Productivity is an essential skill for getting this done in your life and career, but it’s also important because it can gives you a sense of accomplishment and enhances your sense of well-being. When you don’t get all your tasks done, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and disappointed in yourself, which doesn’t help you push through to finish those tasks, let alone feel like you’re thriving.
You should be happy. You need to be productive. Reaching a state of zen can help you accomplish both—or so goes the theory behind the “Zen to Done” method, which aims to help you get more good and feel good about it.
What is Zen to Done?
Zen to Done is a productivity system conceptualized by Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta. It’s structured around building simple habits that enable you to get your work done and feel good at the same time. Unlike other productivity methods, like the once ubiquitous “Getting Things Done” system, it doesn’t expect you to build all your new habits at once and jump immediately into a whole new lifestyle. Rather, it’s focused on building them incrementally and, well, more peacefully.
The habit changes come in a series, but one at a time, allowing you to focus on the actual work you need to get done. In the original version of ZTD, there are 10 habits, but you should only try to incorporate two to three of them at one time before moving on to others.
- Collect by always taking notes about what you need to do, ideas you have, or changes to a task or project.
- Process by making quick decisions on tasks that are in front of you right now, like emails that could soon pile up.
- Plan by setting goals for your week every Monday, and tackling larger tasks earlier in the week.
- Do by selecting a task and focusing on it without thinking about or doing anything else.
- Create a simple trusted system that works for you, like doing certain tasks at the same time every day or tapping into an email system like the 4Ds with consistenc.
- Organize by giving everything a place—and putting it there every time. This goes for emails, tools on your desk, and anything else that’s cluttering your mind or space.
- Review your weekly goals at the end of the week, but also keep tabs on your longer-term quarterly or annual goals to keep them fresh in your mind and see how your daily work plays into them.
- Simplify by using your review time to slash your goals and tasks into only what’s most essential at any given time.
- Make a routine that works for you, whether it’s a calmer morning routine, or more structured evenings—and absolutely stick to it.
- Find your passion and make sure it’s guiding your work. This is where ZTD differs from other productivity methods: You should always strive to keep the things you care about at the center of what you’re doing, as a reminder of why you’re working so hard or a check on whether a project is really worth it all.
Get started with “Minimalist ZTD”
All of that sounds like a lot—and it is, even though you’re only supposed to start rolling in the habits one at a time. So pull back a bit: Babauta considers the first four (collect, process, plan, and do) the core of a “Minimalist ZTD” program, and advises picking one of them and focusing on it for 30 days. After a month, you’ll be in the habit of using that approach to your work and can move on to one of the other three. And once the four big are securely ingrained in your habits, you can move on to the full list.