When Less is More

In 2005, Leo Babauta, a writer, husband, and father of six, quit smoking, took up running, shed excess weight, and started on a quest to become debt-free, better organized, more productive, happier and healthier.

Babauta has accomplished all that and more. Just as his running progressed -- one step at a time -- until he had completed a marathon (several actually) he has been methodical in making life changes. He created the very popular blog, Zen Habits (zenhabits.net) to pass along the tips and techniques that have worked for him. His newly-released book, The Power of Less. expands on his blog, offering valuable information to help you focus on the present, form positive habits and get your life under control by simplifying everything from your finances to your to-do list.

We interviewed Leo for advice on how to stick to those new years resolutions and get more done by doing less.

ThirdAge: It's easy to say you want to pare down, get organized and focus on what's importan. But how do you suggest people move from intellectualizing to internalizing the need to simplify?

Leo Babauta:
I think most of us realize that we need to simplify in some way -- either by cutting back on how much we spend, on all the clutter in our lives, or just the amount of information or tasks that we have in our lives. But as you say, you need to make that leap from knowing it, in your mind, to actually doing it.

That bridge, in my experience, is in making the commitment to actually create new habits. You can read about simplifying, but to actually do it you need to commit to creating one new habit at a time. In my book and on my website (thepowerofless.com), I offer The Power of Less 30-day Challenge as a way to create a new habit. You publicly commit to changing one habit in 30 days -- it only takes 10 minutes a day. Start small to have the greatest chance of success. More effective habit-change principles are in the book and the website.Once you've created a small habit -- say decluttering for 10 minutes, or only checking email twice a day -- you can build from there. But start small, with one habit, and you'll have made that great leap to doing.TA: Were in the midst of our countrys worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Obviously, its a very stressful time for so many of us. How do you suggest people embrace the power of less when they are worried about paying their rent of mortgage?LB: I address this topic in a free ebook, Thriving on Less, Simplifying in a Tough Economy, offered on my website [thepowerofless.com] In it I show why it's so important to simplify, live more frugally, but still have the essentials that you love in your life. By focusing on the essentials, and eliminating the non-essentials -- as I discuss in detail in The Power of Less -- you can create a great life full of the things you value most, but still cut back on your spending.
TA: In mid-life, most people are in some state of transition (whether it's going through menopause, dealing with an empty nest, or losing a parent) and many are getting laid off or fear getting laid off -- is this a time to try to work more change -- the kind you control -- into your life?LB: I've found that when you are going through difficult, stressful or uncertain times, at any age, it's often because you are getting caught up in thinking about things that have happened to you (the past) or worrying about what might or might not happen (the future). So it's really our thinking that causes the problem -- we're caught up in things we can't control -- either what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future. The answer lies in learning to focus on the present -- what is happening right now. This is something we can control -- in fact, it's the only thing we can control -- and the incredible thing is that when you do this, it really makes you happier, helps you to appreciate and enjoy life more, and surprisingly, makes you more effective and productive too.To learn more about Leo Babauta, visit his website: www.zenhabits.net. For more information about his latest book, visit: www.thepowerofless.com.
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