Haiku Productivity: The Power of Limits to Increase Our Focus

By Leo Babauta

A decade ago, I wrote about “Haiku Productivity” and how limits can make us more productive, more focused, and better able to prioritize and simplify.

The idea comes from haiku poetry, in which the poet is limited to three lines and (essentially) 17 syllables. Such a crazy limit, and yet the poetry that can be produced is often very powerful.

The secret: the poet is forced to choose, forced to simplify, forced to find the essence of the message. The constraints are actually a very powerful thing, because constraints force you to be disciplined, to understand that because you have limits, every element in the container must be important, and you can’t just waste words.

Over the years, I would often lose sight of this wisdom, but I keep coming back to it: when a container is unlimited, you’ll just fill it with anything. When you have constraints, you’ll be more careful, be more appreciative of the limited space you have, and explore what’s important to you in more depth.

This applies to every area of life, including:

The list could go on much further, but what I really want to talk about today is the power of limits in increasing our focus on the meaningful work we really want to do – whether that’s creating art, creating a new business, creating happiness in our team or customers, or working on something meaningful in our personal lives.

Limits & Focus: What I’ve Learned

I’m on a trip to Japan and Guam right now, and with all the things going on with family and other things I need to get done, my time to do work has been limited. Maybe an hour a day, maybe a little more but sometimes even less.

This has been fantastic for my focus.

I don’t waste (as much) time on distractions, and when I need to write something, I get down to it without delay. I know my time is limited, and I know how important it is to use that limited time wisely.

This is Haiku Productivity, the power of constraints. We often rebel against constraints, but they work for us.

Limit yourself to one habit change at a time, and you’ll be much more focused on that habit change, much more likely to succeed with it. Limit yourself to one important project at a time, and you’ll be much more focused on that project, doing an amazing job with it. Limit yourself to one task at a time, and you’ll be more focused on it.

One task at a time. A limited time box to do that task. Pure focus, with a mindful appreciation of how precious that limited time really is.

Here’s what you might try:

Pick one task to do in the next hour. Make it a hard deadline by promising it to someone by the end of the hour, and making other appointments after the hour is up so you can’t extend the deadline. Your time is limited, and you need to get it done.

Now see what changes with your focus. See if you waste less time and fill your hour with fewer distractions. See if you appreciate that hour more.

This is the power of constraints, and I’d love for you to apply it to a few areas of your life in the next month.

The Mindful Focus Course

I’d like you to join me in my new Mindful Focus Course – please sign up before the registration deadline tomorrow (April 21, 2018). In this four-week video course, we will look at:

Enrollment for this course is $49 and registration will close tomorrow (April 21).

Sign up today before registration closes on the 21st.