An Effortless State

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading Effortless by Greg McKeown and thinking about how I can apply this information to my writing life. The 3 major takeaways for me from this book were:

  1. Life shouldn’t be difficult.
  2. Make the unenjoyable enjoyable.
  3. Focus on what is essential.

Each of these relates to a different part of his book, which I will be covering in several posts.

Effortless Part 1: An Effortless State

McKeown describes an effortless state as feeling well-rested, present, and recharged, ready to focus and pay attention to what matters most. 😊 When things are effortful they are difficult, heavy with fear, distractions, anger, burdens, assumptions, complaints, etc. 😩 This perceptual load on our brains makes everything, including the important and essential things, difficult to do and even more difficult to WANT to do!!!

In thinking of my writing life, actions that are essential to me but are typically effortful are writing, revising and editing, and submitting my stories to publications. Each of these requires a certain amount of focus and deep work, which can be challenging to achieve on the best of days. However, I have found that they are more likely avoided or delayed because of various distractions, assumptions, fears, and doubts that take over my thinking. I’m also prone to decision fatigue since I can argue for or against any decision I am making, and perfectionism since I want to do things “right.” 🤯😬

Not everything has to be so hard.

Greg McKeown

Part 1 of Effortless focuses on how to take those tasks that are essential and make them more effortless by changing how we perceive and think about these tasks. Since it is the most challenging for me, I plan to apply McKeown’s tactics to my revising and editing behaviors.

Achieving an effortless state can be broken down into five components, which I’ve summarized below:

  1. InvertHow can this be easier?
    • Invert the problem of something being complex and ask “what is the simplest way to achieve the desired result?”
  2. Enjoy How can this be fun?
    • Pair essential tasks with enjoyable ones (Create a list of “building blocks of joy” 🎉😁 and pair them with essential tasks)
    • Reward yourself immediately to increase satisfaction
    • Reimagine essential tasks as a game (For me, thinking of how I’m creatively creating order out of chaos is appealing)
  3. Release How can I be grateful for this?
    • Practice gratitude🙏🏻- focus on what you have (what is going well, progresses, successes, potential, opportunities) instead of what you lack (regrets, worries, fears, feeling behind)
  4. Rest How can I recharge best for this?
    • Use your natural rhythms to determine when to do essential work.
    • Time block into no more than 90 minute sessions with breaks in between.
    • If struggling, back away for 1 minute and recharge.
    • Get more uninterrupted sleep. 💤😴
  5. Notice How can I notice this?
    • Focus more on noticing, paying attention, and being present.
    • Have a daily practice exercise to recenter. (The one listed in the book on pages 88-89 includes a 10 minute process of preparing a space, resting the body, relaxing the mind, releasing the heart, and breathing in gratitude.)

Below I’ve shown how I have taken each component and am applying it to my revising and editing.

Part 1PromptApplication
InvertHow can
revising and editing
be easier?
1. Reduce the challenge of what to do –> Create a checklist of revising and editing points (In progress)
2. Reduce the barrier of choosing what to work on –> Select newest story, most interesting story, or most pressing for submission
EnjoyHow can
revising and editing
be fun?
1. Brainstorm joys and rewards –> Create a “building blocks of joy” list (mine includes everything from a glass of champagne to forest bathing to dancing)
2. Pair tasks with joys and rewards –> Before I sit down I will create an atmosphere I enjoy, have a favorite drink, shut off distractions, and then when I’m done I will reward myself with a spa treatment (sauna, facial, bath, etc.), a guilty pleasure, or dancing
ReleaseHow can I be grateful for
revising and editing?
1. Pair a complaint with a positive statement –> After I complain about or during revising and editing, I will say – “I am grateful for…” (I’ve started doing this whenever I feel I’m being negative, judgy, or complaining, and it has made a huge difference in my attitude. I’ve put a post-it on my computer screen to remind me to do this too.)
2. Turn LACK into HAVE –> When I notice a lack statement, turn it into what I have.
RestHow can I recharge best for revising and editing?1. Determine best time to do challenging work –> For me, this is late morning (10am-12pm) or late afternoon (4pm-6pm). If I start something in these hours I find it easier to get into a flow and lose track of time. These are the times I usually have the most energy as well.
2. Time block during my best times –> I will time block revising and editing in the time ranges above when setting my schedule.
3. Improve sleep –> Wind down earlier in the evening so as to fall asleep easier (no tech after 9pm), get nagging thoughts out of my head by journaling, and meditate for 10-15 minutes to calm my mind.
NoticeHow can I notice
revising and editing?
1. Before I start my time-blocked work, complete the daily practice exercise.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to implement these steps as much as I can before moving on to Part 2 of Effortless, which is Effortless Action. I’ll write another post on how this worked for me and some tips for achieving an effortless state.

Stay tuned…

What essential tasks do you find effortful? How could you apply these concepts to more readily achieve an effortless state when doing the essential? I would love to hear about your experiences and offer my support on your writing journey.

Getting into an effortless state,


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

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

Greg McKeown