The one sentence summary

Most things aren’t worth doing, so learn to decide what really matters and just devote your energy to that


  • This is all about the disciplined pursuit of less, and is a systematic discipline you can apply every time you are faced with a decision.
  • By applying more selective criteria to what is truly essential, we can regain control of our choices so we can make the best possible contribution to the things that really matter.
  • The core of the approach is less but better. Essentialists devote their energy to one or two carefully selected tasks, rather than dissipating it across far too many (see diagram). In both cases the same amount of energy is exerted. “A millimetre of progress in a million directions” v. “Significant progress in what matters most.”
  • Determine your essence, by choosing what matters to you and discerning the unimportance of practically everything.
  • Eliminate everything that has no bearing on the essential task.
  • When we have a reputation for being good, we are given more and more to do, so we get spread too thinly. We then become distracted from what would otherwise be our highest level of contribution.
  • An essential intent needs to be both inspirational and concrete. A vision can be inspirational, but not concrete. Quarterly objectives are concrete but rarely inspirational. Values are neither, and so are usually bland.
  • In a reverse pilot, you test whether removing an initiative or activity will have any negative consequences. Doing this regularly reduces workload.
  • Minimal viable progress is the smallest amount useful to the essential task. Do no more than this.
  • WIN stands for What’s Important Now. Just do this, and nothing else.


  • It’s ideal for anyone who has too much to do, and particularly team leaders.
  • The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular, and meant the very first or prior thing. Only in the 1900s did we turn it into a plural and start talking about priorities. Now we have too many of them.
  • It’s not just information overload – it’s opinion overload.
  • “If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will.”
  • A non-essentialist avoids saying no to avoid feeling awkwardness and pressure. An essentialist dares to say no firmly, resolutely and gracefully, saying yes only to the things that really matter. Saying no gracefully doesn’t have to mean using the word no.


  • Nothing. This is precisely what I advocate in Tick Achieve.