Book Review – The Power of Less By Leo Babauta

The Power of LessIntroduction

There are books you read that leave you with an indelible experience, for me this is one of those books. The book does not contain anything I have not read about before, but I’ve read this book at a time when I needed to take a hard look at the principles discussed by the author and think seriously about how to inculcate some of them into my own life. The Power of Less is a simple yet profound book that advices us on how to do less, yet achieve more. It is a book which encourages us to focus on the essentials while getting rid of the unnecessary. No doubt the author is writing from a personal experience and I even visited his blog to learn more about him and his philosophy. Leo Babauta centres the book around six core principles: set limitations, choose the essential, simplify, focus, create habits and start small.

These concepts are repeated over and over again throughout the book as the author deals with day to day issues such as time management, projects, e-mail, internet and filing. The book which has 18 short chapters is separated into two parts. In just 170 pages, this book packs a punch which can help us to make some life changes and so earns a 4.5 out of 5 rating from me. Following is a brief review of the book

Part 1 – The Principles: In this part of the book Babauta introduces the six principles that the book is based on. Following is a brief description of the six principles:

  1. Chapter One – Setting Limits: According to Babauta, most of us lead lives filled with too much. Too much information, too many papers, too much to do and too much clutter just to mention a few areas. He sees living without limits as a problem and likens it to shopping without a spending limit. To him living without limits is weak. But he shares some ways that having limits helps. Babauta writes that having limits simplifies things, helps us to focus on what is important and enables achievement by allowing us to focus on lesser things. He also discusses areas to set limits in and how to set limits.
  2. Chapter Two – Choosing The Essentials and Simplying: This principle is about answering one key question – How do you know what’s essential?  Babauta believes once that question is answered, the rest is easy, and you can reduce what you need to do. The author proposes nine questions to sort out what is essential three of which are: What are your values? What are your goals? and What has the biggest impact?  How to apply these questions is also discussed.
  3. Chapter Three – Simplifying – Eliminating The Nonessential: After identifying what is not essential the next step is to eliminate them.
  4. Chapter Four – Focus Is Your Most Important Tool In Becoming More Effective: Summarily this principle is about focusing on less to become more effective. For instance focusing on one goal instead of multitasking. Three things are discussed – How to use focus to improve your life, focusing on one task(single-tasking) and How to focus on the present.
  5. Chapter Five – Create New Habits To Make Long-Lasting Improvements: Here Babauta issues a thirty-day habit changing challenge and lays down how it works, guiding rules and its benefits. He then lists 12 habits to change. Some are, check e-mail just twice a day, exercise five to ten minutes a day and eat more fruits and veggie everyday. 
  6. Chapter Six – Start New Habits In Small Increments To Ensure Success: The sixth principle which is self-explanatory extols the value of starting something small so it is manageable and not too big to lead to failure. Why starting small works and how to start small is discussed.

Part Two – In Practice: This second part of the book contains most of the content, 125 pages in all of some very useful stuff. This part has 12 small chapters so I will make an attempt at giving you a very short overview of each of them.

  • Chapter Seven – Simple Goals and Projects: Learn about the one-goal system, simple project lists and how to focus on completing things. The aim of this section is to help you learn how to complete things you start by focusing on fewer goals or even one goal at a time and narrowing your focus.
  • Chapter Eight – Simple Tasks: More of a follow on from the previous chapter. Focuses on how to complete projects by simplifying tasks.
  • Chapter Nine – Simple Time Management: An overview of how to make time management simpler through being clear about priorities, reducing tasks and using simple tools.
  • Chapter Ten – Simple Email: Yes you heard that right, simple email! How do you make email simpler? Babauta has some ideas – limit your in-boxes, limit your time in email, reduce your incoming stream, process to empty and write less.
  • Chapter Eleven – Simple Internet: The internet is one of the biggest resources of our time but at the same time one of the biggest distractors. Again Babauta offers some tips on how to manage our internet usage. He suggests we should track our usage, plan how we want to use it, learn to work while disconnected from the internet. He also offers some advice on how to stay away from distractions.
  • Chapter Twelve – Simple Filing: Two crucial lessons are taught in this chapter which are, how to create a simple filing system and home paperwork tips.
  • Chapter Thirteen – Simple Committments: Here Babauta reminds of something we already know but nonetheless is worth being reminded of – our committments to others can be demanding. On the back of this he gives some advice on how to handle committments. He starts out challenging us to take an inventory of our committments, next he advices people to evaluate each item on their list of committments. The idea here is to identify how valuable each comittment is. The next natural step is then to eliminate committments that are nonessential. Three other topics are also discussed: learn to say no, making the time for what we love and tips for simplying your personal life.
  • Chapter Fourteen – Simple Daily Routine: Do you have a simple daily routine (whatever that means to you)? Or do you want to create one? Babauta offers some tips to create one. He advices us to have a morning routine and even offers some ideas on how to do that. He also does the same for having an evening routine and then outines three steps to establish routines: focus on them, make them rewarding and log your progress.
  • Chapter Fifteen – Declutter Your Work Space: If your desk at work looks like a bomb site then maybe some of Babauta’s thoughts in this section may help. Firstly he tells us about the benefits of a clean desk (don’t we all know). Next he writes about a system to keep things simple and decluttered. He also extends his advice to the home front.
  • Chapter Sixteen – Slow Down: This certainly is good advice especially when we think about the rate at which we consume information, food and media in today’s world, but how do you do it? Babauta suggests starting with four areas. He believes we should pay slow attention to tasks we do. In other words be attentive to what you are doing in the moment without getting distrated, work slowly, eat slowly and drive slowly.
  • Chapter Seventeen – Simple Health and Fitness: This chapter is all about developing better exercise and diet regimes. Basicly becoming fitter.
  • Chapter Eighteen – Motivation: This last chapter outlines eight ways to motivate yourself (my favourutes are start small and focus on one goal) and twenty ways to sustain motivation when you are struggling.

This is a small book with a lot of information. Sometimes the information is merely repitition used within another context. Nonetheless I do recommend this book, you don’t have to read it from front to back, but simply pick what is useful for you, and I don’t think you will be disappointed.



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