Zen To Done: Your fieldguide for getting a handle on your life

by Greg Go on 31 December 2007 4 comments
Photo: Leo Babauta

I just finished reading Leo Babauta's productivity book Zen To Done. Leo is the man behind Zen Habits, a blog that helps people tackle their todo lists and live stress-free productive lives.

Leo has spent the last year honing his own productivity system. Zen To Done is based on the work of productivity gurus like David Allen (Getting Things Done) and Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) with a sprinkling of Zen Habits magic. Based on what worked for him personally, Leo distilled the best ideas into 10 of the most useful habits.

But ZTD's appeal isn't in the 10 habits (they're not novel ideas). The key is in the approach. If you're a regular reader of Zen Habits, you know about Leo's unwavering focus on practical and useful articles. No fluff please. ZTD was written with the same pragmatic focus.

I really liked this book. It inspired me. I was resigned to not making resolutions any this year. After 30 years of never completing a new year's resolution I didn't want another year of failure. ZTD has inspired me to give it another try and I have resolved to tame my email inbox in '08!

Pre-zen Leo sounds a lot like me:

My desk was cluttered, I kept multiple lists of things that I was always losing or forgetting about, I had a ton of things to do and was overwhelmed by the chaos and complexity of my day. Email inbox was overflowing, and so were my physical inbox and voicemail inbox. I kept forgetting to do things, and in general was disorganized and unproductive.

Post-ZTD Leo sounds like some superhuman I could never even dream of becoming:

I quit smoking, started running, started eating healthier, completed a marathon, doubled my income and got my finances in order, became a vegan, have almost eliminated my debt now, completed a triathlon, lost more than 20 pounds, and started a successful blog, to name a few.

A marathon running, non-smoking, vegan? Me?! My friends just snorted coffee all over their keyboards.

My goals aren't so lofty. All I want is an empty email inbox. Who's with me?

[Editor's note: We are giving away one copy of Zen to Done every day for the next two weeksCheck out our forum for more details.]

Why I think ZTD will help me clear my inbox

1. ZTD contains just the highlights

I don't have time for a complicated system with a 300 page manual. Leo has distilled the best productivity thinking down to 10 habits. (If even that is too many for you, there's a minimalist 4 habit plan.)

There aren't a lot of wasted words in the info packed 83 pages. Because the system is short and simple, you can review and re-review the 10 habits quickly. The simpler the system, the more likely we'll stick to it.

2. ZTD is realistic

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Instead of an extreme makeover of your workflow, ZTD preaches a slow and steady approach. The radical focus on what's doable ("tackle only one habit at a time") is more realistic than trying to overhaul your entire thought process over a single weekend. Leo advocates practicing each habit for a full month before moving on to the next habit!

I read GTD last year. For a couple months I was excited about building my perfect system. The pieces were coming together. (That's read: I played with a lot of tools that would supposedly make me more productive.) I got tired of building the system after a while and reverted back to my disorganized self.

Of course, there is no guarantee the results won't be the same with ZTD, but it seems so easy I would be embarassed to fail! For the month of January, all 31 days, all I have to focus on is "collecting". I think I can do that.

3. ZTD attacks the root problem

A lot of systems have been built to help us manage our time. Problem is, as these systems get more complex, which they tend to do, they become less useful. We waste so much time tinkering with our PDAs and reoranizing our organizational structure we forget the purpose of those tools -- to help us get things done.

ZTD takes a simpler approach. ZTD is an attitude anchored by these 10 habits. It doesn't promise more hours in a day (we're not in fantasy land), but it does offer a way to be more efficient so you can do more. It also says maybe you should take on fewer commitments. Do only what's important to you, skip the BS. That is zen.

In a way, ZTD teaches the fundamentals of managing your work.

4. ZTD is proven

If nothing else, ZTD is one man's notes for how he turned his life around. After reading how close his disorganized life so closely mirrors my life, I was shocked and awed at the results of practicing ZTD.

I'm not smart enough to define the meaning of zen, but if you asked me, this sounds pretty accurate:

Today, my inboxes are all empty. My list of things to do today is a simple list of three very important things. I get them done.

ZTD with Wise Bread

If this appeals to you as much as it does me, pick up a copy of Leo Babauta's Zen To Done.

We are also giving away one copy a day for the next two weeksCheck out our forum for more details!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

And what a fun two week giveaway for our readers! Thanks for breaking it down, Greg.

Kiersten Kotaka's picture

I stumbled upon zenhabits a few days ago. Very inspiring. I want a clean house for the next year. I am going to use his system of cleaning as you go. Sounds great. We'll see how it works for my family. The guy has 6 kids and a clean house. That seems almost impossible to me. If his system works for him... Maybe it can work for us too.  

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

@Kiersten - I'm glad you discovered Zen Habits. Leo is dedicated to putting out useful articles everyday.... and you know what, he's done it for a full year! I'm constantly inspired and find clever new tricks on ZH.

Here's to 2008! *clink*

Guest's picture
JC

I agree. At zenhabits.net, Leo really seems to have distilled the essentials from multiple theories and systems. If he brings the same clarity to this e-book, as he does to his website, I'm sure it will be fantastic. I look forward to reading it.