Greg McKweon

The Truth About Hard Work

  • The marginal return of working harder is, in fact, negative

  • When you simply can’t try harder, it’s time to find a different path

The Effortless Way

  • This book can’t eliminate your hardships

  • It won’t help downplay your burdens, but it will help lighten them

  • Burnout is not a badge of honor

The Big Rocks Theory

  • The large rocks must go in first to fit in the jar

  • Big rocks are your essential responsibilites: health, family, relationships

  • Small rocks and pebbles: work, career

  • The sand is social media and doom swiping

Right things in the wrong way

  • If you don’t follow the big rock theory, you’ll get the trivial things done, but have no time for the important things

  • Essentialism is doing the right things, effortless is about doing them in the right way

Another way

  • Acheiving our goals efficiently isn’t unambitious. It’s smart.

  • What could happen in your life if the easy, but unimportant things became harder and the essential things became easier?

Part I: Effortless State

  • The most essential things can be the easiest ones

  • If you’re trying too hard, find the easier path

  • Avoid burnount, and get the right results

Part II: Effortless Action

  • Perfectionism makes essential projects hard to start

  • Self-doubt makes them hard to finish

  • Trying to do too much too fast, makes it hard to sustain momentum

  • You have to simplify the process

Part III: Effortless Results

  • Two types of results: linear and residual

  • One-time benefit is a linear result

  • Residual results: put in the effort once, and reap the benefits again and again

Perpetual Load Theory

  • Our brain’s processing capacity is large, but limited

  • Our brain is programmed to prioritize emotions with high affective value - fear, resentment, anger

  • This makes the effortless state difficult

What if this could be easy?

  • Hard work may not be well named

  • Trivial things are easy. Important things are hard (not true)

  • We accept the right way is the harder way

Path of Least Effort

  • Cognitive ease principle: take the path of least resistance

  • What if we embraced this tendency?

When you try too hard

  • Trying too hard makes it harder to get the results you want

  • Behind most failures, you will find the same error of trying too hard

  • In order to achieve, we must overdo (not true)


  • Turn an assumption upside down, and ask what if the opposite were true?

  • What is this could be easy? Find an indirect approach

  • If overwhelmed, ask how are you making this harder?

What if we could enjoy it?

  • At the intersection of essential and enjoyment is effortless

  • Pair essential activities with enjoyable activities


  • When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have

  • When you focus on what you have, you get what you lack

Habit recipe

  • Each time I complain, I will say something I’m thankful for

  • Complaining is easy, but trivial

Habits vs Rituals

  • Habits are what you do

  • Rituals are how you do it


  • Do not more today than you can recover from tomorrow

  • Break down essential work in three sessions of no more than 90 minutes each


  • Awareness is about being more present

  • Train you brain to focus on the important and ignore the irrelevant

  • Clear clutter in your physical environment before clearing it in your brain

How you make progress

  • Pacing yourself instead of powering through

  • Take the first obvious step


  • Before you get started, define what done looks like

  • Take 60 seconds to focus on the desired outcome


  • Break the first action done in the smallest, concrete step

  • 10 minute micro-burst of focused activity to boost energy and motivation


  • To make the process simpler, remove the steps

  • Maximize the steps not taken

  • Not everything requires going the extra mile


  • Zero-draft, start a project with rubbish

  • Fail cheaply: make learning sized mistakes


  • Slow is smooth, smooth is fast

  • Create a range: lower limit, and upper limit

  • I will never do less than X, or more than Y


  • Learn principles, not just methods and facts

  • Understand the first principles deeply, and then apply them

Blue ocean

  • Being good at what nobody is doing is better than being great at what everybody is doing

  • Being an expert at what nobody is doing is exponentially more valuable


  • Use teaching to harness the strength of ten

  • Live what you teach, and notice how much you learn

  • Sesame Street it - stories that are easy to learn and understand


  • Use checklists every time, so you don’t need to rely on your memory

  • Seek choices that eliminate future decisions

  • High-tech for essential tasks, and low tech for non-essential tasks


  • It’s the engine oil of frictionless, high-functioning teams

  • Make the right hire once, and it will continue to produce results again and again

  • Three I’s: Integrity, intelligence, initiative


  • Don’t manage the problem, solve it before it happens

  • Measure twice, cut once

  • It takes less time to manage the problem then solve it