The world is becoming more complex, and we’re leading more complicated lives. It may be a cliche, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Zen Habits has become one of the most popular on the web in a short period of time. Why? Because Leo Babauta’s message of simplicity strikes out against the chaos many of us feel is creeping into our lives.
Babauta’s first published book, The Power of Less, is coming onto bookshelves December 30th. I recently had a chance to interview Leo about the book and the wisdom in simplicity.
Why Simplicity Matters
Improvements in technology were supposed to allow us to work less. Twenty hour workweeks were supposed to be common, once technology automated the tedious parts of life. However, in Babauta’s words, “Technology has given us powerful tools, but an incredible overload of information and tasks, and as a result, we are increasingly busy and stressed, producing more than ever before but with less free time for things we love doing.”
According to Babauta, “simplicity allows us to focus on what’s important, and to make room for those things by eliminating the non-essential.”
Most People Have Too Many Goals…
Another personal-development cliche is that people don’t have enough goals. But, as Babauta argues, the real problem might be that they have too many. “Often a typical goal-setting system will have numerous goals, each with sub-goals and tasks and deadlines and priorities and so forth. I tell people to focus on one goal at a time to increase effectiveness, and one task a time – single-tasking — so that you aren’t switching between different tasks and decreasing your focus and energy.”
The whole purpose of having goals is to get you to focus. However, most people can’t do this because they have too many things to focus on. Babauta’s results speak for themselves: “It’s worked wonders for my productivity — I’ve been able to accomplish so much more in the last few years than I was in the previous decade and a half, simply because I focused on one goal at a time and one task at a time.”
Doesn’t Simplicity = Boredom?
One concern I had from Babauta’s philosophy that an emphasis on simplicity means living a boring life. Sure, it’s less stressful, but doesn’t that make it less interesting?
Babauta’s response was that simplicity often leads to a more interesting life: “Simplicity doesn’t mean sacrificing the things you love doing — on the contrary, it means making those things more of a priority and making room for them by eliminating the non-essential. I’ve cut out many commitments and made room in my day for the things that I’m passionate about and that are truly important to me”
Productivity and Simplicity
Simplicity isn’t just about reducing stress, it’s about getting more done. Babauta writes, “[Productivity and simplicity] fit together if you define productivity as accomplishing important things, rather than just getting a lot of tasks done or being very busy and working long hours. With simplicity, you focus on the tasks and projects that make the highest impact on your life, rather than just anything on your to-do list. By limiting yourself to these high impact tasks, you are getting the most productivity out of the time you spend working — and freeing up time for other things.”
Tips to Get Started
I recommend pre-ordering a copy of The Power of Less, before they run out of stock. Before the book arrives, I asked Leo to offer his three biggest tips for getting started with a philosophy of less. Here they are:
- Choose one thing to change — the one thing that will have the most impact on your life.
- Do a 30-day challenge to create a new habit for that one thing you want to change. There will be a New Year’s Challenge coming out on ThePowerOfLess.com soon that will help many people do this.
- Focus on it completely until it’s a reality.