Effortless by Greg McKeown: Quotes and Passages

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Are you looking for Effortless quotes by Greg McKeown? What are some of the most noteworthy passages worth revisiting?

Greg McKeown has dedicated his life to figuring out how to get the most out of our limited time and energy. His first book, Essentialism, looked at how to focus on the most important things and ignore the rest. Effortless builds on these ideas, with a focus on how we can best perform the most essential tasks.

Below is a selection of Greg McKeown’s quotes from Effortless.

Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most

In today’s hustle culture, many people think the only way to live a productive and rewarding life is to work as hard as possible. This idea is so ingrained in our culture that many work to the point of near-constant exhaustion, sacrificing their mental and physical health.

But according to business strategist Greg McKeown, there’s an easier way to get the most out of your time and effort. In Effortless, he expands on this one simple truth: Achieving your goals doesn’t have to be so hard. By simply taking the easiest path, we can be healthier, happier, and more productive.

The following are Greg McKeown’s quotes from Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most.

“By pairing essential activities with enjoyable ones, we can make tackling even the most tedious and overwhelming tasks more effortless.”

When we have fun, it doesn’t feel like we’re putting in much effort. Therefore, instead of learning to endure tedious tasks, McKeown recommends finding ways to enjoy them.

One way you can learn to enjoy a mandatory activity is to combine it with an activity you already enjoy. McKeown notes that some people try to self-motivate by rewarding themselves after they complete an activity, but he argues that’s less effective than combining the reward and essential activity. For example, enjoy your favorite snack while you file that dreaded business report, not after. This way, you look forward to the activity you once dreaded because it’s now associated with something you enjoy. 

“To avoid diminishing returns on your time and effort, establish clear conditions for what “done” looks like, get there, then stop.”

According to McKeown, before beginning a project, you should clearly define at what stage it will be complete. This may seem obvious, but it’s a step people often overlook, which costs them more time and energy later. This is because, at a certain point, the more you work on something, the less you get done—what economists call the law of diminishing returns. To avoid this, your definition of “done” should be set at the point just before the law of diminishing returns sets in. For example, if you’re working on a business presentation, tell yourself it’s completed when the vital material is portrayed clearly and concisely, without adding too many pictures or superfluous information.

“Overachievers tend to struggle with the notion of starting with rubbish; they hold themselves to a high standard of perfection at every stage in the process. But the standard to which they hold themselves is neither realistic nor productive.”

According to McKeown, perfectionism prevents effortless progress: If you try to get everything right the first time, you accomplish very little. Instead, by simply starting a project, embracing the mistakes, and fixing them quickly, you’re much more productive. To be less demanding of yourself, he suggests the following:

  1. Be kind to yourself: Instead of criticizing yourself for failures or mistakes, commend yourself for your accomplishments. 
  2. Lower your expectations: When working on a project or task, have the courage to begin without worrying about how bad it is.
Effortless by Greg McKeown: Quotes and Passages

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Here's what you'll find in our full Effortless summary:

  • Why you don't need to hustle and burn out to achieve your goals
  • Why the easiest path to success is the most viable
  • Actionable advice for how to achieve effortless success in life

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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