Interview with Leo Babauta On Focus

by Tess

Today I'm talking to Leo Babauta about his new book, Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction.  Leo is offering a free version and a premium version of the book. The free version is loaded with tips and information you can put into practice immediately. With the premium version you receive the free ebook,  how-to videos, audio interviews with experts and several bonus chapters.

In Leo's own words,"It's about finding simplicity in this Age of Distraction. It’s about finding the focus you need to create, to work on what’s important, to reflect, to find peace. Check out both the free version and premium version here.

The Bold Life:
Can you explain the process you used to write Focus and would you recommend it to others?

Leo: I wrote the book publicly by posting the drafts of chapters online and asking for feedback from readers. It was great — I would definitely recommend it. It allowed me to get instant feedback, to improve the book, and to stay motivated as I wrote. That solved the main problems that writers have as they tackle the writing of a book.

The Bold Life:
 What is your best advice for a multitasker?

Leo: Give single-tasking a chance with a simple test: pick one important task, clear away distractions, and focus on that one task for 10 minutes without switching to another. See if it's effective. Test it several times. If the results are good, try to incorporate these small single-tasking bursts into your day.
 
The Bold Life:
That do you believe are the disadvantages of technology?

Leo: We have the tendency to let a good thing — this amazing tool that has revolutionized our lives — grow beyond usefulness into something that takes over our lives. Email is great, but it doesn't need to be something we do all day long. Same thing with Twitter, cell phone calls, text messaging, Facebook, blog reading, and so on.

We need to be more conscious about how we use technology, how big a part it plays in our lives. Otherwise, it can take us away from living in the present, from the real experiences and conversations that enrich our lives, and that's the tragedy.
 
The Bold Life:
 Do you ever have a totally electronic free day?

Leo: Sure! They're amazing. I should probably do them more regularly, though.

The Bold Life:
How do you think technology and the desire to be plugged in 24/7 affects families, friends and community?

Leo: Technology can be a great thing for families, community — it can connect us, keep us in touch, help us collaborate and share. But if we're always connected to technology, we miss out on the other things out there — getting out into nature, being active, having face-to-face conversations, getting neighbors together in one place and the transformation that comes with that.

The Bold Life: 
Do you have rules for your children about how much time they can spend online?

Leo: No. I'd like for my kids to learn how to manage their online time. When we dictate rules, they don't learn to figure out these problems for themselves. Instead, I try to talk to them, show them alternatives, set an example.
 
The Bold Life:
W
hat are you reading right now?

Leo: The best-selling memoir, "Reading Lolita in Tehran". It's a fascinating look at the lives of women in Iran, at the power that literature can have on our lives, and at the role that culture and freedoms can play in shaping our lives, no matter what society we're in.

The Bold Life:
You’ve decided not to have an affiliate program for Focus, can you explain your reasons for that choice?

Leo:
It's an experiment. I'd like to see people recommend the book to others based simply on liking the book, not on trying to get money from it. I'm grateful for affiliates of my past books, but I thought I'd see how this changes things.

The Bold Life:
 If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Leo: Every writer I've read has been a mentor to me: FL. Scott Fitzgerald, Plato, William Gibson, Jonathan Lethem, Stephen Covey, Thich Nhat Hanh, J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly, Steinbeck and Joyce and Shakespeare and Cervantes and Nabokov and Vonnegut and many more. Every book is a lesson in writing, a journey that teaches and humbles, and I'm grateful for each of them.

 The Bold Life
What’s next after Focus or one goal for 2011?

Leo: I've given up goals, so I don't have anything I'm shooting for in 2011. I am just focusing on what I'm passionate about right now, and I'll see where that leads me. I'm guessing in 2011 I'll star in the movie Hollywood plans to make about my life, but I could be very wrong.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Schryer November 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm

This is really cool. Thank you for interviewing Leo, Tess. And Leo, thank you for being interviewed!

I really enjoy the idea of focus…I especially like the idea of focusing on one thing at a time, and to actually pay attention to the thing we are focusing on. I think that too many times in our lives, we try to do several things at once, and we lose sight of the fact that we aren’t doing any of them very well. I think that the ability to slow down, and really pour our energy and attention into *one* thing at a time is underrated in our society. We should do it more often.

Especially in relationships. Not just romantic ones, but in ALL of our relationships, we should take time to really focus on the other person, to really listen to them, to give them our full attention. Most of the world is starving for that kind of attention, and they don’t even realize it until someone gives it to them, and they think: “Oh yeah. *that* is what I’ve been missing!” What a beautiful gift to give to those we love.
.-= Jay Schryer´s last post…Easy Like Sunday Morning =-.

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Mark Brown November 3, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I struggled with goals for many years. Establishing goals goes against my grain. I live a goal free life, yet I continue to grow and achieve.

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Suzie Cheel November 3, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Hi Tess,
Brilliant interview- I do need to take Leo’s advice on multitasking. I love Leo and Zen habits. I like that he follows his heart- what he is passionate about. I admire the discipline that he has displayed in achieving the simple, now very successful and what seems very fullfilled life he now lives

hugs
Suzie
.-= Suzie Cheel´s last post…Monday Inspiration- Be The Change =-.

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Evita November 3, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Hi Tess, and Leo,

What a great pair to see the two of you talking together today and about such a very valuable topic.

Leo, you have definitely added to my feelings about multi-tasking and how much better off we are single-tasking. I can multi-task but as I get busier and busier, something amazing happened… it felt overwhelming, confining and suffocating, always having this and that and that and that, to do or think about. So now, I apply the focused approach more and more. I am not 100% there yet by a long shot, but it feels so good to be moving in that direction.

And so I totally agree about your thoughts on all the social media and technology. I just have had 2 days free of Twitter and what a difference that has made!

And I love, love, love my technology free days! Like you, having them more regularly sounds really, really nice!

Thank you Tess for this wonderful interview!
.-= Evita´s last post…Evolving Being in Action- Sandra Lee =-.

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jonathan figaro November 3, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Focusing on one task is the best way to reach our goals. I can definitely feel the reality in your words Leo. Great post Tess. Just take life one at a time ad success will come to you.

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Katie November 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Just digging into my premium version of Focus right now. I’m already loving the extras – like the habit changer. It’s just what I need right now. Thanks for a great review Tess. Oh and Leo, can I direct the movie – insist on it when the producers come calling and we’ll have a blast.
.-= Katie´s last post…How to Gather Honey From a Beehive of Knowledge =-.

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Angela Artemis November 3, 2010 at 7:34 pm

HI Tess,
What a wonderful interview. Leo is always fascinating, I loved hearing about his ideas as to why he’s not using affiliates to sell his book. I’m sure it’ll be very successful.
.-= Angela Artemis´s last post…7 Simple Steps to Mastering Your Mind =-.

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Lance November 3, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Leo,
I personally love the idea of letting your book speak for itself in regards to not having an affiliate program. Will sales be lower? Will fewer people read it? Perhaps so, perhaps not. You know what, though – those that read it and share it – they are the people who are likely those who deeply connect with it. And there’s something very good about that…
.-= Lance´s last post…give =-.

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Betsy November 3, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I always enjoy anything Leo has to say! It’s always positive!

By the way, I did join the AList Blogger’s Club through your website!!

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HappinessandWisdom November 4, 2010 at 5:56 am

Thank you very much for this post. I really needed the reminder to focus at this point in my day and my life! Also took to heart the advice about not letting technology take over (he says, on his compute, reading blogs!!) — time to shut down a little more and FOCUS! One helpful hint for others — I’ve found that, much like his 10 minute rule for focus, my 20 minute rule for everything I am trying to delay/avoid seems to help. Whenever I find myself not wanting to do something, I simply tell myself “just 20 minutes” and I get started. Invariably, I work through to completion of the task, but the simple act of assigning a short time to it, seems to work. This is especially good for exercise!
Thanks again!
.-= HappinessandWisdom´s last post…Exercise- Endorphins and Happiness =-.

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Bryce Christiansen November 4, 2010 at 8:36 am

Excellent interview.

I’m glad Leo brought up the point about single tasking for multi-taskers. Sometimes it is impossible to avoid multi-tasking, but if you don’t stay organized and focused it can become more of a hindrance to progress than a help.

That’s where a balanced approach works well. Single task on the top priorities in the minds of those you report to. Working on a project, answering an email, starting a new task, are pretty typical work days for many people. It’s easy to get distracted.

Looking forward to the book.

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Andrzej November 4, 2010 at 11:49 am

A century ago peoples live was much simpler. Usually if you were born in working class you became a worker, and if you were born in rich family – you stayed rich. Now we have the age of Internet and so many great possibilities, that nobody really prepared us for, that we stay like a kid in front of candy shop trying to choose from dozens of sweets.

And without knowing what we want, we may spend our whole life trying to make that single most important decision. What flavor do we want in our life?

Let’s hurry up. The candy shop may close anytime ;)
.-= Andrzej´s last post…Opus- Secret and Compass =-.

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Jannie Funster November 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I love how he says he has no real goals, just passion. I feel a bit like that, well actually I do have a couple goals for 2011 — song writing contests and such, but after those and after my next cd. Oh and after, joining the Taxi song placing people — I shall drift goal-less but extremely passion-full and just see where love and life take me.

Wonderful interview, Tess!

xoxo
.-= Jannie Funster´s last post…My Only Regret With The Sidebar Buttons Is… =-.

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Clearly Composed November 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Great interview, Tess. Thank you for asking the stuff we all want to know about and inviting his helpful answers. I love how simple he makes it all without making simple seem complicated, if that makes any sense. *lol* He not only “gets” it, he lives it and it shows in every word. Good stuff. :)
.-= Clearly Composed´s last post… Balance In Me Retreat- Active Lifestyle =-.

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Marko -- Calm Growth November 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Leo Babauta is an amazing man, I learned a lot from him, especially on a minimalist lifestyle. Brilliant title of the book, I must say, simple and efficient… I like the idea of not having an affiliate program… it’s what I call the minimalist business! :)

It’s great that you brought out this interview Tess… This in a certain way shows how much your blog has grown over the last few months… and I’m happy to see that!

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Aileen November 5, 2010 at 1:02 am

Great Interview Tess! Leo’s such a neat person – I love that he offers two versions of his book. It’s truly refreshing when someone isn’t all about the money and they’re willing to take risks and experiment with results. I know Focus will we wonderfully successful, Leo is brilliant.
.-= Aileen´s last post…10 Kaizen Tips For A Frugal Holiday Season =-.

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Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord November 5, 2010 at 3:57 am

Leo & Tess, I’m putting that “single task focus” to the test right now. Thank you! My list of to-do’s was getting overwhelming, but I can do one at a time. Needed to read your words of encouragement to remind myself of that.

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Keith November 5, 2010 at 7:39 am

Hello Leo & Tess,

Tess, you just know I love this interview and book about FOCUS! :-) Thank you for conducting a great interview and letting me learn about Leo.

Leo, I love your outlook and am loving what I’m hearing about this book. Definitely gonna have to check this out. Thanks!

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Christopher Foster November 5, 2010 at 11:15 am

It was fun and also very helpful and creative to read this interview and share Leo’s approach re his new book and the other issues you covered. Thanks so much Tess. You’re a good interviewer.
.-= Christopher Foster´s last post…6 steps to contentment — your “natural wealth” =-.

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Andrea DeBell - britetalk November 5, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Hi Tess! It’s a pleasure to hear from Leo. He is always inspiring and cutting-edge. I like the process he used to write his new book. Very intriguing. I agree that we should unplug once in a while. I try to have an unplugged day once a week, usually Sunday. It’s great to shake things up.
You presented some very good questions. Thanks for this great interview. Loving blessings!
.-= Andrea DeBell – britetalk´s last post…Great Masters Right Under Your Nose =-.

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Zengirl @ Heart and Mind November 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Tess,

I love Leo’s work and message and I think focus is another addition is creative genius. I am so amazed and how humble he is even after achieving so much.

Thanks for sharing a great interview! Loved it.

Preeti
.-= Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last post…How To Be Happy – Quotes By Wise People =-.

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Little Lessons Under the Big Sky November 9, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Hi Tess,
I enjoyed reading this. Some things definitely caught my attention from Leo, especially:
1. He doesn’t set limits for his kids on technology…but instead gives alternatives, and sets a good example, and teaches them to manage time. Much harder, probably, than just setting limits for a parent, but much smarter!
2. No goal setting, but focusing on what seems appropriate. Once again…I like it!
3. Single tasking. I do that too..but for bigger goals use what I call my “hour of power.” It has been some of my most productive time when I set my mind to ONE thing.

Thanks for the very informative interview and tips that are so valuable!
Jen
.-= Little Lessons Under the Big Sky´s last post…PAUSING FOR POETRY AND PICTURES =-.

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