The other day I read (for the second time) Zen to Done by Leo Babauta . It’s a super quick read and I love the simplicity of it.
I’ve read Getting Things Done and a variety of other organizational books but I often felt like there was too much to implement and I, ironically, never really got to far in the process.
I thrive when I get *really* clear on what’s essential and do that. I ask myself a lot: What is most important? And, then I give all of my time, energy, and attention to the answer to that question. Which means saying “no” to a lot in order to honor my values for this phase of my life.
This can be challenging sometimes because I have so many creative dreams and ideas. Creativity is one of my top strengths, therefore, it’s crucial to exercise discipline and focus to make sure I get my projects across the finish line. This helps me zone in on what I want to do most and be more efficient and productive.
Below is a snapshot of Leo’s 10 Habits for implementing his Zen To Done (ZTD) system. I am sharing these in hopes they might help you and also as a reference and reminder of what I am committed to. 🙂
1. Collect — Get everything out of your head and onto a paper or an app so don’t forget things and also, so your to-dos aren’t just swirling around taking up energy that could be directed somewhere else. I use OmniFocus (1st version) and a notebook for this. This habit has been HUGE in helping me become more organized. Life changing huge!
2. Process — This means taking the time to process your list of things to do. Make quick decisions on what needs to be. Delete, delegate, do it immediately, defer for later, file it and repeat this process until your inboxes are empty. Soon as something comes into your mind, mailbox, phone, inbox, etc. decide what you need to do to be complete with it. Don’t just let it sit there (I’m telling myself this:)!
3. Plan — What are you going to do today? He recommends having 1-3 MIT’s (most important tasks) or Big Rocks. What will you feel happy you accomplished? Plan your day around these goals/tasks. Ideally do these in the morning with a block of time. I’ve found with my mothering schedule I have less big chunks of uninterpreted time but I can easily create little pockets of time. It’s amazing what you can get done in 5-15 minute time slots.
4. Do — “The habit of “do” is the key to the ZTD system. It’s the habit that’s missing from many other productivity systems, and yet it’s the most important. All the rest is just busy work if you don’t actually do the things on your to-do list.” The key is to create the time, limit all distractions, completely focus, and then…get excited, commit and GET IT DONE! Finish is my mantra! 🙂
5. Simple trusted system — Create a system so that you can have everything you need/want to get done in one place. Then, when you have the time and space to get things done you will be ready and you won’t waste time preparing. You can just get to work and master the habit of “Do”.
The basic idea is to categorize the things that need to get done in your system like: work, personal, errands, calls waiting for someday/maybe lists, etc. So, for example, when you have 15 minutes you can go to your phone category and complete a bunch of phone calls, or maybe batch a bunch of errands/emails, etc.
Like I said above, my meta system is OmniFocus for this. I’ve used it for the last 3.5 years and I love it. David Allen’s GTD system inspired me to get more organized on this and it made life so much easier! I not a tech queen and only use a handful of apps so there might be a bunch of newer apps you can use now. You don’t need anything fancy, in fact a notebook can easily get the job done. I also use a journal where I can jot things down because sometimes I like to turn my phone off.
6. Organize — “One of the oldest organizing truisms around, but perhaps the most important of all: a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
Do you know, at this moment, where everything single thing in your life is? HA! Nope! Where do the papers go? Bills? The toys? The keys? Clothes? Once we have found a home for everything then, accordingly to Leo we want to…put it away immediately, make it a habit, pay attention to transitions, keep flat surfaces clear, label, evaluate. Yep, I would benefit from all of these suggestions.
I especially like the transitions one…”The time between when you’re doing one thing and when you’re doing the next thing is a transition. This is the time when you should put stuff away where it belongs and clean up your mess, but it’s also the time when we’re not thinking about that stuff and only thinking about we’re going to do next.”
If I took a few minutes to put everything in it’s place before moving on to the next thing there would be a sense of accomplishment and flow. The kitchen would be cleaned after a meal, the toys/books picked up from the floor, and my desk clear when I was done. Ah! That sounds like heaven. 🙂 These mini habits probably take 5-10 minutes and could probably revolutionize my life!
I sometimes make excuses having a toddler, because their creativity (well, at least for my son) is to dump a lot of stuff on the floor. Think: 100’s of legos everywhere! The thing is it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we created the habit to put everything back in it’s place before moving onto something else. Reminder: This habit starts with me and he will learn from me. What do I want to model for my child?
7. Review — “Let’s face it: even the best of us loses track of things over time, and loses focus on our goals, and let’s the best-planned system fall apart a little. With a busy workweek, a busy life outside of work, the best systems tend to gravitate towards chaos. That’s where the Weekly Review comes in — it gives you a chance to get things together and refocus yourself on what’s important.”
The gist of this habit: review your single long-term goals and short term goals, review your notes, review your calendar, review your lists, set your short-term goal for the week and plan your Big Rocks (MIT). This can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes.
8. Simplify — “If you’re like me, you have a long list of tasks to do, perhaps broken down by different contexts (work, personal, errands, calls, etc.). Your list of tasks is so long that it’s overwhelming. You can never completely wipe out your list because it’s growing every day. Simplify your list down to the barest of essentials, and you can eliminate the need for complex planning systems.” YES!
What I do most days is get out a piece of paper and write:
1. My 3 biggest Creative Process Goals (same as MIT)
2. Blissiplines (exercise, meditation, nutrition, etc.)
3. 3-5 little tasks I’d like to accomplish for the day
“You don’t need a huge to-do list to be productive — just do the stuff that matters.” This has been vital for me in the last 3 years as I integrate my new role as a creative mother!
9. Routine — “Routines can also greatly simplify your work day and personal life, as your day won’t be overly chaotic and complicated, you can group similar tasks together and batch process them, and you can be sure of doing the things you really need to do. Most importantly, it puts you in control of your day, instead of putting you at the mercy of the ebb and flow of all incoming requests. Without a routine, we have no way of saying “no” to requests as they come in, and we are at the beck and call of every person who wants our time and every website that wants our attention. That’s not a good thing, not if you want to get the important things done.”
I like routine and I also like spontaneity. I’ve found that regular routines help me to happily get the important things done. And, then my mind is less cluttered and more spaciousness which allows me to enjoy the adventure and unstructured time even more. I didn’t used to believe this but experience has shown me differently.;) I have an awesome morning and evening routine but I want to create more routines for meals and cleaning.
10. Find your passion– Some ideas from Leo: Is there something you already love doing? What do you spend hours reading about? Brainstorm. Ask around and surf for possibilities. Give it a try first. Never quit trying.
Other wise words: Don’t quit your job just yet. Do some research. What are your obstacles? Make a plan. Take action. Practice and practice, and practice some more. Be persistent.
*I intend to share a video soon on some misconceptions I believed about following your passion for years that I think limited my results, successes and creativity.
Talk doesn’t cook rice. — Chinese Proverb
Now, the action part! Leo doesn’t recommend doing all these habits at once. Look at where you might need some extra attention and start there. Implementing 1-4 habits at a time until they become routine.
The habits I’m starting with are: Process, Do, Organize, & Review.
Yahooo!! I’ve completed my #1 Creative Process Goal with this blog post. Now, I’m gonna go do a 15 min workout (5o burpees, 50 squats, 50 pushups, 50 lunges and 50 mountain climbers) and then do my #2, which is doing a bunch of online tests for my appointment with Dr. Daniel Amen next week. I am excited to learn how to supercharge my brain even more and hopefully his wisdom will help me with my organizational skills. 😉
P.S. If you want to do a quick Amen Brain Checklist you can find a PDF HERE.