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The Power of Less: The 6 Essential Productivity Principles That Will Change Your Life Paperback – 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
According to Babauta (Zen to Done), employing the power of less will propel readers from chaos to blissful and productive minimalism. Learning to set limitations, such as penning a three-item Most Important Task list every day and restricting e-mails to five lines, is a cornerstone for the authors plan for increased simplicity and satisfaction. With new boundaries in place, readers can discover flow, become wholly absorbed in tasks and live the paradox of doing less and achieving more. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
Leo Babauta has been a reporter, editor, speechwriter, and freelance writer for the last 17 years. Babauta lives in Guam with his wife and five children, where he posts regularly on ZenHabits.net. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Leo, the owner of the wildly popular ZenHabits blog, has written one of those classics that apply to both our business and personal lives. In brief, The Power of Less is a treatise on the small steps (see my blog post on the Kaizen way) we can take to simplify our lives and in the doing find far more joy and success than all of our manic behavior could produce.
The book begins with Leo's own story of being an debt, overweight, smoking, workaholic who rarely saw his family. His life was chaotic and he never had time for the things and people he loves. (Sound familiar?) Then, he made the choice to simplify his life in small continuous ways; first he quit smoking by focusing all of his energy on that one goal.
Then, he attacked other goals, one at a time, like becoming a runner, eating healthier, starting a successful blog, and getting out of debt.
One by one the goals were met (and exceeded). Leo has run two marathons, has doubled his income, became a vegetarian, decluttered his home, lost 45 pounds, and spends quality time with his family. Today, Leo's blog is one of the top 50 blogs in the world, with more than two million readers a month. If that doesn't make you want to adopt his principles, nothing will!
The Six Principles of Simple Productivity
The Power of Less is divided into two sections; the first walks readers through the six principles of simple productivity:
1. Set limitations
2. Choose the essential
5. Create habits
6. Start small
Part II details practical tips for implementing the six principles in key areas including e-mail, health, time management, filing, Internet, and decluttering your work space.
Simple Doesn't Mean Easy
While the principles are simple, it doesn't necessarily mean they're easy to implement. Anyone who has started a new habit (like a diet) knows that for sure. However, with small continuous improvement, the principles are achievable.
For example, Leo has weaned himself off e-mail to checking only twice a day. I probably check e-mail 100 times a day - - and just as a nutritionist wouldn't ask us to cut out every unhealthy food in one day, they would encourage us to cut-back. For me, that would mean (first) KNOWING how many times a day I check e-mail, and then (second) cutting back a little, then a little more, and then a little more. Until I reach a point that e-mail doesn't rule my existence.
The Principle of Choosing the Essential
While all of the principles serve as stepping stones to a life of more, the one that hangs me up the most is the principle of choosing the essential. And it's a bugaboo that's been with me life-long. As Leo says, once you know the essentials you'll be in a position to eliminate the chaos of incoming information, commitments, and clutter.
Thankfully, the section on choosing the essential has a series of questions to help define what's essential - and this is the section I'm currently re-reading - because it's the most difficult for me. I know absolutely that once I have those essentials defined, the remaining principles will be far easier to integrate.
The reason this principle is so important to me is that in knowing the essentials, I'll know which projects or tasks have the highest priority - because they're the ones that will have the biggest impact on the essentials. For me, this is the key to having the life of what truly IS more.
Putting the Principles Into Action
As a life-long "clean desk" advocate, I was ahead of the game on the decluttering principle, but way behind on e-mail, Internet, commitments, and health.
Fortunately, simplifying these areas are a matter of making small continuous changes (the Kaizen way), instead of radical ones. For instance, one of the life issues discussed is making time for what we love. As a self-employed person, I get so caught in the flow of work that I forget what I really love.
However, once prompted by The Power of Less, I really thought about what I love - then I made a list, and one-by-one will begin implementing them in my life.(and being a true Kaizen-ista) will NOT try to take on all of them at once!) By the way, my list includes learning to kayak, to play the harmonica, and hiking.
A Perfect Time for a Perfect Book
As I wander the Internet, I hear over and over the desire for simplification. The entrepreneurs I know have all hit the wall at the same time - - they're on information overload, have massive (and unattainable) to-do lists, poor health, wretched time management, cluttered desks and minds, and no fun.
If ever there was a time for The Power of Less, it's now.
I didn't like it in audio format, though, which I explain in my video review, so while the content deserves five stars, the robotic, slick narrator and the way the format of the book worked with being read aloud brought the star rating down.
One other minor quibble was that Leo mentioned "previous posts" and "later posts" in his book a lot. Some of the content was obviously written for a blog format and it wasn't edited vigorously enough to catch these mistakes.
Other than that, though, the content is exactly what I expected from reading Leo's blog and I enjoyed the book a lot. It's a good kick in the rear if you need help getting fired up to achieve your goals through simplicity.
The book is simple and direct with little fluff. It's aimed at everyone, not just the big-time business managers and the yuppie type. As a student and writer, I find that 7 Habits and Getting Things Done and the like, while they're great, just don't feel like they're aimed at me. The Power of Less is, though. And it's undiluted greatness. There's no New Age-y stuff in here, nothing really abstract. Just solid, practical approaches to the problems that everyone faces.
Here's the one catch, though: at least 85-90% of the content in this book is fundamentally equivalent to what's been posted on his blog, Zen Habits (zenhabits dot net). Leo's techniques rely on simplicity so much that there are really only so many ways you can spin it.
There are a lot of reasons to buy this book: it goes a little bit deeper in its explanations, it is a great summary and introduction to everything on Leo's site, it supports Leo after all of the hard work he has put in to helping your average Joe like me make his life and his world a little bit better, and it introduces his ideas in a logical order.
But you can get explanations the same fundamental approaches and set of tips for free on Zen Habits, so if you're looking to pinch pennies while still taking serious steps forward in your life, you might instead just want to go through his site.
This review is not a knock on the book at all. It's just a reminder that there's a free digital alternative. That's a tip Leo himself would approve of.