The Power of Less – Focus

by Stephen Mills on August 14, 2009

This is the third article in the series describing Leo Babauta’s ideas from his book Power of Less, The: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life by Leo Babauta.  I highly recommend it.

The other articles can be found here:

The Power of Less – Setting Limits
The Power of Less – Identify the Essential


Focus is your most important tool in becoming more effective.

Leo says focus on less to become more effective: Focus on one goal to achieve it, focus on a single task at a time and you’ll be more productive, and focus on the present to reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Focus on a goal.  The most important factor in achieving a goal is focus.  Not self-discipline, willpower, or rewards but simply maintaining focus on a goal or habit at all times.
  • Focus on the present.  Focusing on the present will reduce stress and help you live life to the fullest.  (see below)
  • Focus on the task at hand.  Clear distractions and get into the flow of whatever task you decide to work on. (see below)
  • Focus on the positive.  Eliminate complaining and eliminate the constant focus on problems. Instead focus on the good things and how good you’ll feel when you accomplish whatever you are working on.

How to Focus on the Present

“If we spend most of our time thinking about the past or future, we are missing life itself. It’s passing us by while we’re elsewhere. You can’t get the most out of life unless you learn to focus on being present, while things are happening. Thinking about your childhood, or your kid’s future, is useless if your kids’ childhood is passing by without you being there.” –Leo Babauta

Here are three links to being present Leo has published on his blog.  The first is the most comprehensive.

Focus on the Task at Hand

Single-task and do not multi-task.  Studies prove over and over again that given the same tasks, people who serially process them and single-task instead of multi-task are much more efficient at getting things done.  Total time to complete all tasks is much shorter.  Multi-tasking also creates stress.  Keep yourself sane!

How to Single-Task

  • Do your most important task or tasks (MITs) first thing in the morning.  Don’t do anything else until these are done.
  • Block Interruptions.  Go to a private conference room, shut your door, turn off email, cell phones, etc.
  • Do small similar tasks like email, phone calls, blog reading, etc. periodically and in batches.  So maybe work on a MIT for two hours and then batch process your email.
  • Every hour take a five to ten minute break and drink some water.  Every few hours eat a small healthy snack.  During your breaks completely disconnect from work and enjoy the moment.  Go outside and get some nature.

My good friend Jonathan over at Advance Life Skills wrote an excellent article on applied focus sessions.  I recommend you check it out.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills August 14, 2009 at 9:51 pm

In a world of relentless distractions, we need to to develop these focus skills. To a large degree, our ability to control our focus determines, not only our productivity, but they very quality of our lives. Thanks for this series Stephen, and thanks for the link also. Excellent guidelines.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..When Lightning Strikes =-.


Positively Present August 15, 2009 at 5:20 am

Great post! I’m always hearing about the Power of Less and I REALLY need to check it out. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..happy anniversary, positively present! =-.


Diggy - August 15, 2009 at 5:39 am

Heya! 🙂

I have the problem with focusing on one thing and completing it. There are too many other things around, and even when there are not, its the last 20% of a project where it is almost like I lose interest and it can take me ages to complete it!

Thanks for this, it sounds like I need to get myself a copy of Leo’s book!

Have a great weekend!
Stumbled your post:)
.-= Diggy –´s last blog ..Stop Wishing, Start Doing! =-.


Ayesha Habeeb Omer August 15, 2009 at 7:33 am

Focus = Feeling; Focus is reality to the individual. Focus on what you have rather than what you miss in life. Focussing on right things makes your life. Negative focus distroys a beautiful life!


alex - unleash reality August 15, 2009 at 9:41 am

awwwsome article!!

specially pertinent with massive assignment loads piling up.

i wrote summen a while back when was still feeling out my writing style about how the more you try focus on, the more you dilute your focus. spreading it thin.

one thing at a time is acceptable 🙂

hope you’re well mate
.-= alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..One Breath at a Time is Acceptable =-.

Reply August 15, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Stephen I need more of this right now. MORE! 😛

I especially need to get my most important tasks done early in the morning as I find the majority of it is eaten up by Quadrant 3 tasks such as emails and Twitter… not the best.

Thanks for the article 😉
.-=´s last blog ..Rich Dad’s New Rules of Money #2: Move To The Right Side of The Cashflow Quadrant =-.


BunnygotBlog August 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

Well it would seem as if you must be friends with my parents. lol

They told me before going off to college not to become distracted with guys, thinking that he or I were ready for a relationship. If I allowed it to happen I would focus more on a relationship before my education and maturity. I took her seriously.

Focusing on priorities is essential but it is knowing what priorities are most important that makes it matter.

Love the post!
.-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Eleanor Roosevelt: Speaking Volumes, Part 2 =-.


Oscar - freestyle mind August 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I enjoyed a lot this part of the book. To be honest, I was ready to criticize an aspect of setting MITs, but while writing I realized I was procrastinating, so I’m going to stick with them again.

My concern was that MITs are often unpractical because there’s the assumption that you have to work on them first thing in the morning, but this cannot be the case sometimes, however I think in this case we just need to set them to something more simple.

Thanks for writing this.

.-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..To Specialize in Your Niche, or Not? =-.


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