This is the second part of my review on the Zen to Done (ZTD) productivity system, where I write about what it means to me and how I think I can make the most out of it. Expect to find a mix of both the original ZTD habits and my experience applying them. You should read part one before proceeding.
This is where the magic happens. After all, all those tasks on your to-do list aren’t going anywhere by themselves.
ZTD gives you some good old advises like eliminating all distractions and interruptions and rewarding yourself. You should check them out at page 37.
Personally, the most difficult stages to me are starting and keeping focused. Sometimes I had short tasks where I was spending more time between deciding I was going to do it and really starting than on the task itself. This is a bad habit that I am still trying to overcome. Realizing the time that I have been spending with this sort of micro procrastination was my first step. Looking at the positive aspects of a task my also help you starting your tasks.
To minimize distractions, I decided to turn off as many notifications systems as possible, like the ones on my Twitter client (a Google Chrome extension). If are working on a team and really have to keep an instant messaging client opened (GTalk, IRC…), avoid sharing them with your personal accounts, as you don’t want to get interrupted by friends and family. I also used to keep my GMail permanently opened as a pinned tab on Chrome, but its flashing started to distract me.
Another important tip is, as a friend told me, keeping the context. If you are working and someone comes to talk with you, write down what the person said and go back to your task as soon as possible. If you notice that the interruption is going to last more than a few minutes, write down instead what exactly you had been doing on your task. Not losing the context can save you some time.
You surely already know that you shouldn’t be looking your Facebook or Twitter account while you work, but you insist on doing it. Those tips are already a commonplace, however, following them are sometimes quite hard and demands some effort. Police yourself and try to track your distractions.
5. Simple, Trusted System
All in all, this habit is about having a very simple to-do list and calendar and making sure that you check it everyday. You may also want to split your list into categories like work, personal and calls to make, so when you want to pick a new task you don’t get overwhelmed by looking at a huge list.
ZTD book makes it clear that its focus is on the doing, and not on the tools, and gives you some nice recommendations on specific tools and softwares.
Personally, I have been using Remember the Milk, Google Calendar and a small notebook that I always carry with me. This is more a matter of personal taste, so make sure that try different systems in order to find the ones the fits you the best.
Getting out a little bit of to-do lists and tasks, this habit is about being organized in your daily life as a whole. You can see it as process that has rules that must be followed in order to work.
One of the biggest signs that you need help is when you notice that all the flat surfaces from your room/office/house are pilled with random papers and objects.
A general thumb rule is “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. Your goal is to be able to tell right now where all your things are and to have a system to deal new objects. Do you have a place for your car keys? For your dirty clothes? For your documents (like passport)? You should.
I don’t have much to tell beside what is written in the ZTD book. Getting organized always seemed very natural to me, but sometimes I keep realizing how awesome it can be. For example when I want to find something that I haven’t used for years, but when I look for it, it is exactly where it should be.
On the next part of this post I will write about the last 4 habits: Review, Simplify, Set Routines and Find Your Passion. You can read it here.