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Simplicity in the Age of Distraction: An Interview with Leo Babauta

October 22, 2010

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I’m sure I don’t really need to say too much about Leo Babauta.

Over the last few years, he has written several best-selling books on simple living and creativity, including The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life and Zen to Done.  His latest work, Focus – A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction was released this week.

Leo is also the creator and writer of Zen Habits, an über popular blog about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives.  It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing and find happiness.

It also happens to be one of the Top 25 blogs in the world, with about 200,000 readers.

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to interview Leo about life as one of the leaders of the simple living movement and how the ideas in his books can be applied to help people escape the 9 to 5 and strike out on their own creative enterprise.

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Andrew: Can you briefly describe what The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life and Zen Habits are to the Rainy Day Wonder readers?

Leo: They’re guides (one in eBook format, the other a blog) to living a simpler life, to slowing down, to figuring out what’s essential and paring your life down to those essentials. In this world of constant connection and information overload, of clutter and busy-ness, I think we crave simplicity. I simply explore ways to find that simplicity.

Andrew: Imagine I’m a typical reader of Rainy Day Wonder, in what way would embracing minimalism enable me to realise my dream of escaping the 9 to 5 rat race?

Leo: Escaping the 9 to 5 rat race starts with the idea that the rat race isn’t as important as we once believed — that the dream of working long hours to make money to buy huge homes and cars and lots of luxury items … is just not what we want.  That’s what minimalism is: embracing the idea that we don’t need all that stuff, that if we let go of consumerism we can also let go of working long hours and being so incredibly busy that we don’t have time for what’s really important.

Andrew: Exactly how has living a simpler life enabled you to work smarter and reduce the need to work in one place?

Leo: Simplicity is choosing the essential, and paring away the rest. When you do this with work, you work on the important tasks, rather than the busy work, and your need to work decreases. When your needs decrease, you also have more flexibility — and so I’m able to work the hours I want, wherever I want. When something stops me from having that flexibility, I find ways to simplify so I can become more flexible.

Andrew: What would you say to someone who really wanted to strike out on their own but felt unable to ‘take the plunge,’ perhaps because of inertia, financial insecurity or a lack of confidence?

Leo: Start small. You don’t need to take the plunge right away — start by simplifying your life a bit so you can find the free time to create the business you want while still working the 9-5 job. If you have less to do, you can find the time to work early in the morning and in the evenings on the work you really love. This is much less scary than taking the plunge, and eventually you’ll have the confidence to dive into it full time.

Andrew: What is one positive action that our readers can take right now to move towards escaping the 9-5 rat race and realising their creative potential?

Leo: Start by doing. Find something that you love doing, and do it — even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day. By doing, you’ll connect to this life, and you’ll learn how to do it well, and eventually be able to do it full time.

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You can check out Leo’s inspiring eBooks The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life, Zen to Done and Focus – A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction here.

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