Say Hello to The New Essentialist :)

So a friend sent me a book the other day after reading my story on going “all in” on myself, and I seriously think it’s about to change my life. I haven’t read a book cover to cover in over 5 years now (is that bad?), and I’m a little over half way through it already after day #3!


It’s called Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown, and it’s about taking control of your life and what you care about, and what you don’t, and helping you find a much better way to manage everything that’s important to you like your jobs and passions/family/projects/dreams/etc.

It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.”

It IS deep and about life’s greatest challenges, but it’s also highly readable and enjoyable at the same time. Which is good, because this kind of subject matter tends to put you to sleep – and fast ;)

And while I did say it’s not a book about money, oddly enough the first few chapters were LITTERED with financial takeaways, and so of course another great reason for me to share this with you today :)

I even went old school and grabbed my highlighter and sticky notes! (You’d be proud of me, Hélène)

essentialism sticky notes

Here are some of my favorite clips so far:

“If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?”

HOW GOOD IS THAT??? Take a look at all the things around you right now. Do you love them so much that you’d go out and replace ’em right now if they magically disappeared? How many of them truly brings you joy? I’ve used this question handfuls of time anytime I’m going back and forth with something I want to declutter and keep at the same time. It def. puts things in perspective.

“…when I looked at something I wanted to buy I would translate it into the number of days I would have to deliver the papers to get it.”

This is another GREAT trick to use when you’re trying to figure out if you should buy something or not. How many work days (or hours?) would it take to come up with the money? Does it still seem worth it and exciting to you, or not?

This always reminds me of a friend in college who used to measure units of time in numbers of cigarettes. Any time I’d ask him how long it would take to go somewhere, he’d tell me “7 cigarettes” and I’d have to decipher from there. (Let’s see here…  it takes you 4 minutes to smoke a cig, so 4 x 7 = 28, got it! We’re 28 mins away, thanks! :))

“Working is important. But more effort does not necessarily yield more results”

This is something I struggle with a lot as I’m a GREAT task do-er, but no so much an “efficiency figure outter.” I could spend 3 hours answering emails or responding to comments which is all fine and well (especially relating to this blog – both of which I do daily!), but in relation to growing or building up a business or project/career/etc, those hours could have been put to more productive use.

The same goes for side hustles as well. If you spend 5 hours and make $100 that’s great, but what if you spent 5 hours and made $1,000 instead? Or spent 5 hours and made $0.00 at first, but every month paid you $20.00 in passive income for the rest of your life? Same amount of time, drastically different results.

“20 percent of our efforts produce 80 percent of results”

Y’all probably know this one already as we talk a lot about it in the personal finance world (it’s popularly known as the Pareto Principle), but it means that only a small portion of our work really produces the most gains. And is why you’ll often hear that it’s more important to focus on your housing or car(s) or loans when shaving expenses because those will give you much more bang for your time when focused on than, say, making lunch at home. Both are great and will save you money, but one will produce much bigger results than the other.

You’ll also find this in business with finding your core clients that pay you the most, or the opposite where you’re finding the clients that take up 80% of your time but only give you 20% of your business. The principle can be applied all over.

(I’m even using it right now in writing this blog post. I could spend another hour cleaning it up and editing it to be better, but it’s already 80% good and the extra hour won’t make that drastic of a difference (or maybe you’re done putting up with my grammar? ;))

There was even a passage on our community’s hero, Warren Buffett!

“Warren decided early in his career it would be impossible for him to make hundreds of right investment decisions, so he decided that he would invest only in the businesses that he was absolutely sure of, and then bet heavily on them. He owes 90% of his wealth to just ten investments.

10 investments!!! Crazy!!! Can you imagine focusing like that in your life/career/finances?? I guess I kinda am myself having all my retirement $$$ in just one index fund (VTSAX), and all my banking accounts under one roof (USAA – why go anywhere else when to me, they’re the best?), but I’ve always filed it under minimalism than essentialism. Though they kinda go hand in hand, don’t they?

In fact, here’s a great last line to leave y’all with today:

“Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.”

It’s minimalism merged with efficiency merged with importance merged with straight up AWESOME. And I hope you’ll do yourself a favor and pick up a copy if you’re having a hard time keeping up with everything too :)

You can find it at Amazon for $8.06, or check it out at your library for free!!

If I find any more financial correlations in the second half of the book, I’ll come back and share those next. Huge thanks to Michael Kitces for caring enough to send this to me. I wouldn’t have opened it up had you didn’t, man! I’m loving it!

(Visited 141 times, 1 visits today)

Get blog posts automatically emailed to you!


  1. Mrs. Mad Money Monster | @madmoneymonster February 20, 2017 at 7:14 AM

    I also find it difficult to get through books. I’d love to sit around all day and increase my knowledge by reading and reading, but with a full-time job, blogging, and a family there just isn’t any time. I will make exceptions, though, for the good ones. This just might make my short list :)

    1. J. Money February 20, 2017 at 7:32 AM

      It has lots of doodles and designs in it to help break up the pages too – always something appreciated in today’s A.D.D. world :)

    2. Band of Savers February 21, 2017 at 2:30 PM

      Recently I’ve moved over to listening to audio books on OverDrive instead of actually reading them. It allows me to listen to books at work, during my commute, while doing housework/yard work, and a ton of other times when it isn’t convenient to sit down and open up a book. And it’s FREE. However, I have found that I don’t catch as much when I listen to a book vs. actually reading it. So I’ve been using this as a way to screen the books and find out which ones are worth the time to actually read.

      1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 1:56 PM

        Cool idea!

  2. Mariana February 20, 2017 at 7:31 AM

    I will definitely check this one out. And I will encourage my husband to read it as welll, although honestly I don’t think he read a book in the last 10 years
    I need a reminder that 20% produces 80% of the results sometimes I throw myself into too much at my work which still gets me same amount of pay and zero more recognition or appreciation.

    1. J. Money February 20, 2017 at 7:34 AM

      Place it next to a beer so he’ll get a good feeling about it every time he sees it laying there! ;)

      1. Chad Carson February 20, 2017 at 11:00 AM

        Ha, Ha. That’s a good one! I might try that with other things.

  3. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor February 20, 2017 at 7:50 AM

    This book sounds great! I’ve heard of it from another PF blogger I follow; it’s probably time for me to read it. I really like that it’s about honing in on what’s most important to you. Because there is a lot of productivity or lifestyle advice out there that leaves me feeling overwhelmed, like I could never focus on all the things they’re talking about.

    1. J. Money February 20, 2017 at 8:36 AM

      Exactly! And same with blogging with so many people coming out with cool ideas and projects and all sorts of goodies.

      We’re all passionate and skilled on different things, but not *every* thing. Trick is focusing on the stuff we’re best at and enjoy and then just killing it. But easier said than done else books like these wouldn’t exist :)

  4. Lisa February 20, 2017 at 8:24 AM

    Essentialism is essential reading! It is one of the best books I have ever read! I have recommended it over and over. It’s easy to read and packed with great info and insight.
    For those who haven’t read it, make the time; you won’t regret that investment!

    1. J. Money February 20, 2017 at 8:38 AM

      Glad you agree!

  5. Pat February 20, 2017 at 8:25 AM

    This book is so fabulous that I’ve read it more than once! Everyone should read it. I know that I’ve stopped spending my time on a lot of minutia because of my takeaways from this book.

    1. J. Money February 20, 2017 at 8:35 AM

      There’s only been one book I’ve ever read more than once (“The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta), but I think this will be it’s new contender :)

  6. Ms. Montana February 20, 2017 at 8:28 AM

    I read, The One Thing a couple months ago, and loved it so a few people recommend this one. My general rule, if three people recommend a book I read it. :) And you would be number 3.

    1. J. Money February 20, 2017 at 8:33 AM


      The One Thing is next on my list too as I’m trying really hard not to finish this book cuz don’t want it to end so I need something else to look forward to!! :)

      1. Ms. Montana February 20, 2017 at 5:45 PM

        Ordered. Should be here in time for my life planning weekend. :) And just in case you used an affiliate link, I bought some baby stuff we needed. ;)

    2. Pat February 20, 2017 at 10:47 AM

      Yes, The One Thing – also a must read!

  7. FullTimeFinance February 20, 2017 at 8:47 AM

    I may need to read this book as it sounds similar to my philosophy. That’s saying something as I tend to err on the side of business stories rather then self help.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 1:58 PM

      Oh believe me – it’s very much business oriented!

  8. Joe February 20, 2017 at 9:09 AM

    Mrs. RB40 would enjoy this book. We have been paring down for years, but we still have a ton of craps. The next time we move, we’ll give away and throw out a bunch of stuff. I’ll put it on my reading list.

  9. ESI Money February 20, 2017 at 9:30 AM

    So you’ll be sleeping on the streets at FinCon?

    I’ll let you shower in my room if need be. ;)

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 1:59 PM

      People sleep at FinCon?

  10. Tonya@Budget and the Beach February 20, 2017 at 9:32 AM

    Uh yes, I’ve been promoting this book for months since I randomly picked up a copy at the bookstore and like you couldn’t put it down (and like you have a hard time finishing books). It’s a life-changing book. One that you read and re-read and re-read again to nail down the lessons.

  11. Go Finance Yourself! February 20, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    The 20-80 rule has had a huge impact on me both personally and professionally. Helps me focus on activities that are most important. The last point about getting the right things done is great too. It’s effectiveness vs efficiency. You can be really efficient at checking your email but is that an effective use of time? I think a lot of people confuse being efficient with being effective. Realizing this has really helped me focus on putting efforts towards truly important tasks.

  12. Chad Carson February 20, 2017 at 11:02 AM

    Thanks for the recommendation. I enjoy the ideas and principles of minimalism, but I think essentialism resonates with me more. It is not a certain amount of stuff – it’s just paring everything down to what’s essential. That amount could vary for different people. Can’t wait to read it!

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 1:59 PM

      Yup! Applies to ALL areas of life vs particular ones :)

  13. Mike B. February 20, 2017 at 11:13 AM

    I’ve always tried to keep things minimal when it comes to having smartphone apps, for example. So maybe this practice can apply to other areas of life, like relationships and finances. Will look for it at my local library, and if i’ts not there maybe pony up a few $2 bills for it.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:00 PM

      That’s what I’m talking about!

  14. Done by Forty February 20, 2017 at 11:38 AM

    We just watched the Minimalists so we have this sort of stuff on the brain. As we’re packing up stuff for the move, we’re really trying to get rid of anything we don’t really love.

  15. Primal Prosperity February 20, 2017 at 11:51 AM

    I read that book awhile ago and really enjoyed it also. It is a reminder that decluttering and minimalism, isn’t just for stuff.

    Like you said, some of the greatest thinkers were focused on less busy work and focused more on one big problem to solve. Our current society seems to shun quiet contemplation, and prefers busy-ness. I have a hard time imagining Einstein with a long set of goals or ‘to do’ list while he was coming up with the theory of relativity. :)

    “Don’t count the things you do, do the things that count.” – Zig Ziglar

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:02 PM

      ooooh that’s good!

      another part i liked in the book talks about setting aside 2 hours a day just to think and strategize about the bigger picture. 2 hours is damn hard to do, but been trying in 30-60 min spurts and it’s already helping me take actions quicker :) and more importantly – on things that actually matter vs busy work!

  16. Amanda @centsiblyrich February 20, 2017 at 11:55 AM

    “Working is important. But more effort does not necessarily yield more results” – THIS! I need this.

    This is the second recommendation for this book I’ve seen in a week. Which means, I must get it! I recently read “The five secrets you must discover before you die” and this seems like a great follow up. Thanks for the great review.

  17. Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes February 20, 2017 at 2:15 PM

    Sounds like a great book! Did they happen to mention what the right things to do are?

    Ha ha!

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:03 PM

      That would just be giving away all the secrets ;)

  18. Logica February 20, 2017 at 2:53 PM

    Just put it on my Amazon wish list, looks like a good combination of reminders and encouragement. I can always use both of those :)

  19. Mrs. Picky Pincher February 20, 2017 at 3:22 PM

    Oooh, I’ve never heard of essentialism before. Thanks for featuring it. So I guess the difference between essentialism and minimalism is that minimalism might be more extreme in the decluttering spectrum? It sounds like essentialism is all about doing what’s right and essential for you.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:05 PM

      it depends on your definition of minimalism, but yeah – essentialism seems to span many more areas in life than minimalism, though very closely connected.

  20. Chris @ Mindful Explorer February 20, 2017 at 3:34 PM

    Super keen on reading this J , you have peaked my curiosity highly on this book. Sounds like an awesome mix of great topics.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:06 PM

      I would be surprised if you didn’t enjoy it :)

      Although you strike me as someone who’s already doing a lot of this stuff?

  21. Mr Defined Sight February 20, 2017 at 4:45 PM

    Sounds like my type of book. I like the use of highlighters and sticky notes for daily/weekly reminders. Will check this one out.

  22. Sarah @ Smile & Conquer February 20, 2017 at 5:20 PM

    Sounds like a great read, I’ll have to grab it from the library! The idea of thinking how much you would now pay for something you own is so great, I need to go around my house and do that ASAP. I don’t think I’d ever be able to go full-on minimalist but there is certainly some de-cluttering to be done in my life…baby steps.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:06 PM

      Maybe you were waiting for essentialism to enter it :)

  23. Financial Samurai February 20, 2017 at 5:58 PM

    Kinda of a like the parallel to focusing on ONE website versus those focusing on multiple niche sites.

    It is so much better one website and go for glory!


    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:06 PM

      Haha yup! something I struggle with myself, as you know :)

  24. Free to Pursue February 20, 2017 at 6:52 PM

    Tip of the hat to you sir. I don’t know who sent it to you, but kudos because it’s a great book. Happy to hear you’re getting a lot out of it. And highlighting and stickies? Icing on the cake. Careful though, it might turn into a habit! If you find it essential that is. :)

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:07 PM

      I see what you did there ;)

  25. Average Joe February 20, 2017 at 7:29 PM

    This is really fascinating. I love the idea of really focusing on what matters. I’ve never really put a lot of effort into really trying to determine what is essential versus what is not but I need to make an effort to do just that.

    I’ve also heard of the Pareto Principle under another name: The 80/20 Rule and it’s absolutely true. The flip side of that is to try and spend 80% of your time on the 20% that matters. If you can successfully do that than you’ve really maximized your efforts.

  26. maria@moneyprinciple February 21, 2017 at 11:28 AM

    Essentialism is interesting in all its forms (I’ve been an admirer of it as a philosophy as well) but when applied as a life principle it is fascinating. And great for your purse and quality of life. (As to the book, it is probably one of the best things written about applying essentialism to everyday life).

  27. Stephonee February 21, 2017 at 1:11 PM

    Thanks for the book rec, J! I’ve been ripping through audiobooks from the library recently (hard to read a real book while taking care of a baby, but audiobooks – oh yeah!), and my queue was empty. Until now! :D

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:08 PM

      BOOM! Let me know how you like it!

  28. Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto February 21, 2017 at 7:27 PM

    “Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done”. Why read the book? That sentence gives me more to think about than there are hours in the day. Sounds powerful. Congrats on reading, with post it notes!

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:08 PM

      it really is a repetition of that said in many different ways throughout the whole book :) Not unlike our money blogs – hah!

  29. Paul February 22, 2017 at 1:17 PM

    Listening to it right now on audio book. All the library had available…

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:09 PM

      nice! what do you think?

      1. Paul February 24, 2017 at 8:45 AM

        Only Half way through. I’m beginning to rethink my company growth strategy.

  30. Mystery Money Man February 22, 2017 at 7:48 PM

    Hey, I finished this post in only 1 cigarette, that’s pretty good! ;) Love this, J$, I’ve been thinking about a few of these principles, time to put some into action!

    1. J. Money February 23, 2017 at 2:09 PM


  31. The Green Swan February 23, 2017 at 7:49 AM

    Sounds like a great book, J! I’ve enjoyed reading about minimalism lately and have found use folding in some of those ideas into my life. Plus, I’m a big fan of working harder AND also working smarter, finding ways to be efficient with my time and drive the greatest outcomes. Sounds like this book is right up my ally! Thanks.

  32. Matt February 25, 2017 at 11:32 AM

    Essentialism is a great book! I read it a couple of years ago and loved it. There’s a great graphic that shows the difference between devoting all your energy to one goal and splitting it up among many efforts. It really made me examine my priorities and learn to say “no” to things.

  33. Noah June 30, 2022 at 10:21 PM

    Loved the book as well. The key phrase I took away from it is “Distinguish between the vital few and the trivial many”. This is so powerful. Trying to apply this wisdom every single day once I sit down at my desk and start working! You got so much good content on your site it’s not even funny! Can’t stop reading! Cheers from Singapore, Noah

    1. J. Money July 1, 2022 at 5:16 PM

      Rock on!!

      Glad you’re finding it helpful!

      Will have to come visit you out there in Singapore one day…. One of the places on my “to go” list but not brave enough yet to travel with my millions of kids :)