Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most

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Pub Date 27 Apr 2021 | Archive Date 1 Jul 2021

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The intricacy of modern life has created a false dichotomy between things that are 'hard and important,' and those that are 'easy and trivial.' Everything has become so much harder than it ought to be. But, Greg McKeown, bestselling author of Essentialism, says, there is a third alternative. In Effortless, he offers practical strategies for making the most vital tasks the easiest ones. Honed over the better part of a decade, these strategies include:

· Asking 'What Step Can I Remove?' (accomplish more, in fewer steps)
· Having the Courage to Be Rubbish (prioritize progress over perfection)
· Deciding What 'Done' Looks Like (don't keep running after you pass the finish line)

McKeown's philosophy of essentialism has helped thousands to eliminate nonessential activities and focus on the few that really matter. Working out what is essential is the first step - making these tasks effortless is the next. Effortless will show you how.


The intricacy of modern life has created a false dichotomy between things that...

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ISBN 9780753558379
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Featured Reviews

Well written and practical, there is a refreshing pragmatism to the author's approach that is especially appealing (and needed) at a time when many of us are feeling a little out of control and lacking certainty. Although some of the ideas shared might seem quite obvious, they're presented in a way that encourages you to think about your own habits differently, inviting you to gently question yourself and identify where you might be able to make healthy changes to help your life flow with a little more ease.

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The marginal return of working harder was, in fact, negative.

That's what happened to Patrick McGinnis. It's no exaggeration to say that he devoted his life to the company he worked for, struggling through, even when he was ill, only to find that he was working for a bankrupt company. His stock had fallen by 97%, he had lost his health and his job had little value. He made a bargain with God; if he survived, he would make some changes. He did survive and came through stronger - and richer. There is, you see, a different way: great things are not reserved for those who bleed, for those who almost break.

Before you start to wonder if this book might be the answer to all your problems I'd better tell you that Greg McKeown is clear that life can be hard for all sorts of reasons and the book can't eliminate those hardships. It can help when you feel that life has already been stripped down to its essentials and it still feels impossible to cope. If you've read McKeown's Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less you'll know what he's talking about. He describes the difference between the two books as Essentialism was about doing the right things. Effortless is about doing them the right way. My immediate reaction was that it might be a waste of time to read Effortless before I read Essentialism: how would I understand how to do things the right way if I didn't know what the right things were? But - I'm a reviewer and we don't always get books in the order we'd like them, so I persisted and I'm glad that I did.

You're going to learn how to reintroduce your effortless state: that's the point at which you're relaxed and it's actually easy to do things. Then you'll learn how to take effortless action and get effortless results. That might sound simple and too good to be true - when I put it so bluntly - but you are going to have to examine yourself, your motivations and be prepared to be brutal about changes you're going to make.

We all tend to add layers of complexity to life. We over-complicate - now is the time to strip it away. Most of us have been brought up to feel that working less hard is lazy. More effort somehow makes us feel good. Effortless gives us lots of ideas as to how we can improve our lives in big and small ways. I'll give you a couple of examples but you really should read the book to see what is going to make your life better.

A small change: we all have those little annoyances. Every time you try to close a drawer you have to adjust the contents to make it close smoothly. It only takes a second or two, so you don't bother to cure the problem but it annoys you every time it happens. Cure the problem - it will only take a short time - and you've saved the time and the annoyance. Every time I went into my greenhouse the door caught on one of the retractable shades: I'd reach up and move it out of the way. Yesterday I reached up and put a clip in position so that the door didn't catch the shade: problem solved and annoyance dispensed with.

A bigger adjustment: most of us have grudges which we keep on our payroll. The next time you encounter one of these grudges, ask exactly what job it's doing for you. I found a couple on my personal payroll and dismissal proceedings have been started. I feel lighter already.

A quick solution to a boring task: pair it with something that's fun. I've started doing the ironing whilst listening to an audiobook.

Effortless isn't a long read but it's certainly not a quick one: I found myself going back over whole chapters to fully absorb the points being made. It's remarkably free of jargon and there are plenty of anecdotes to illustrate the points being made. It's inspirational and I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.

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I was impressed by the book, which puts our desire to do things the hard way down to a Puritan work ethic. But you can't always evade drudgery, as even the author admits. But looking for an easy way does not always appear to be a solution, and the book brings this to mind. What if there is an easier way? It is a valuable perspective on things because the easy way is so easily forgotten as an option. That is why the book is a welcome reminder that working harder maybe just gives a person burnout, although some people manage it, it is not necessarily the only way.

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Well written with lots of practical advice. The ideas encouraged me to think about my habits and where I might be able to make changes. Definitely worth a read.

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I liked the principle of the book, that we should try to rearrange our lives so that it is easier to manage what the do with less effort and more output, rather than responding with ever-increasing amounts of time to get things done.

I also like the principle of inverting the demands to find a new way round things, although is likely the hardest part to master and could do with a whole book of practical tips on its own.

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This book has been such a game changer for me! I’m on a bit of a path of self discovery and in particular trying to reduce general anxiety and this has helped me immensely. I love how you can pick up the book and read small chunks, go away and put what you’ve learnt into practice. It’s a book I’ll be re-reading if I feel my anxiety increasing again. Simply wonderful, easy to understand advice. Thank you for the chance to read and review this brilliant book,

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Absolutely brilliant book and so timely. This is exactly what I needed to hear and I now have a note above my desk saying 'what if this could be easy?'

Clearly written and laid out with so much wisdom. In some ways it's nothing new, but it highlights how we labour under the misconception that, to achieve something, we have to struggle and sacrifice to get it when, in fact, the opposite is true.

Now excuse me while I go and read it again!

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Wow. This is an absolutely inspiring read full of hope and possibility. Imagine what life would feel like if everything we did – all our essential endeavours – were effortless.
Well Greg McKeown shows us how this is absolutely possible in his new book, Effortless. In it we learn how to choose the lighter road – the road (sadly, for us) lesser travelled. We are too quick to believe that work and progress requires the hard slog, that anything worthwhile will inevitably be difficult – we even wear our struggles as a badge of honour.
McKeown proposes a way to escape this and in doing so live a more enjoyable, productive and rewarding life.
I haven’t read Mckeown’s previous work on Essentialism, but I plan to skip my lighter path right to his website after I’ve written this review, so I can find out more about that too. Effortless is an extension of his thinking about ’Essential Living’ but it works perfectly well alone too. This book really spoke to me and utterly makes sense.
Even reading it felt effortless – I was totally engaged in Mckeown’s conversational style and really fascinated by its content. It takes lots of ideas, some that I have heard of, know well or seem familiar, and pulls them together with new clarity.
For example, the effortless state he writes about reminds me of the idea of ‘flow’ in play theory - the sense of getting into the zone where anything is possible, everything feels easy. It’s not necessarily new thinking but what I like about this book is that it applies this thinking in new ways, giving hands-on insight into how this ‘state’ might be translated beyond sport or play or talent (where we see it often) and into the day to day.
How can it help us get around to the household tasks we put off, add enjoyment to the mundane or increase productivity in our working lives? And, most importantly, how do we achieve it? How can we make these things feel more effortless? It suggests ways to successfully find the reward in the task - or add one - like listening to your favourite podcast as you exercise and much, much more. It’s an extensive exploration that I don’t want to oversimplify. It is in fact, three stages full of anecdotes and suggestions.
It was invigorating to start thinking how I could apply this and I began to implement some of the learning in my day to day. Again, it doesn’t feel like it’s entirely new to me - but it has clarity in its purpose and lots of practical suggestions.
What is probably most helpful in the book – and in keeping with the effortless journey – is how McKeown summarises the key learning at the end of each section pulling all the anecdotes, actions and good advice into a clear understanding that you can easily begin to implement in your life.
I powered through the book for the purposes of the ARC review, but I will go back and spend a little more time with it now. It’s one of those texts where you can read a section and then actively begin to implement the learning in your life before moving on to the next section. Section three could even be saved for a point where you have tried out all the learning and had chance to start feeling the change.
I’ve definitely felt the shift in my mindset and how I approach my work and play and I’m eager to try more!
I – 100% – recommend this fantastic book. It feels like there are lots of take away opportunities for everyone, from mothers/parents just taking steps back to working life (like me), to those at the top of their game. Anyone who needs to find a positive work/ play balance and who wants to enrich their life a little.

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I’ve had Essentialism on my to-read shelf for almost two years, and after reading Effortless, I’ll definitely be pushing it towards the front of the queue. The premise of Effortless can be summed up in two sayings, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”, and, “Work smart, not hard”. Most of the lessons would be taught on any introductory project management course (i.e. define what “Done” looks like), but the writing is smooth and there is a charm to his anecdotes that make it an easy read. I received copies of both the digital and audio versions, and I did find sometimes that his narration, when trying to convey sincerity, did come across in an irritating pleading tone. Because of the checklists and footnotes, I suspect I’ll be returning to the digital version more than the audio.

A good, fun read, a solid 4*.

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I was interested in this book, hence why I requested it, and it didn't disappoint. I haven't read the author's earlier book, but this is a very thought-provoking read, with a lot of helpful ideas. It is also refreshingly short! I'm not sure how many of the author's suggestions I will actually put into practice, but there is definitely food for thought.

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This book questions the puritanical belief that you ought to be working hard, and suggests that rather than working yourself to death you should look for the simplest solution to problems. Ask yourself if you’re doing too much. Look for the simplest way to achieve the result you want, and look for a way to make it fun. It’s full of useful life hacks, like how to get over procrastination and perfectionism, how to make boring jobs more fun, and when to stop working.

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