Personal Productivity Gone Simple

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I am someone who is always searching for new and improved ways to make myself more productive.  Because of this, I am constantly devouring books on the subject and was recently sent a copy of the e-book Zen to Done by Leo Babauta (founder of the Zen Habits blog).

I applaud Leo for a wonderful effort and give a heartfelt recommendation to all WTC readers to pick up a copy of ZTD.  For those of you who do not currently implement any kind of “productivity system”, ZTD is a wonderful place to begin because of its simplicity. 

First, Why a Productivity System Can Benefit You!

Before I get to the benefits of ZTD, I would like to take a quick moment and explain why I recommend finding and using a productivity system:

• They provide structure: Instead of going through your day reacting to things that happen to you, they help you become more proactive

• Help you prioritize: They force you to organize your actions; the best systems push you to have long-term objectives in mind as you go through your day

• They free up time: Integrating productivity into your personal and professional life actually frees up time for you to do more of the things you LOVE doing

• They promotes healthy routines:  GTD (“getting things done”) systems usually suggest creating beneficial routines that generate greater effectiveness

• Foster good habits:  Once you get past the initial hurdles of integrating productivity, you start to get in the habit of being productive…and this is a GREAT thing.

ZTD Review

The number one thing I loved about ZTD is the simplicity of the suggestions.  For example, the first habit Leo recommends mastering is “ubiquitous capture” which addresses the manner in which we collect the constant flow of information coming into our lives.

Leo explains how using a small note pad and pen can be the most effective tool for ubiquitous capture.  I agree with this 100% and have been carrying around a small pad and a pen wherever I go for several months, a practice which has helped me become much more productive (I never “forget” the great ideas that pop into my head at random

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moments).  And you don’t need a fancy PDA, i-phone or laptop…just a pen and paper.

One Task at a Time

Next, ZTD really drives home the fact that the most productive people focus 100% of their attention on the task they are working: “single tasking and focus are the keys to execution”.  How many of you check your email every 5 minutes, or let yourself get interrupted with phone calls and people walking in on you?  ZTD gives some very nice suggestions for how to truly focus on one thing at a time!

Setting Personal Meetings

Leo does a wonderful job describing the importance of creating short-term and long-term goals, and makes great suggestions about how to conduct weekly, monthly and annual meetings with yourself.  I have been doing this for about a year, and I can not tell you how much more productive these activities have made me.  By setting regular meetings with yourself, you are able to create short-term tasks that are in sync with your most critical long-term objectives.

Daily Planning System

ZTD’s daily planning system is SUPER simplified, and he suggests learning how to take your long “to-do” lists and turn them into short “MIT” (most important task) lists.  Leo recommends creating 3 MIT’s each day and then “batching” all of the less important tasks together.  I really like this idea and have been experimenting with it since I read ZTD and it is working extremely well.

PASSION

Perhaps the thing I loved MOST about ZTD was the 10th and last habit that Leo mentions—finding (and working) in a career that you are passionate about!  To me, this is the most critical step in becoming more productive; when you love what you do, you tend to get everything done.  I applaud Leo for putting this in ZTD, as this is something almost all other productivity guides neglect to mention!

A Few Areas ZTD Could Have Been Even Better

Pump Yourself Up Before Each Project

One thing I think ZTD missed out on is this:  mental preparation before each task.  For me, I know I am at my most productive when I mentally get myself prepared before I work on a project.  This might mean spending 5 minutes meditating or visualizing before I begin, and really helps me focus singularly on the task at hand.

Structuring Your Days

Leo spends a lot of time comparing ZTD to David Allen’s productivity bible GTD, and for the most part I like Leo’s approach better because it is more realistic and easy to implement.  The one area where I favor GTD is when it comes to the recommendations of how to structure your day.  ZTD suggests a more regimented practice where GTD promotes more of an organic and “in the moment” experience.

FOR ME, I know I am at my most effective when I do not force myself to work on a project that does not feel right at that moment.  I create 3 MIT’s for the day, and then I work on the tasks where my energy naturally flows, as opposed to sticking to a pre-determined schedule.  But that’s just me :)

Thumbs Up!

In all, ZTD is a wonderful guide to becoming more productive.  I learned a lot from it, and I highly recommend you giving it a read-through.   

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2 Responses to “Personal Productivity Gone Simple”

  1. Brad Baggett says:

    Todd, you have done it again. You keep pounding out outstanding articles. I have really enjoyed your blog since discovering it a while back. I really agree with what both you and Leo Babauta have to say about becoming more productive. I believe that we all must vary our personal systems to fit just right, but it sure helps to get a kick-start from this information. Thanks, for the great information.

    http://www.JuiceofChampions.com

    http://juiceofchampions.com/home/three-ways-to-make-yourself-more-productive

  2. Todd says:

    Thanks for the great comment Brad, and am glad you are getting some good use out of the articles on WTC! Todd

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