individuals to reconsider their priorities and adopt a more intentional approach to their personal and professional endeavors. His emphasis on discernment and disciplined decision-making provides a refreshing perspective in a society driven by overwhelming choices and constant demands.

In addition to his contributions as an author and speaker, Greg McKeown has shared his wisdom through various media platforms, including interviews, podcasts, and articles. He continues to be a sought-after consultant and advisor for organizations seeking to cultivate a culture of essentialism and maximize their resources.

With his profound insights and practical tools, Greg McKeown has become a leading voice in the field of essentialism. Through his work, he encourages us to cut through the noise, focus on what truly matters, and lead lives of purpose and meaning.

Here you can get more information about him by clicking Greg McKeown’s official website.

20 Thought-Provoking Questions With Greg McKeown

1.Can you share ten Essentialism quotes to our readers?

1.Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.

2. You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.

3. There should be no shame in admitting to a mistake; after all, we really are only admitting that we are now wiser than we once were.

4. If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.

5. Today, technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.

6. Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.

7. We can either make our choices deliberately or allow other people’s agendas to control our lives.

8. Sleep will enhance your ability to explore, make connections, and do less but better throughout your waking hours.

9. A popular idea in Silicon Valley is Done is better than perfect.

10. Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

2. Can you briefly explain the concept of essentialism and why it is important in today’s fast-paced world?

Essentialism is a philosophy and a mindset developed by Greg McKeown, which emphasizes the disciplined pursuit of less but better. It involves focusing on the few things that are truly essential and eliminating the non-essential, allowing individuals to channel their time, energy, and resources towards what really matters.

In today’s fast-paced world, we are bombarded with endless distractions and commitments that often pull us in different directions. This constant busyness can lead to burnout, lack of fulfillment, and a loss of focus on what truly matters. Essentialism provides a refreshing approach to counter this dilemma.

By adopting essentialism, individuals learn to discern between the vitally important and the trivial. It encourages them to deliberately make choices aligned with their values, passions, and long-term goals. Essentialism promotes clarity, simplicity, and purpose-driven decision-making, enabling individuals to reclaim control over their lives and allocate their limited resources more effectively.

In the face of information overload and ever-increasing demands on our time, essentialism empowers us to eliminate the non-essential tasks, commitments, and distractions. By doing so, we can create space for deep work, meaningful relationships, personal growth, and rejuvenation. Essentialism allows individuals to prioritize their well-being, reduce stress, and increase productivity in a sustainable manner.

3. In your book, you discuss the importance of discerning between the trivial and the vital. How can individuals effectively determine what is truly essential in their lives?

I emphasize the significance of distinguishing between the trivial and the vital. Determining what is truly essential in our lives can be a challenging task, but it is crucial for achieving clarity, focus, and fulfillment.

Here are some strategies individuals can employ to effectively determine what is truly essential in their lives:

Explore your purpose: Start by understanding your overarching purpose or mission in life. Reflect on your values and what truly matters to you. This introspective process helps clarify your long-term goals and enables you to align your choices with what is most important.

Evaluate your options: Every day, we face countless choices and opportunities. Assess these options against your purpose and ask yourself if they genuinely contribute to your essential goals. Consider the potential impact and benefits of each option, and be willing to say no to non-essential activities.

Embrace saying no: Saying no to non-essential commitments allows you to focus on what truly matters. Prioritize your time, energy, and resources, eliminating distractions that hinder progress towards your essential goals.

4. Could you share some practical strategies or techniques that readers can utilize to embrace essentialism and simplify their decision-making process?

Explore your purpose: Start by identifying what truly matters to you and clarify your long-term goals. Understand your values and priorities to guide your decision-making.

Identify the vital few: Differentiate between the trivial many and the essential few. Learn to say no to non-essential tasks, requests, and commitments in order to focus on what truly matters.

Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to protect your time, energy, and attention. Say yes only to activities aligned with your goals and values, and learn to decline or delegate non-essential tasks.

Create a routine: Design routines and rituals that eliminate decision fatigue. Automate certain aspects of your life, such as meal planning or organizing your workspace, to reduce unnecessary decision-making.

Use the 90% rule: When making decisions, ask yourself if this choice aligns with your purpose and contributes significantly to your goals. If it doesn’t meet the criteria at least 90%, consider saying no.

Practice selective ignorance: Reduce information overload by filtering out irrelevant and non-essential inputs. Focus on thoughtful and curated sources of information to avoid being overwhelmed.

5. How can individuals overcome the fear of missing out (FOMO) and align their actions with their highest priorities?

To overcome the fear of missing out (FOMO) and align your actions with your highest priorities, I would suggest the following strategies:

Define your highest priorities: Take time to identify what truly matters to you and align your goals and values accordingly. Understand that not everything can be a priority, and it’s important to make deliberate choices about what deserves your time and attention.

Practice essentialism: Embrace the philosophy of essentialism, which involves focusing on the vital few things that have the most impact and eliminating or minimizing the non-essential. This mindset shift helps reduce FOMO by acknowledging that saying “no” to some opportunities is necessary to make room for the things that truly matter.

Set clear boundaries: Establish boundaries around your time and energy by learning to say “no” to activities, commitments, or requests that don’t align with your priorities. Understand that by declining certain opportunities, you are creating space for the things that align with your true goals.

Limit distractions: Identify and minimize the sources of distraction in your life. This could include limiting time spent on social media, turning off notifications, or setting specific times for checking emails or news updates. By reducing external influences, you can focus more on what is truly important to you.


6. One of the key aspects of essentialism is saying “no” more often. How can individuals develop the confidence to decline non-essential commitments without feeling guilty?

Clarify your priorities: Start by identifying what truly matters to you and aligning your actions with those priorities. When you have a clear understanding of your values and goals, it becomes easier to say “no” to commitments that don’t contribute to them.

Embrace trade-offs: Recognize that every time you say “yes” to something, you are implicitly saying “no” to something else. Understand that by declining non-essential commitments, you are creating space for more important activities and opportunities.

Set boundaries: Establish boundaries around your time, energy, and resources. Communicate these boundaries clearly and assertively with others, explaining your reasons for declining certain commitments. This helps manage expectations and reduces guilt.

Practice saying “no”: Saying “no” is a skill that can be developed through practice. Start with small requests or commitments and gradually work your way up to larger ones. Remember that saying “no” doesn’t make you a bad person; it simply means you’re prioritizing your own well-being and focusing on what’s truly essential.

Reframe your mindset: Instead of viewing saying “no” as a negative action, reframe it as a positive choice towards a more intentional and fulfilling life. Recognize that by declining non-essential commitments, you are creating space for meaningful activities and relationships.

7. Could you provide examples of successful individuals or organizations who have embraced essentialism and achieved remarkable results?

Apple Inc.: Under Steve Jobs‘ leadership, Apple followed a strict essentialist approach by focusing on creating a limited number of innovative products with superior design and user experience. This mindset helped Apple become one of the world’s most valuable companies.

Warren Buffett: The renowned investor and business tycoon, Warren Buffett, has embraced essentialism throughout his career. He consistently emphasizes the importance of saying “no” to countless investment opportunities and focuses on a few key investments that align with his long-term vision.

Google: From its inception, Google has been driven by essentialist principles. The company’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, emphasized simplicity and focused on providing the best search engine experience. This approach propelled Google to become a dominant force in the technology industry.

Michael Phelps: The most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps, exemplifies essentialism in the realm of sports. He devoted his time and energy to achieving excellence in swimming, focusing on specific training techniques and mental preparation, which led him to win 23 Olympic gold medals.

8. Sometimes essential decisions may conflict with the expectations of others. How can individuals navigate these situations and communicate their priorities effectively?

Clarify your priorities: Start by identifying and understanding your own priorities. What truly matters to you? By establishing clear boundaries and determining what is essential, you can gain the confidence needed to navigate conflicting expectations.

Engage in open communication: Actively engage in honest and open conversations with the individuals involved. Clearly express your priorities, explaining why they are important to you and how they align with your values and goals. Communicate openly and respectfully, actively listening to their perspectives as well.

Focus on shared goals: Identify common goals or outcomes that both parties can agree upon. Find areas of convergence where you can work together effectively. By highlighting shared interests, you can build a foundation for collaboration while still advocating for your essential priorities.

Be prepared to say no: In certain cases, it may be necessary to decline non-essential requests that conflict with your priorities. Understand that saying no to something unimportant allows you to say yes to what truly matters. Offer alternative solutions or suggest other resources that might help address the situation, demonstrating your commitment to finding mutually beneficial outcomes.

Consider trade-offs: Evaluate potential trade-offs that could help accommodate conflicting expectations. Determine if there are compromises or adjustments that can be made without compromising your essential priorities. Strive to find win-win solutions where possible.

9. How does essentialism relate to goal-setting? Should individuals focus on fewer goals or specific areas to maximize their impact?

As an essentialist, I believe that the principles of essentialism can greatly enhance goal-setting and productivity. Essentialism encourages individuals to focus on the few things that truly matter and eliminate everything else, enabling us to channel our energy and resources into what will have the greatest impact.

When it comes to goal-setting, essentialism suggests that individuals should strive for clarity, selectivity, and discipline. Instead of spreading ourselves thin by pursuing numerous goals, we should concentrate on a select few that align with our values, strengths, and long-term aspirations.

By narrowing down our goals, we can allocate more time, attention, and effort to each one, increasing the likelihood of meaningful progress and successful outcomes. This approach allows for deeper engagement, greater mastery, and ultimately maximizes our impact in those specific areas.

Moreover, essentialism emphasizes the importance of evaluating opportunities and commitments against our chosen goals. By saying “no” to non-essential distractions, we create space for the essential activities that align with our objectives. This deliberate focus increases our effectiveness and helps us avoid diluting our efforts across too many pursuits.

10. In your book, you discuss the paradox of success leading to more opportunities but also more distractions. How can individuals avoid falling into the trap of doing too much at once?

Here are a few strategies individuals can employ to avoid falling into this trap:

Identify what is truly important: Start by asking yourself what really matters most to you. By clarifying your values, priorities, and long-term goals, you can gain a clearer understanding of what deserves your time and attention.

Practice selective focus: Once you have identified what is truly important, focus on those few activities that will make the most significant impact towards your goals. Say no to non-essential tasks or opportunities that don’t align with your priorities. Remember that every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to many other possibilities.

Establish boundaries: Set clear boundaries to protect your time and energy. Learn to say no gracefully and unapologetically to requests that don’t align with your priorities. Guard your calendar and allocate specific time blocks for essential activities, reducing the chances of being pulled in multiple directions.

Eliminate distractions: Identify and eliminate unnecessary distractions that hinder your progress. This could include limiting time spent on social media, turning off notifications on your phone, or creating a quiet environment when working on important tasks. By minimizing interruptions, you can maintain focus and complete tasks more efficiently.

11. Can essentialism be applied to different aspects of life, such as career choices, relationships, or personal growth? If so, how can individuals approach each area from an essentialist perspective?

Yes, essentialism can absolutely be applied to different aspects of life, including career choices, relationships, and personal growth. The core principle of essentialism is about focusing on what truly matters and eliminating the non-essential. Here’s how individuals can approach each area from an essentialist perspective:

Career Choices:

Define your purpose: Reflect on your values, passions, and long-term goals. Determine what truly matters to you in your career.

Prioritize: Identify the few key areas where you can make the highest contribution and have the greatest impact. This may involve letting go of opportunities that do not align with your purpose.


Evaluate your relationships: Assess the people in your life and consider whether they contribute positively to your well-being and growth.

Set boundaries: Determine what boundaries are necessary to protect your time, energy, and relationships. Say no to requests that do not align with your values or support your essential relationships.

Personal Growth:

Clarify your values: Understand what matters most to you in terms of personal growth. Define your vision for who you want to become.

Eliminate distractions: Identify activities, habits, or commitments that are pulling you away from your personal growth goals. Minimize or eliminate them.

12. While pursuing essentialism, how can individuals strike a balance between maintaining focus and remaining open to new ideas and possibilities?

Define your purpose: Clearly articulate your long-term goals and personal values. Knowing what truly matters to you will help you stay focused on what is essential and avoid distractions.

Prioritize ruthlessly: Identify your highest-priority tasks and projects that align with your purpose. By eliminating non-essential activities, you create space for exploration and openness to new opportunities.

Embrace constraints: Recognize that limitations can be beneficial in driving creativity and innovation. Constraints force us to think outside the box and find resourceful solutions while staying true to our essential goals.

Practice disciplined routine: Establish disciplined routines and habits that support your focus and productivity. Set aside specific time blocks for deep work, reflection, and relaxation, while also allocating time for exploring new ideas and possibilities.

Cultivate curiosity: Remain open-minded and cultivate a sense of curiosity. Continue to learn and seek out new experiences. Engage in conversations with diverse perspectives to challenge your thinking and explore uncharted territories.

13. What role does mindfulness play in embracing essentialism and living a simpler, more purposeful life?

I believe that mindfulness plays a crucial role in embracing essentialism and living a simpler, more purposeful life. Mindfulness can be defined as the practice of deliberately paying attention to the present moment without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness, individuals develop heightened self-awareness and an ability to focus on what truly matters.

Essentialism is about making deliberate choices and prioritizing what is most important to us. Mindfulness enables us to discern our true priorities by helping us become more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. It allows us to step back from the constant distractions and noise of everyday life and reflect on what truly aligns with our values and long-term goals.

Living a simpler, more purposeful life requires us to say “no” to non-essential activities and commitments. Mindfulness helps us build the capacity to make intentional decisions by becoming attuned to our inner selves and understanding the trade-offs involved in our choices. It allows us to pause before reacting impulsively or making decisions based on external pressures, giving us the space to consider whether something truly serves our overall purpose.

Moreover, mindfulness enhances our ability to stay focused and fully engage in the present moment. By practicing mindfulness, we can bring our complete attention to the task at hand, which leads to increased productivity and effectiveness. This clarity of mind helps us cut through the clutter of our lives, allowing us to simplify and streamline both our physical and mental spaces.

14. How can individuals overcome the pressure to conform and embrace their own unique priorities and values?

Gain clarity on your priorities: Start by reflecting on what truly matters to you. Identify your values, passions, and long-term goals. This clarity will help you align your choices and actions with your authentic self.

Practice selective focus: Learn to say no to activities, commitments, or opportunities that don’t align with your priorities. By eliminating nonessential tasks, you create space for what truly matters. Embrace the concept of “less but better” to ensure that your time and energy are directed towards what is most important to you.

Develop a strong sense of self-awareness: Regularly check in with yourself to understand your motivations, fears, and desires. Recognize when external influences are leading you astray from your path. Self-awareness allows for intentional decision-making and enables you to resist the pressure to conform.

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals: Seek out a supportive community of people who value individuality and encourage personal growth. Engaging with others who share similar values and priorities can provide inspiration, accountability, and validation.

Embrace vulnerability and authenticity: Be willing to express your true thoughts, feelings, and opinions, even if they differ from the mainstream. Authenticity attracts authenticity, and by being true to yourself, you inspire others to do the same.


15. In your book, you mention trade-offs as an integral part of essentialism. How can individuals evaluate and make conscious decisions about the trade-offs they encounter?

To evaluate and make conscious decisions about the trade-offs we encounter, I suggest following these steps:

Identify your core purpose and values: Clarify what truly matters most to you. By aligning your choices with your purpose and values, you can make more intentional trade-offs.

Consider the long-term impact: Think beyond immediate gains or losses. Reflect on whether a particular choice will contribute to your overall goals and aspirations in the long run.

Assess the opportunity costs: Recognize that every decision has associated costs. Ask yourself, “What will I have to give up if I choose this option?” This awareness helps you assess the value of each alternative.

Prioritize essentials: Focus on activities and commitments that align closely with your highest priorities. Eliminate non-essential tasks and obligations to free up time and energy for what truly matters.

Be aware of the non-essential: Understand that trade-offs often involve letting go of good opportunities in order to pursue the exceptional ones. This requires saying no to distractions or lower priority tasks, even if they may be appealing.

16. Can you provide advice for young professionals who are starting their careers and want to incorporate essentialist principles from the beginning?

Define your purpose: Take time to reflect on what truly matters to you and what you want to achieve in your career. Clarify your long-term goals and values, as this will guide your decision-making process.

Prioritize ruthlessly: Understand that you cannot do everything at once. Identify the few things that will have the most significant impact or contribute the most value to your career and focus on those. Learn to say no to non-essential tasks and opportunities that distract you from your priorities.

Eliminate distractions: Minimize distractions that hinder your focus and productivity. This may involve limiting social media use, turning off notifications, or creating a conducive work environment. By removing unnecessary disruptions, you can direct your energy towards your most important work.

Create routines and systems: Establishing effective routines and systems can help you streamline your work processes. Develop habits that promote efficiency and consistency, allowing you to accomplish your tasks more effectively and reduce decision fatigue.

Embrace constraints: Recognize that constraints can be catalysts for creativity and innovation. Rather than seeing limitations as obstacles, view them as opportunities to think differently and find unique solutions. Embracing constraints fosters resourcefulness and helps you focus on what truly matters.

17. What are some common misconceptions or challenges people face when trying to adopt an essentialist mindset, and how can they navigate these obstacles?

Adopting an essentialist mindset can be transformative, but it’s important to acknowledge the misconceptions and challenges that people often face when attempting this shift. Here are a few common obstacles and strategies to navigate them:

Fear of missing out (FOMO): Many individuals struggle with the fear of missing out on opportunities or feeling left out if they say no to certain commitments. To address this challenge, it’s crucial to reframe your perspective on trade-offs. Recognize that saying no to less essential activities creates space and time for more meaningful pursuits. Embrace the idea that by focusing on what truly matters, you’ll make better choices overall.

Difficulty saying no: One of the core skills in adopting an essentialist mindset is learning to say no to non-essential requests gracefully. People often find it challenging because they don’t want to disappoint others or come across as selfish. To navigate this obstacle, consider setting clear boundaries and establishing criteria for what aligns with your priorities. Communicate your limitations respectfully and explain why you’re declining the request. Remember, saying no to the non-essential allows you to say yes to the vital.

18. Essentialism emphasizes quality over quantity. How can individuals redefine success and measure progress in a way that aligns with essentialist principles?

Essentialism indeed emphasizes quality over quantity. To redefine success and measure progress in alignment with essentialist principles, individuals need to consider a few key elements:

Identify the Essential: Begin by understanding what truly matters to you. Define your priorities and focus on the few things that have a significant impact on your life. By clarifying what is essential, you can direct your time and energy towards those areas.

Establish Clear Criteria: Once you determine what is essential, establish clear criteria to evaluate your progress. These criteria should be aligned with your values and reflect the impact you want to create. For instance, if relationships are essential, you might measure progress based on the quality of connections or the time spent nurturing them.

Say No More Often: Essentialism encourages saying no to non-essential activities, opportunities, and commitments. By doing so, you free up time and resources to focus on what truly matters. Measure progress not only by what you say yes to but also by the number of non-essential distractions you successfully reject.

Reflect and Course Correct: Regularly reflect on your actions and their alignment with your essential priorities. Take time to evaluate your progress and assess whether you’re moving in the right direction. Adjustments may be necessary along the way, and this reflection process allows you to refine your path.

19. How does essentialism relate to work-life balance, and what steps can individuals take to create harmony between their personal and professional lives?

Essentialism and work-life balance are closely related because essentialism helps individuals prioritize their time and energy on activities that align with their core values and goals. By embracing essentialism, individuals can avoid spreading themselves too thin and feeling overwhelmed by commitments that do not contribute significantly to their desired outcomes.

To create harmony between their personal and professional lives, individuals can take the following steps:

Define your purpose: Clarify your long-term goals and identify what truly matters to you in both your personal and professional life. This will allow you to set priorities accordingly.

Identify the vital few: Determine the most important things that align with your purpose and eliminate or minimize the less important ones. Learn to say no to non-essential tasks, commitments, and distractions that don’t contribute to your overall well-being.

Eliminate distractions: Reduce or eliminate unnecessary distractions that prevent you from being fully present in both your personal and professional life. This includes setting boundaries, managing your time effectively, and avoiding multitasking.

Establish non-negotiables: Set clear boundaries and establish non-negotiable times for personal activities, such as exercise, family time, hobbies, and self-care. Communicate these boundaries to others to protect your personal time.

20. Finally, can you recommend more books like Essentialism?

Deep Work” by Cal Newport: Newport explores the importance of deep, focused work in an age of constant distraction. He provides strategies for achieving high productivity and meaningful accomplishments.

Atomic Habits” by James Clear: Clear discusses the power of small habits and how they can lead to significant personal and professional transformations. It emphasizes the idea of focusing on consistent, incremental improvements.

Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck: Dweck explores the concept of mindset and how it affects our ability to learn, grow, and achieve success. She highlights the importance of adopting a growth mindset to overcome challenges and reach our full potential.

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