Greg McKeown, the best-selling author of Essentialism, a refreshingly optimistic and encouraging book, has come up with his highly anticipated second work, Effortless. Even though lightning does not strike twice in this case (unfortunately so), there are some unmistakably essential and compelling takeaways that the reader is left with to reflect upon.
The book seems to have derived a major chunk of its inspiration from one of the most seminal psychological concepts, popularly termed as the “Flow’ state. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a Hungarian-American psychologist recognised and named the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity. In his own words, ““a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”. The core philosophy underlying Effortless also involves getting the reader into an effortless state wherein by exerting minimal and almost spontaneous efforts, maximum results are obtained.
The book is divided into three segments. The First Part deals with the notion of an ‘Effortless State’. In the words of McKeown himself, “The Effortless State is an experience many of us have had when we are physically rested, emotionally unburdened, and mentally energized. You are completely aware, alert, present, attentive, and focused on what’s important in this moment. You are able to focus on what matters most with ease.” An effortless state is attained when the performer of a task ventures into the radical from the unconventional. Instead of wondering “why is a task so difficult”, she just introspects on “how the task could be made simpler”. This inversion principle that uses an indirect approach allows for expediting seemingly hard tasks in a simple and expeditious manner. Coupled with the inversion principle are the facets of enjoyment, release, and rest. Combining tedious and passionate tasks would greatly assist. Slowing down the hectic and unrelenting pace at which one goes about one’s daily activities would also facilitate a swift transition to an effortless state. “Discover the art of doing nothing. Do not do more today than you can completely recover from by tomorrow.”
Part II of the book holds forth on “Effortless Action.” Effortless Action, according to McKeown, is “Effortless Action means accomplishing more by trying less. You stop procrastinating and take the first obvious step. You arrive at the point of completion without overthinking. You make progress by pacing yourself rather than powering through. You overachieve without overexerting.” In order to engage in effortless action, McKeown suggests the employ of the following tools:
- Define: More of a visualization exercise, McKeown urges us to take sixty seconds to focus on the ultimate outcome. Clearly defining what needs to be done would smoothen the process of effortless action.
- Progress: There is no point from shying away from a task. There needs to be made a beginning. “Adopt a “zero-draft” approach and just put some words, any words, on the page.”
- Simplify: Similar to the principles espoused by the Copenhaver Associate Professor at the University of Virginia, Leidy Klotz, McKeown emphasizes on the concept of reduction. While striving to attain a state of effortless action, the trick is to simplify and subtract. Reduce the unnecessary steps from the task portfolio.
- Pace: There is no point in “powering through” a task asserts McKeown. “Set an effortless pace: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Reject the false economy of “powering through.”
The final part of the book, Part III, expounds on “Effortless Results.” The term “Effortless Results” is defined to mean, “You’ve continued to cultivate your Effortless State. You’ve started to take Effortless Action with clarity of objective, tiny, obvious first steps, and a consistent pace. You are achieving the results you want, more easily. But now you want those results to continue to flow to you, again and again, with as little additional effort as possible. You are ready to achieve Effortless Results.”
Effortless Results thus are results or outcomes that steadily, incrementally, and automatically keep flowing without there being a need for a tedious and cumbersome effort. The individual attains a level of expertise and traction which ensures that she need not put in unnecessary efforts to obtain the requisite results, every single time.
In order for effortless results to bear fruition the following attributes ought to be inculcated:
- Learn: Instead of getting inundated with facts and getting bogged down by methods, it would be appropriate to assimilate principles. “Understand first principles deeply and then apply them again and again.”
- Lift: Quite Archimedean in its notion, lift implies adopting the method of teaching as a lever for harnessing strengths. This also results in creating a sustainable talent bank. “Live what you teach, and notice how much you learn. Tell stories that are easily understood and repeated.”
- Automate: This simply means taking the high-tech path for the essential and the low-tech path for the nonessential. Do not try to automate what does not work and do not physically spend time working on stuff that you can easily automate.
- Trust: “Follow the Three I’s Rule: hire people with integrity, intelligence, and initiative. Design high-trust agreements to clarify results, roles, rules, resources, and rewards.”
- Prevent: “Don’t just manage the problem. Solve it before it happens. Seek simple actions today that can prevent complications tomorrow. Invest two minutes of effort once to end recurring frustrations. Catch mistakes before they happen; measure twice, so you only have to cut once.”
While Effortless is sans any semblance of doubt an invigorating, enthralling and absorbing book, it lacks the ingenuity and value addition that Essentialism embedded within its ambit. But as reiterated in the preceding paragraphs, Effortless sincerely attempts to bestow upon its readers the gift of sustained positive outcomes by providing various handy tools which through constant practice can effectively be transformed into a veritable habit. On this count, it makes for a very satisfying and contended read.