Book Review – Effortless by Greg McKeown


Life is hard but we can achieve the things that matter most in an easier way – The Effortless Way. Effortless is Greg McKeown’s follow up to his acclaimed book Essentialism which is about reducing your life to what matters most. Effortless is the next step, how to achieve results doing what matters with the least amount of friction. Think about the language we use to describe achievements, hard work paying off, blood sweat and tears. Effortless offers methods of achieving more by doing less. As Greg McKeown puts it “Essentialism was about doing the right things; Effortless is about doing them in the right way.”

The author’s style is clear and simple, which makes the book easy to engage with. The concepts are not complicated but are thoroughly thought through. It is noteworthy that the inspiration for the book was not to follow up on his previous success with Essentialism, but because of his own experience with the burn out that came from the work generated from its success.

The book is for anyone interested in achieving success but more acutely for people trying to achieve results and experiencing burn out, overwhelmed, or faced with a significant challenge that might seem insurmountable. It has a business focus but takes many examples from sport, and applies methodology to everyday parenting and household management.



The Effortless Way is presented in three parts, each ending with a great summary with the second and third parts reiterating the summaries of pervious parts. Each part contains methods, tools, and frameworks illustrated with stories.

Part 1 – Effortless State where you have a clarity of mind, energy and focus. This section offers techniques and tips on how to achieve this. Some are quite fundamental and others I have read elsewhere but having them neatly presented and structured is the ideal starting point.

Part 2 – Effortless Action is achieving more and trying less. This section is full of practical tools and is the section with the most take-aways for me. It is almost a formula, being define, start, simplify, progress, and pace.

Part 3 – Effortless Results is how you can leverage effortless actions into results that continue to pay off. It’s about learning from what we have done, learning from others, teaching others, and automation.



The key take-aways for me came mainly from the Effortless Action section. The first is to define “what done looks like”. Set a clear condition for completion, draw a line, and when you get there, stop. The second take-away is to start with rubbish. The key message here, is to just start. Have a zero-draft approach which is to do something that you don’t mind throwing away. The third take-away for me I took as a parenting tip, that is to make learning-sized mistakes. In fact, his example is teaching kids about money management in a small way now to have greater benefits in the future. Lastly, a key take-away is to set a pace as a range between never doing less than, to never doing more than. An example of this is starting and finishing hours of the day.

The book ended with an emotional call to action. Describing his own family’s challenge their daughter’s significant health issue. This is presented as a motivation to deal with challenges more easily, but also as a message that what you do next matters most. It is a powerful motivator to take what you learn from the book and start now.

Clearly there were substantial take-aways for me in this book, it is a book that I will revisit during times of overwhelm, pretty much every Monday! It is not essential to read Essentialism first, but I would recommend reading both. Using Greg McKeown’s own words: “life doesn’t have to be as hard and complicated as we make it. […] No matter what challenges, obstacles, or hardships we encounter along the way, we can always look for the easier, simpler path.” Effortless seeks to minimise the pain from the gain, it embodies it in its own structure and concise presentation, and is essential for anyone wanting to take control of the tasks and challenges that we face every day.

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