The Power of Less by Leo Babauta: Summary and Notes

the power of less leo babauta

“Doing a huge number of things doesn’t mean you’re getting anything meaningful done.”

Rating: 7/10

Related Books: Zen to Done, Essentialism, Focus, The More of Less, Essential Zen Habits

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The Power of Less Short Summary

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta is a book that will teach you how to live a minimalist life. By setting limits for yourself, you will be able to achieve more and live a happier and more fulfilled life. Babauta shares practical tips on how to do just that. An excellent book on how to invest your time and energy in the things that matter.

The Principles: Why Less Is Powerful

We are at an age when we can do so much.  But we are also faced with many distractions. 

By setting limits to how much you consume and do, you can have a much more fulfilled and happier life.

There are two steps to simplicity:

  1. Identify the essential
  2. Eliminate the rest

The two principles of simple productivity:

  1. By setting limitations, we must choose the essential
  2. By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources

The benefits of setting limits:

  1. It simplifies things. Life becomes more manageable and less stressful
  2. It makes you focus. You are able to focus your energy on a smaller number of things
  3. It focuses on what’s important. You will have more time for the important things in your life
  4. It helps you achieve. By focusing on just a few things we are able to complete them
  5. It shows others that your time is important. If we have firm limits on what we do, we send a clear message to others that our time is important
  6. It makes you more effective. You start focusing on things that have a lasting impact

Choosing the Essential and Simplifying

Choosing the essential is the key to simplifying. 

Questions to help you choose the essential:

  1. What are your values? Know and list the things that are important to you. The qualities that you want to have and the principles that you want to live your life by
  2. What are your goals? Ask yourself what you want to achieve in life
  3. What do you love? Think of the things that you love doing and the people you like doing them with
  4. What is important to you? Make a list of the most important things in your life
  5. What has the biggest impact? Think about the project that will have the greatest impact on your life
  6. What has the most long-term impact? Find the thing or work with the most long term value
  7. Needs vs wants. Identify your needs and eliminate most of the wants. These are nonessential
  8. Which items do you actually need, and which ones are just things you want? If you can identify needs, you can eliminate most of the wants, which are nonessential

Saying “no” is part of the commitment to sticking to the essentials. It means telling people that you don’t have time to do more.


Focus is the most important tool to becoming more efficient. 

How to use the power of focus:

  • Focus on a goal. If you maintain your focus on a goal, you will more than achieve it
  • Focus on the now. Focusing on the present will help you reduce stress and enjoy life to the fullest
  • Focus on the task at hand. Get caught up in what you are doing
  • Focus on the positive. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and you will achieve all your goals

Don’t engage in multitasking. It is ineffective and will waste your time. Do single-tasking instead by identifying your most important goal.

When you are working on your task, turn off all other distractions. Try to focus on the task at hand without worrying about other things.

Create New Habits

To make lasting changes that will improve your life, create new habits.

Focus on one habit at a time.

The thirty-day habit challenge:

  1. Select a habit for the challenge. Choose any habit
  2. Write down your plan. State what your goal will be for each day
  3. Post your goal publicly. Tell as many people as possible about the habit that you are trying to form
  4. Report on your daily progress. Each day tell the same people whether you succeeded
  5. Celebrate the new habit. After 30 days, you will have a new habit.

Start Small

To ensure the greatest likelihood of success for the rest of the challenge, start small.

“The problem is that that enthusiasm often runs out of steam after a week or two, and the goal comes to failure. That’s what happens with almost every New Year’s resolution—people start out with a lot of enthusiasm but it dies down by the end of January.”

Why you need to start small:

  • Narrows your focus
  • Keeps your energy and enthusiasm going for longer
  • It is easier to handle
  • You ensure success
  • Gradual change is longer lasting

“Focusing on fewer but more critical tasks is important, but to really simplify our tasks we must talk about the size of the tasks as well. We can focus on just one task today, but if it’s a huge and intimidating task, we can become overwhelmed and not actually do the task. Limiting our tasks doesn’t get anything done if those tasks are too big.”

When performing a task, learn to be in the moment. If you are not passionate about one thing, allow yourself to be passionate about another.

The fewer tasks you have, the more productive you will be. By focusing on the tasks that give you the most return for your time investment, then the more productive you will be.

If you have similar tasks, do all of them at the same time. It takes time to switch between tasks.

For example:

If you are going to make calls throughout the day, make sure that you make all of them at the same time.

In Practice: Simple Goals and Projects

Simple Internet

The internet can be a black hole for productivity.  To apply the power of less to your internet usage, set limitations, and use the internet more powerfully.

Track your internet usage and find the sites that waste the most time for you. These are the sites that you need to limit.

After you have identified the sites that waste most of your time, create a plan to limit the time you spend in them.

To break internet addiction:

  • Try breaking the addiction habit at least once a week
  • Set rules for internet use and stick to them
  • When you get an urge to go on the internet, let it pass. Urges are like a wave, you can just ride them out
  • Apply positive pressure to yourself. Ask friends and family for help with your internet addiction
  • Use strategies like taking deep breaths and walking around
  • Give it some time

Simple Filling

Create a system to organize paperwork. 

Tips on how to set up a filing system:

  1. Reduce before organizing. Eliminate the unnecessary before organizing at all
  2. Simple filing. Use labels for your filing system
  3. File immediately. If you have the time, file immediately so that you don’t waste time later
  4.  Have materials at hand. Have a supply of your filling equipment at hand
  5. Reduce your needs over time. Store some of your filing information online

Simple Commitments

Make an inventory of your commitments if you want to scale them down. 

How to eliminate the nonessential commitments on your lists:

  1. Start with something small. Don’t try to eliminate everything at once, it might backfire on you
  2. Call or email to send your regrets. Explain that you have too much on your plate at the moment
  3. Eliminate the commitment from your appointment. Fill it with something from your to-do list.
  4. Repeat the process. Find other nonessentials and eliminate them until you are done. 

Simple Daily Routine

Having simple routines can supercharge your day and create a sense of calm and sanity in your life.

Key to establishing routine:

  • Focus on them. Keep your routine as the foremost goal for an entire month
  • Make them rewarding. A calm routine can be rewarding
  • Log your progress. Report your progress on a journal

Slow Down

Our bodies and minds are made for a slower pace of life than is available to us. It is important to slow down and focus on what’s important.

When you slow down, you won’t learn to do more in less time but you will learn to do things better. 

Exercising will give you health and energy. Eating right will prolong your life and you will stay fit.

If you have trouble sticking to an exercise regime, start light, schedule your workout time, don’t allow yourself to miss out a day, don’t give up, and get a partner if you can.