As I mentioned last week, I eagerly picked up a copy of Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less. All in all, it’s a great framework for how to simplify your life personally and professionally. Long time readers of Leo’s popular Zen Habits blog (one of my personal favorites) will not pick up much new information, although the book does a nice job of presenting a lot of his content in one place. However, for those who are unfamiliar with Leo’s work, there is a wealth of knowledge on topics such as maintaing focus, setting priorities, creating new habits, and managing time.
Although it’s a scant 150 pages, resulting in a very quick read, there is a lot of thought provoking content that is augmented well by Leo’s blog and the companion website thepowerofless.com
Leo introduces the topics by demonstrating how the world we live in is constantly putting a strain on us. Through a variety of inputs such as email, phone calls, meetings, and the internet, our productivity is suffering. This ultimately increases our stress to the point that we no longer focus on what is most important to us or has the biggest impact in our careers. He argues that it up to each of us to develop habits that simplify our day-to-day work in order to create a stress free life.
Early in the book, Leo introduces his six principles of the Power of Less:
- Set Limitations.
- Choose the Essential.
- Create habits.
- Start small.
Throughout the book, Leo consistently refers back to these core principles. He often provides simple techniques in day-to-day life to overcome stress and create focus. One of my favorites is creating MITs, or “Most Important Tasks,” at the start of each day. By creating a list of the 3 or 4 most important tasks for the day, as well as starting no other work until these tasks are complete, your mind is forced to completely focus on this small amount of work.
Leo is also a big proponent of starting small, especially when it comes to changing habits. As an example, he cites his struggles with dieting. Most people, he points out, try to change too much too quickly, which results in frustration and eventual failure in changing their diet. They try to eliminate all carbs or all fatty foods all at one time. While initially successful, the urge to go back to the old habits are too strong, resulting in failure. He proposes analyzing ones diet, find the one thing that has the biggest impact, and try altering just that single behavior before moving on. Instead of trying for a single large victory, over time you pick up numerous smaller victories which ultimately become habits.
In summary, the Power of Less is certainly not revolutionary but does reinforce basic principles that if adhered to will result in a simpler, less stressful life. Fans of GTD (Getting Things Done) will appreciate Leo’s ideas and how they easily apply to a GTD system. Although it is a quick read, to be effective and long lasting, there is a good deal of thought that needs to be put into it. Leo doesn’t provide the answers, but does give you some ideas to think about.