Effortless - Greg McKeown


This was Maneetpaul's book club choice for August 2023.

This is one of those common-sense books that emphasize how we tend to make things harder for ourselves sometimes when instead when we can do things quickly - effortless

Here are some of my takeaways from reading the book

  • The Mindset
  • Understanding the Problem
  • Rituals
  • Grudges
  • Art of Doing Nothing
  • Teaching
  • Use a Cheatsheet
  • Solve a Problem Before it Happens.

The Mindset

The first step is to get into a state of mind that will promote this effortless behavior.

The book seems to open with the requisite story of the overworked hard worker who is glad to be overworked and eventually realizes that all his effort was for naught—an executive at AIG. I'm not sure how this relates to effortless behavior - it is more of a commentary on how we shouldn't live to work. Instead, we should work so that we can live. Work is not everything.

The Puritan mindset is that which promotes hard work. Something easy is suspect.

Understanding the Problem

Some excellent initial examples in the book ask to invert the problem. Sometimes, it might be worth asking more questions to understand the problem rather than simply taking it at face value. We can re-evaluate and come up with a more straightforward solution than requested.

In an example from the book, a Student filming the lecture for a single student made more sense than an extensive production.

Takeaway - Be analytical about work. Step back. Ask yourself - Is there a way to invert this problem?


Rituals are habits that have been taken a step further. They are more structured, can include stacked habits, and are often very intentional. The author gives an example of doing the dishes together with the family as a ritual - involving song.


Stormtroopers - things that occupy space in your brain that don't need to be there

We hire a grudge to fulfill some emotional need that isn't being met. Give gratitude after every negative complaint. After a while, it will transform you, and you will complain less. These emotions (stormtroopers) needlessly occupy space that can be used for other things.’

Behind the grudge comes fatigue - the need to find new people to tell the story to and to replay the same story repeatedly.

When someone shows you who they are - believe them the first time - Maya Angelou.

Don't worry about people or having grudges against them - accept that that is their behavior. This was the author's take on some friends not being there for them. Accept it.

Art of doing nothing

Do not do more today than you can completely recover from today.

Take a minute. It is essential to take a break. Breaks are important. period

Sleep - overemphasized enough - along with taking naps. Sleep shaming is a timeless tradition., that needs to stop.


Teaching is the best way to understand our gaps in knowledge. Here are some quotes that stood out to me -

When You Learn to Teach, You Teach Yourself to Learn Teaching others is also an accelerated way to learn. Even thinking we might be called upon to teach can increase our engagement. We focus more intently. We listen to understand. We think about the underlying logic so we can put the ideas into our own words.

You will achieve residual results faster if you clearly identify—then simplify—the most important messages you want to teach others to teach.

Gamble, called this the “Sesame Street Simple” rule. Don’t go for the overly sophisticated message. Don’t go for the one that makes you sound smart. Go for the straightforward message that can be easily understood and repeated. Make the most essential


Following a cheat sheet places less cognitive load on the brain and increases the confidence in the person doing the work.

Of course, this is just a partial list. The idea of a cheat sheet is simply to get things out of your brain so you can do them automatically, without having to rely on memory.

Solving the problem before it happens

Just as you can find small actions to make your life easier in the future, you can look for small actions that will prevent your life from becoming more complicated. This principle applies in every type of endeavor.

Mistakes are dominoes: they have a cascading effect. When we strike at the root by catching our mistakes before they can do any damage, we don’t just prevent that first domino from toppling, we prevent the entire chain reaction.

We needed to find ways to make every day a little easier. Why? Because we needed to be able to sustain this effort for an unknown length of time. It was not negotiable: we simply could not now or ever burn out. If your job is to keep the fires burning for an indefinite period of time, you can’t throw all the fuel on the