I’ve been a fan of Leo Babauta’s ideas ever since I stumbled across his blog. His book Power of Less, The: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life by Leo Babauta. is simply fantastic. I’m going to give you a summary of his ideas in a series of articles starting with this one.
The other articles are listed below:
Leo’s ideas are true to themselves – they are elegant examples of less. The system has two foundational steps from which the rest of the system derives:
- Identify the Essential
- Eliminate the Rest
Modern society is consumption oriented. Everything seems to be focused towards getting more stuff. To get more stuff we spend our time getting more money. Time is finite and so is human ability so there is a limit to what we can do. If we maximize productivity and time management practice, we can get more tasks done. But by trying to maximize the number of tasks we do, we end up doing unimportant things. This dilutes our focus and takes energy away from the more important tasks. We also end up stressed-out, overworked, and unhealthy.
Setting limits forces you to choose the essential. So set limitations for everything you do.
Setting limits is the first of Leo’s six main principles. Leo provides a beautiful illustration of it with Japanese Haiku. This form of poetry requires the poet to express a complete idea in 17 syllables. In order to accomplish this, the poet must eliminate everything that is not absolutely essential to the meaning. The result is something very powerful.
Another example. Imagine two reporters. Each week, one reporter writes 30 short, quick, and limited articles that get little attention. The other reporter writes one really good article each week. Each article has high impact and he receives awards on some of them. The second reporter did less, focused on the long-term, and gets promotions and widespread recognition as a result. This is the Power of Less at work.
You can choose to be like the first reporter and “Get Things Done” or you can choose to be like the second reporter and do fewer but more high impact tasks. How do you decide what activities are high impact? Use the following criteria:
- Long-term view – Will it make you a lot of money or get you a lot of recognition in the long-term? Will it make you happy and contribute to your long-term well-being?
- Life changing – Your career or personal life is changed for the better in some important way.
- Makes a significant contribution to society or humanity.
Apply these criteria to your tasks, projects, and goals to help determine what is essential for your life. I would also suggest you check out these articles:
Apply limits to all aspects of your Life – email, possessions, work hours, phone calls, internet surfing, etc. Apply limits first to any area in your life that seems overwhelming. It will force you to be very effective. This is one of the greatest ideas on how to live your life I have ever found.
We lead lives filled with way too much stuff. It weakens and dilutes our effectiveness. Go from a limitless life of too much stuff, gadgets, information, etc. that is overwhelming, stressful and ineffective to a life of limits, focus, and incredible power. This change will bring the following benefits:
- Simplifies your life. Everyday life becomes stress-free and under control.
- You gain focus. You are focused on a small number of things and you are focused only on what is important. You stop doing everything else.
- Demonstrates that your time is valuable – others will respect this. Firm limits on what you do demonstrates to other people that you treat your
time as a precious resource. You expect everyone else to treat your time the same way.
- You are more effective and you achieve more. You are doing less busy work and more of your important work. You aren’t spinning your wheels on the trivial.
Set limits on any area of your life that you think is overwhelming. Examples might include:
- Number of tasks or projects
- Time spent on phone calls or internet surfing
- The number of things on your desk or workspace
- The number of subscriptions, paper or online, you regularly read
In reality this is a small fraction of the things you will ultimately want to limit. However you need to move slowly, changing only one thing at a time until it becomes a habit.
How to Set Limits
Put a strict limit on something you do such as checking email. Instead of 10 times a day try checking it three times a day. Test the result. Can you live with it? Can you do your job with it? The first week or so of your new habit is an experiment and you will tweak the limit as you learn more about what is reasonable for you. Continually adjust until you find the right level and make it a habit.
Setting limits is a powerful technique to prevent common tasks from taking over your life. I suggest you give it a spin.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
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