6 Rules of Essentialism That Changed My Life

6 Rules of Essentialism That Changed My Life

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” is a book by Greg McKeown that delves into the concept of Essentialism. The book emphasizes the importance of focusing on the essential aspects of life and work and eliminating the non-essential. While the book covers a wide range of principles and practices, in the article, I will focus on the six key rules of Essentialism that can change your life.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle, trying to do everything and please everyone. But amidst this chaos, I discovered a philosophy that transformed my life: Essentialism. In a world brimming with endless tasks and relentless noise, learning the rules of Essentialism became my filter for action, guiding me toward a more purposeful and impactful life. This transformative philosophy, rooted in discernment and simplicity, reshaped my daily routines and redefined my entire perspective on life’s priorities. Keep reading as I share the principles and rules that have been pivotal in this journey, offering clarity amidst overwhelming choices.

The six rules of essentialism that changed my life:

  1. The Essence of Essentialism: Focus
  2. Choose
  3. Discern the Vital Few from the Trivial Many
  4. Trade-off
  5. Create Buffers
  6. Learn to Say “No”

What are the basics of essentialism?

Essentialism isn’t just another productivity hack. It’s a disciplined, systematic approach to determining where our highest priorities lie and what actions can contribute most to achieving our most important goals. It makes the execution of those things almost effortless. It’s about finding clarity in a world that is full of noise. At its core, Essentialism is about doing less but better. It’s about discerning between external noise and internal voice, between the many good opportunities and the few truly great ones.

How do you use essentialism in your life?

Incorporating Essentialism into my life required a paradigm shift. It wasn’t just about decluttering my physical space but also decluttering my mental space. Applying the following six rules, I’ve focused on what truly matters, leading to a more meaningful and purposeful life. Let’s dive deeper into the six rules of Essentialism that have profoundly changed my life and I will explain how you can implement them in yours.

1. The Essence of Essentialism

Focus solely on what is essential, eliminating everything that distracts you from your highest priorities. The foundation of Essentialism is understanding that not everything matters equally. This meant looking hard at my commitments, tasks, and goals and asking myself: “Is this truly essential?” By focusing on what truly matters, I’ve been able to channel my energy into pursuits that have a higher impact and bring more fulfillment. Essentialism is about minimizing your efforts into only the tasks that matter most and achieving better results through doing only what is essential and not wasting time and energy on things that are not essential in your life.

Implementation: Start by listing all your commitments and tasks. For each, ask if it’s moving you closer to your primary goals. If not, consider eliminating it or delegating it.

2. Choose

Realizing that you have a choice in almost every aspect of your life is empowering. Instead of feeling trapped in a cycle of endless tasks and commitments, I began to see that I could choose where to invest my time and energy. This shift in mindset allowed me to be more intentional with my decisions and commitments. You don’t have to do it all, mindfully choose what’s essential.

Implementation: Before making any commitment, pause and reflect. Ask yourself if this aligns with your core values and long-term goals? If it doesn’t, then consider declining or finding an alternative.

3. Discern the Vital Few from the Trivial Many

This rule taught me the importance of prioritization. By constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my commitments and tasks, I’ve been able to discern the few activities that have the most significant positive impact on my life. This has led to a more streamlined, focused, and impactful daily routine.

Implementation: Use principles like Putting first things first or the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) to help prioritize tasks. Focus on the 20% of activities that yield 80% of the results.

4. Trade-off

Understanding that every “yes” means a “no” somewhere else was a game-changer. Before committing to anything, I ask myself: “What am I trading off by saying yes to this?” This perspective has helped me avoid overcommitting and spreading myself too thin. Understand opportunity cost for every decision, know what you’re missing out on.

Implementation: Consider what you might be giving up for every new opportunity or commitment. It could be time, energy, or another option. Weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

5. Create Buffers

Life is unpredictable. I’ve handled unexpected challenges with grace and ease by creating buffers or pockets of free time in my schedule. These buffers also provide me with much-needed downtime to recharge and reflect. Success is not measured by the time you work but by the right effort you expend to achieve results. Pace yourself, don’t over extend yourself.

Implementation: Schedule “white space” in your calendar. This could be as simple as a 15-minute break between meetings or a full day off every week. Use this time to recharge, reflect, or handle unexpected tasks.

6. Learn to Say “No”

Perhaps Essentialism’s most challenging yet rewarding rule is learning to say “no.” By declining non-essential commitments, I’ve been able to protect my time and energy for the things that truly matter. It’s not always easy, but the clarity and focus from being selective are well worth the effort. I say “no” many times a day to anything not in alignment with my goals, purpose, and focus.

Implementation: Practice polite but firm ways to decline offers or opportunities that don’t align with your goals. Remember, every “no” could be a “yes” to something more important.

Time management hack:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett.

Key Takeaways

  • Core Clarity: Recognize that not all tasks hold equal significance.
  • Power of Choice: Every decision you make shapes your life’s direction.
  • Prioritize Wisely: Separate impactful tasks from the inconsequential ones.
  • Balancing Acts: Every affirmative response has its corresponding sacrifices.
  • Strategic Pauses: Intentionally set aside moments for unforeseen events and self-reflection.
  • Mastering Rejection: Cultivate the skill to decline non-important requests.


Embracing Essentialism’s tenets offers a transformative approach to life, steering us toward meaningful engagements and away from the non-essential extra that invades our time. By honing in on pivotal tasks, making conscious choices, and setting boundaries, we position ourselves for a life of greater purpose and clarity. This philosophy doesn’t just enhance productivity; it enriches our very essence, leading to a more fulfilling journey.

Embracing the principles of Essentialism has not only transformed my life but has also given me a clearer sense of purpose. By focusing on what’s truly essential, I’ve found more clarity, purpose, and fulfillment. If you feel overwhelmed or spread too thin, I encourage you to explore Essentialism. It might just change your life as it did mine.