Advertising
Advertising

Review: Leo Babauta’s Ebook "Zen to Done"

Review: Leo Babauta’s Ebook "Zen to Done"
Floating Leaf

    David Allen’s book Getting Things Done has become a classic of personal productivity, but not everyone finds his simple “what’s the next action” philosophy fully compatible with their lives. Allen himself admits that the book is directed specifically at business executives and may not fit everyone’s needs perfectly, and sites like lifehack.org, 43 Folders, and others in the personal productivity blogosphere, have dedicated a lot of time and pixels to working out some of the tweaks and workarounds needed to make Allen’s GTD system apply to their readers’ lives.

    Advertising

    ZTD cover

      Leo Babauta has spent the last year publicly fine-tuning his take on GTD, as a contributor here at lifehack.org and at the excellent Zen Habits. Now, he’s taken all he’s learned and rolled it up into his own system, “Zen to Done”, available as an ebook for $9.50 through his site. Zen to Done combines the task management aspects GTD with the goal-setting and prioritization methods advocated by Stephen Covey, along with Leo’s own “special sauce”.

      It sounds complicated, but it’s really not at all; in fact, if anything, Babauta has managed to simplify GTD even more, reducing it to 10 very doable habits — and even offering a 4-point “Simple ZTD” system that’s even easier! The idea is to develop not only the ideas we need to be more productive but to invest ourselves in transforming these ideas into habits, things that are just a natural part of our everyday routines. If you learn one habit a month, says Babauta, by the end of a year you’ll be amazingly more productive — not a bad deal for a year’s commitment.

      Advertising

      ZTD consists, as I said, of 10 habits:

      Advertising

      • Collect: Set up a limited number of inboxes — a tray on your desk, your email — and collect everything in those few places. Use a Moleskine, stack of index cards, or other easy-to-use (for you) device to capture and record thoughts, todo-list items, phone numbers, and other things you want to remember throughout the day.
      • Process: Go through your inboxes and decide what to do with each item — throw it out, get someone else to do it, do it yourself, do it later, or keep it as reference. Do this until your inbox is empty. Tomorrow, do it again. GTD’ers will recognize this as the essential core of the GTD system.
      • Plan: Spend some time at the beginning of each week deciding what your “Big Rocks” are for the coming week, the major projects you want to work on. Each morning (or the night before) list the three most important tasks (MITs) you want to accomplish that day. Put them at the top of your todo list, and do them.
      • Do: This is the core of ZTD — filling in what Babauta sees as a weak spot in Allen’s GTD system. Choose an MIT, give yourself large blocks of time without distractions (email, phone, any program you don’t need for the task at hand), and plug away until a) time’s up, or b) you’re done.
      • Simple, trusted system: Babauta’s advice for setting up a system you can live with — without fiddling and adding layers of complexity. Babauta uses a few web apps, a Moleskine, a calendar, and a set of files, but says whatever works without getting in your way is fine.
      • Organize: Keep everything in a place that’s logical and reduces the energy you need to a) find and use it, and b) put it back.
      • Review: The downfall of many a GTD’er, ZTD’s review simplifies the weekly review while extending it to include goal-setting: one long-term and one short-term at a time. This is an interesting thread through the whole system — instead of 10 5-year goals, Babauta advocates sticking to one big goal for the year, and working it until it’s done before moving onto another goal. This helps keep your head straight and your motivation high, with a string of successes to look back on instead of a bunch of successes in the future to look forward to.
      • Simplify: The notion of limiting the number of big goals you have at any given time fits in well with Babauta’s constant refrain of “simplify” — eliminate unnecessary tasks from your lists, minimize your commitments, reduce the number of things (goals, RSS feeds, emails, whatever) that demand your attention at any given moment.
      • Routine: This habit and the next are “optional”, according to Babauta — they’re more like principles than habits. And yet, they seem like the real core of the system. Set up daily and weekly routines, so that collecting, processing, planning, and doing become second-nature and everything just flows. Minimize unnecessary surprises so you can focus on getting everything done with a clear mind and an easy heart. That’s Zen!
      • Find Your Passion: Find something you’re passionate about doing — your calling, if you will — and forget the rest. Who needs to push themselves to do the things they love most in the world to do? Although Babauta comes across as slightly naive in pushing his readers to pursue a career doing what they love (“if you really put in the work, you’ll achieve your dreams someday” sounds suspiciously light next to the hard-headed practical advice we find throughout the rest of the book), this passion is the gist of all this personal productivity stuff — get the stuff you have to do out of the way so you can focus on what you want to do.

      There’s much more to ZTD than what I’ve listed above — it really is a phenomenal thing that Babauta has produced. The book is well-designed (though there are a few annoying typos and grammatical errors here and there) and very well-written; Babauta’s advice comes across more as a friend or trusted mentor telling you his secrets than as a “productivity expert” spelling out The Rules.

      Advertising

      My only real complaint is that there’s no way to order the book in hard copy — it’s the kind of work you’re going to want to return to again and again, and a nice copy that could sit on your shelf next to David Allen and Steven Covey would be nice, even at slightly more cost. With easy print-on-demand services readily available, I hope Babauta will take the next step and offer this as a physical book soon. Oh, and Leo, did I mention a physical book is far more “giftable”?

      Highly recommended.

      Buy Now

        Disclaimer: Leo Babauta wrote for lifehack.org until June of 2007. However, I do not know Leo, nor have I had any contact with him. I started writing for lifehack.org in July of 2007.

        More by this author

        How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain)

        Trending in Featured

        1 35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated) 2 The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life 3 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time 4 How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 5 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on August 6, 2020

        35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

        35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

        Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

        There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

        Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

        It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 35 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

        For Getting Things Done

        1. OmniFocus

        This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

        Download it here.

          2. Forest

          Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

          Download it here.

            3. Things

            Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

            Download it here.

               

               

              4. Any.Do

              A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

              Download it here.

                5. PocketLife Calendar

                This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

                Download it here.

                  6. Asana

                  We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                  , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                  Download it here.

                  Advertising

                    7. ToDoist

                    This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                    Download it here.

                       

                       

                      8. Calendars 5

                      This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track, and complete your to-dos.

                      Download it here.

                        9. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                        A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                        Download it here.

                          10. Due

                          A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                          Download it here.

                            11. Checkmark 2

                            I use this app

                            for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                            Download it here.

                              12. TeuxDeux

                              Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — TeuxDeux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then TeuxDeux will be right up your alley.

                              Download it here.

                                 

                                 

                                Advertising

                                13. Nirvana

                                For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                                Download it here.

                                  14. Priorities

                                  An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                  Download it here.

                                    For Building Habits

                                    15. Productive

                                    With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day, and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                    Download it here.

                                      16. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                      You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                      Download it here.

                                        17. Streaks

                                        This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                        Download it here.

                                          18. Remember The Milk

                                          Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                          Download it here.

                                            19. Day One Journal

                                            When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                            Download it here.

                                              For Files Organization

                                              20. Evernote

                                              Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote is an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                              Download it here.

                                              Advertising

                                                21. Pocket

                                                You can save an article, video, or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  22. Sync.Me

                                                  This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    23. Droplr

                                                    One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                    Download it here.

                                                      24. Dropbox

                                                      Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive on your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                      Download it here.

                                                         

                                                        For Working Smarter

                                                        25. Captio

                                                        A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          26. Drafts

                                                          A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things, and more.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            27. NoteShelf 2

                                                            This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                            Download it here.

                                                              28. Doodle

                                                              This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

                                                              Advertising

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                29. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                                I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  30. Launch Center Pro

                                                                  A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    31. GoodReader

                                                                    This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      32. LogMeIn

                                                                      Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        For Improving Security

                                                                        33. 1Password

                                                                        There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          34. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                          You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                          All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass auto-fills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            35. Truecaller

                                                                            Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers, and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                            Download it here.

                                                                              There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                              Featured photo credit: William Hook via unsplash.com

                                                                              Reference

                                                                              Read Next