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Effortless Productivity with Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown is a speaker, a bestselling author, and the host of the popular podcast What’s Essential. He has been covered by The New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Politico, and Inc., has been interviewed on NPR, NBC, Fox, and The Steve Harvey Show, and is among the most popular bloggers for LinkedIn. He is also a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum. McKeown’s New York Times bestselling book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less has sold more than a million copies worldwide. Originally from London, England, he now lives in California with his wife, Anna, and their four children.


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How do you make the things that matter to you happen more effortlessly?

If you’ve ever felt like you’re working harder and harder, but you’re not getting the results you’re after, or perhaps even getting less results with more effort, this episode is for you.

I’m excited to have a very special guest, New York Times bestselling author Greg Mckeown, to talk about his newest book, Effortless: Make it Easier to Do What Matters Most. Greg is also a speaker and the host of the popular podcast, What’s Essential.

Listen in as Greg shares how to change your focus in order to accomplish things that are important to you but sometimes feel impossible.

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" By taking on a new mindset, by asking different questions, by taking on different practices, you can find an easier path to achieve what matters."


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Essentialism As A Foundation

  • The two books, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and Effortless are meant to work together.
  • Essentialism summed up in one word: prioritization.
  • Effortless in one word: simplification.
  • They can be read separately and still gain knowledge, but together the experience multiplies.
  • You can get really clear about what matters in your life, what your priorities are, and still become exhausted by doing things the hard way. Maybe even giving up on the things that matter most to you.
  • Understanding what is important is the first step.
  • Effortless is taking the things that matter to you and figuring out how to accomplish them by going down an easier path.
  • It’s common to feel like you’re working harder and not getting the results you expect.
  • Sometimes you’re doing the right things for the right reasons, but you might be going about them in the wrong way.
  • The truth is life is hard in all sorts of ways. And often we all make it even harder than it needs to be. When this happens, you can put in more effort but are likely to burn out and still not get the results that really matter to you.
  • But you can make a different choice.
  • By having a different mindset, asking different questions, and taking on different practices, you can find an easier path. This is how you can get the results you really want without burning out.
  • That’s the value proposition in Effortless and why Greg wrote the book.
  • Life isn’t easy; it’s hard. But as George Elliott put it: “What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other.”

Taking Effortless Action

  • Once you go from that effortless state into effortless action, you can start getting effortless results and rewards.
  • One of the examples from the book is about a manager at a University.
  • She’s responsible for many groups, including a videography department, and is always working.
  • It’s very common for her to be up at 4 a.m. working on a project.
  • Even if it’s volunteer work, she feels like she has to do it perfectly. In fact, she told Greg that if she isn’t exhausted, she’s not doing enough.
  • She feels overachieving, overexerting, and being a perfectionist is the only way to reach her goals.
  • Instead of taking the same approach and overwhelming herself with trying to change, he recommended she ask one question: how can she make this effortless?
  • She tested this on her next project.
  • A professor called asking her to video his class.
  • She stopped herself from offering all the bells and whistles or imagining all the different approaches they could take.
  • When she asked how to make the project effortless, the solution was one student recording on his iPhone.
  • The professor was thrilled, the student’s needs taken care of, and she saved herself and her team four months of work.
  • You don’t want to try an effortful approach to living a more effortless life.
  • Invert the normal questions and focus on how to make the problem effortless.
  • Not everything in life can suddenly be easier; it would be naïve to suggest that. However, you don’t need to make things more complicated.
  • We’re always asking questions as we move through life, and we’re living out the answers.
  • If you ask new questions, you open the opportunity to discover new answers.
  • These answers were always there, but you weren’t asking the right question.
  • No matter the situation, or goal, or project, ask how you can make it effortless. You can ask this daily, several times a day, and every time you’ll find an effortless answer.

Going After Residual Results

  • Effortless results are distinguished by two different things: linear and residual.
  • Linear results are when you put in effort once and you get results once.
  • Having a conversation with someone is linear results. You’re putting the effort into talking and listening, and you both receive the benefit of that moment.
  • Residual results are when you put in effort once and you get results multiple times.
  • If that conversation is now a podcast, that same one-time effort is multiplied, and you get results many times from that one effort.
  • Each person listening is a result.
  • They can listen anytime they want, as many times as they want.
  • People will continue to discover it in the future.
  • Effortless is figuring out how to turn what could have been linear results into a residual result.
  • Often, we spend too much energy on one-time rewards and one-time results.
  • These activities can be essential and matter to you. You can even be happy with the outcomes. But they’re one and done events.
  • As he was writing the book, Greg discovered the ratio in his own life wasn’t right.
  • One example is keynote speeches. He spends a lot of time doing them, and in fact, loves them. But he gives the speech and it’s over.
  • Instead, he realized by building an academy, he can give one speech that anyone in the world can sign up and listen to at any time. The rewards build each time.
  • Turning events from linear to residual may take a little more effort up front.
  • But the results will continue to build effortlessly moving forward.
  • Ask yourself: what are you going to do differently moving forward?
  • Decide where you want to put 80% of the effort into an action that achieves residual results.
  • If it isn’t residual, ask why you’re doing it and how you can make it effortless.
  • The extended version of this episode is available on YouTube and Spotify. Subscribe and listen so you can get more gems that Greg shared on Essentialism and Effortless.

Share With Us

  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@gregorymckeown & @jimkwik), and share the one thing that is essential to you that you wish was more effortless.
  • I’ll be reposting my favorites and gifting a copy of Effortless to one lucky listener.
  • Get your copy, here, and sign up for access to a 21-day essentialism/effortless challenge.


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