ZenHabits’ Leo Babauta Talks About The Power Of Less

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It’s not often you get a chance to grill someone you admire…

Let alone, a married father of six, newspaper columnist turned speechwriter turned blogger, author..and marathoner. So, when I learned Leo Babauta of ZenHabits fame had a new book coming out, I jumped on the opportunity.

You can dive into our conversation below.

And, if you’re looking to simplify, reconnect with what really matters in life and carve out more time to do what you love with the people you love, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Power of Less, The: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life right away!


You were a journalist for more than 15 years and, more recently a blogger. So, you’ve been writing for years, what made you want to make the jump into writing a book?

I’ve always wanted to be a published author — it’s every writer’s dream. But I never really took it seriously until I started Zen Habits and realized that my almost instant success stemmed from the fact that the message I was writing about — a message of power in simplicity — tapped into the psyche of a really large group of people. This was a message that people wanted to read more about, that they wanted in their life and were interested in learning from someone who was actually putting these principles into practice. And I knew that if I wrote a book about it, I’d reach an even larger audience and help others who were yearning for the same thing.

How did you decide what to write about?

In the first year of Zen Habits (I started in January 2007) I wrote several hundred articles, and if you were paying close attention, a philosophy of simplicity began to emerge, in every topic I wrote about: simple productivity, the effectiveness of doing one thing at a time and starting small, how to create new habits, how to enjoy life more, how to escape from the overwhelm of information we all face, every day.

This philosophy was something you couldn’t read about in one single post, and if you read my blog now you wouldn’t be able to read even 10 posts and understand it completely. You’d have to read all 700 posts to understand the philosophy and methods, and even then it would be difficult because of the overwhelming number of posts. So I decided to distill the philosophy and methods I was talking about into one small, compact volume. This is a toolbox and a blueprint for simplifying your life and becoming more effective, all in one tiny tome.

I am a writer, too, but also a marketer, and I’m fascinated by headlines and titles, how did you come up with your book’s title?

I wanted to convey, in as concise a way as possible, the philosophy of the book and what it would do for readers. It accomplishes that in just a few words. This book will teach you to find more effectiveness by doing and focusing on less.

What’s The Power of Less really all about?

It’s about making room in our lives for the essential, and focusing on the essentials to both accomplish more and enjoy life more. We always talk about not having enough time for the thing we love to do, or the people we love, or achieving our dreams, or exercising and getting healthy. Well, if we decide that these are the most important things in our lives, we need to live that way — by eliminating the non-essential and making room for the essential. And when we focus on the important things, we can also achieve more, because we are making the most of the time we spend working.

How is it different than other similar books or than what’s in your blog?

This book contains the principles and methods that have worked for me, in my life. I’ve tried many things, put them to the test, and have found what actually works. I’ve used these simple methods to form new habits — from quitting smoking to waking earlier to becoming a marathoner to becoming organized and productive — and I’ve used them to accomplish more than I ever thought possible, in just a few years — from quitting my day job and starting a wildly successful blog (along with another blog for writers and bloggers) to eliminating my debt, writing a book and several ebooks, starting an ebook publishing company, and more.

This book has principles that actually work, in a very concise way. And while these principles are on my blog, this gives you the essentials in a concise and organized manner, so you don’t have to sift through hundreds of articles to find them.

Who needs to read The Power of Less and why?

Anyone who wants to achieve more than they are now. Anyone who feels stressed out, overwhelmed by work and information, overworked. Anyone who doesn’t have time for loved ones, for passions, for exercise, for their dreams. Anyone who wants to live more simply and live the life they deserve.

What do you think are some of the biggest myths about “how much we need” to be happy?

Our society is geared toward wanting more — bigger and better — and as a result we are on an endless quest to consume and produce and purchase more, in order to be happier. Unfortunately that doesn’t work — you can work 60-80 hour weeks for years and have nothing to show for it except a house full of stuff you don’t need and a large amount of debt.

So I’ve discovered, after being stuck in this trap for many years, that actually I already had everything I needed: I had a family I loved (but didn’t see as much as I wanted), I had work I wanted to do (but was too busy to start doing it), I had things I loved doing (but no time to do them), and I had too many possessions already. So I made time in my life for the people I loved, the work I love, the things I love doing, by eliminating everything else as much as possible. I got rid of a lot of my possessions to make room for those things I really loved. As a result, my life is much less cluttered but I have everything I need and more.

You announced the book deal on your blog on January 23, 2008. The world and the economy have changed a lot since then. Did this effect what you wrote? And, if so, how?

My message is the same, then and now: that we should focus on the essentials to be more effective and happier. That was true when the economy was booming and we had more than we needed (but again never had the time) … and it’s true in this economy when people are looking to cut back. We can cut back, if we focus on the essentials, and still have more than we need, and have amazing lives living on less.

Were there any big surprises, revelations or discoveries for you in writing this book?

It’s funny because even I don’t follow my own advice sometimes, and I learned when writing my book that I’m much less effective when I don’t follow my advice. I was writing the book and trying to run two blogs and a business and prepare for my wedding and honeymoon at the same time. That was too much. I had a hard time focusing on any one thing and as a result I wasn’t good at getting anything done.

When I realized this, I simplified. I cleared my schedule to focus exclusively on the book, and really put my energy into completing it. I cleared away distractions and become much more effective. It works, and I’m glad to have proven once again that these concepts have been tested in the real world and succeed every time.

Beyond being a massive bestseller, what is your greatest hope for this book?

Whether I sell 10 copies or a million, I really hope to reach people who are looking for simplicity and effectiveness in their lives, and to be able to help them with what I’ve learned through my journey. If I can help people find a better life filled with the things and people they love and are passionate about, I’m a happy man.


The Power of Less is packed with Leo’s unique insights on simplicity and productivity, along with pages of highly-actionable information. It’s not just about thinking, it’s about doing. Highly recommended, especially for the times we’re in today. Get it, read it, act on it!

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12 responses

12 responses to “ZenHabits’ Leo Babauta Talks About The Power Of Less”

  1. […] an interview with me by Jonathan Fields of Awake at the […]

  2. Dave Navarro says:

    Now that’s a good grillin’.

    Stumbled 🙂

  3. Nice job to both of you (the interview and of course the book). It has been appropriately Stumbled.

  4. Focus makes a big difference to success. And “less” is ultimately about focus.

  5. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Dave – It’s always fun talking to Leo, the guy never runs out of good insights!

    @ Chris – Thanks, glad you enjoyed (and thanks for the stumble love)

    @ Anita – Great point about the relationship between “less” and focus. It really is about eliminating distractions. Simplicity can be applied to so many areas of work and play.

  6. WOW!

    I AM your target audience, I am so about Less is more these days and working on incorporating this very idea into all areas of my life!!

    Stumbled too-

    Love and Light (and Less)


  7. This is a great interview with two guys who are way up there on my list. Hey Jonathan, now maybe you could get Leo to interview you about Career Renegade.

  8. Justin says:

    Sounds like a great book. Living a simple, focused life is more rewarding than if you live frantically. This seems like a good read, and I’ll probably buy it at some point.

  9. […] an interview with me by Jonathan Fields of Awake at the […]

  10. Jen says:

    Great article. Sometimes the hardest thing is following your own advice.

  11. […] an interview with me by Jonathan Fields of Awake at the […]