Book notes: Essentialism: Expect the Unexpected

The Nonessentialist tends to always assume a best-case scenario. Chronically underestimating how long something will really take.

The Essentialist looks ahead and plans. Prepares for different contingencies. Expects the unexpected. Creates a buffer for the unforeseen, thus giving wiggle room when things come up.

Use the good times to create a buffer for the bad.

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.
—Lao Tzu

Ways to create buffers:

  • use extreme preparation – prepare for anything and everything that can possibly go wrong

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. —Lee Child

  • add 50% to your time estimate – avoid planning fallacy
    • Planning fallacy – tendency to underestimate how long a task will take, even when they have actually done the task before
    • Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

Ask these five questions about an important project:

  1. What risks do you face on this project?
  2. What is the worst-case scenario?
  3. What would the social effects of this be?
  4. What would the financial impact of this be?
  5. How can you invest to reduce risks or strengthen financial or social resilience?

That fifth question points you to buffers.


From: Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Ch. 15 on Buffers – p. 175

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Book notes: Essentialism: Expect the Unexpected