Book review: The Power of Less

Editor’s note: Although this post was originally published in 2009, we felt that information in The Power of Less is still relevant today.

Leo Babauta, who writes the inspiring blog ZenHabits, took his productivity and efficiency advice to the printed page in his book The Power of Less. Published in 2009, it is a 170-page guide to shedding the non-essential elements from your life and work so that you can do and achieve more.

His advice is based on six principles, two of which are initially discussed on pages 5 and 6 of his book:

Principle 1: By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.

Principle 2: By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.

He uses the analogy of the haiku to illustrate these principles:

The haiku, as you may know, is usually a nature-related poem of just seventeen syllables, written in three lines (five syllables, then seven, then five). A poet writing a haiku must work with those limitations, must express an entire idea or image in only that number of syllables … He can quickly whip out seventeen syllables and have a completed haiku in a short amount of time; or he can carefully choose only the essential words and images needed to convey his idea. And this second choice is what creates some of the most powerful poetry in such a limited form — choosing only the essential.

He has four other principles, but these first two are really the heart of his system. In my opinion, he accurately explains that if you are going to be productive and efficient in all that you do, you have to make choices. You cannot do everything that comes your way, and you have to make difficult decisions about what filters into your life and what doesn’t.

On page 23 he aptly summarizes why you would want to adopt his system:

Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty — it’s meant to leave space in your life for what you really want to do.

I completely agree with his message, and I think it will resonate well with most Unclutterer readers. If you are looking for sound advice on how to improve your productivity, The Power of Less will help you to be more efficient in all your dealings.

You can also check out Leo’s guest post on Unclutterer “Creating a minimalist workspace.”


16 Comments for “Book review: The Power of Less”

  1. posted by Exclusive Audio: Leo Interviews Merlin Mann! | Zen Habits on

    […] Erin Doland of Unclutterer reviews The Power of Less […]

  2. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    If you haven’t read Leo’s stuff before – I highly recommend it. While I haven’t read his new book yet, I read his site (Zen Habits) regularly and it’s fantastic!

  3. posted by Jesse on

    Also Highly recommend anything by Leo. Haven’t received my copy just yet, but I’ve devoured the archives of Zen Habits and have read the ebook companion to The Power of Less…

    Make the time to read it!

    @slowingdown (Twitter ID)

  4. posted by Catherine on

    I’m sure it’s an excellent book, but I always have to chuckle when you all post a book review, because I’ve pretty much eliminated all the clutter in my life EXCEPT books. Buying another one is never a good idea, heh. I’ll see if they have it in electronic form!

  5. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Catherine — I don’t think books are clutter if you read them. Books are clutter when they take up permanent residence in your home and are never touched. If you’ve read something and never plan to reference it again, then donate/sell/give it away/recycle the book. However, if you read it and find utility in keeping it (cookbooks, guides, favorites, etc.), then the book isn’t clutter. Clutter is an object that has no use in your home, office, or your life.

  6. posted by larochelle on

    I just received my copy of this book, I’m really looking forward to diving into it. I’ve been a fan of his blog since early last year.

  7. posted by The Power of Less « Musings on Photography on

    […] done it. One blog I’ve been reading for a while is unclutterer, where just recently I read this post reviewing the book The Power of Less. That review contained the follow excerpt from the […]

  8. posted by Leo on

    Thanks for the review, Erin, and the nice comments everyone! If anyone has questions about the book, I’ll be checking in periodically and I’d be happy to answer them.

  9. posted by Todays meandering passages — Meandering Passage on

    […] limits often maximize results? You can read more on the subject here and here. However, in general I tend to think they […]

  10. posted by Jean on

    Books are clutter if they are collected to impress or to make a statement–to another person, at a photo shoot, on a coffee table. Books as tools, for information, for enyoyment, for relaxation, for personal memory are absolutely essential in life.

  11. posted by chaotic kitten on

    Thanks so much for this review, it definitely looks like something that would be helpful to me. Just need to not let it add to my clutter!!

  12. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    Thanks for the review Erin – the book is going on my Wish List.

  13. posted by Exclusive Audio: Leo Interviews Merlin Mann! | on

    […] Erin Doland of Unclutterer reviews The Power of Less […]

  14. posted by Book Review: Doing More with Less - Leo Babauta : Maria Reyes-McDavis on

    […] Unclutterer Power of Less Book Review […]

  15. posted by Tao of Marketing - Doing More with Less on

    […] Unclutterer Power of Less Book Review […]

  16. posted by Jeff Tong on

    Thanks for the great review! I was recommended this book today via facebook chat, haha. I totally agree that multi-tasking is the death of productivity. Thanks you again for the review!

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