Review: Zen to done; or GTD, the easy way
I will admit that I am possibly the last person in the world to read this e-book. It has been out for some time and got quite some attention on the web, as I found out this week. But still, for those last few who have been in the same cave as I was in until recently, here is a review of the best e-book I have read in a while: Zen to done.
The book was written by Leo Babuta, the same person who writes the Zen Habits blog. The book is intended as an alternative for Getting things done from David Allen, and indeed also takes many ideas from this and other systems. I have also read that book, but found it a bit overwhelming to implement although it has some great concepts in it. Zen to done seems to understand my problems with GTD and give helpful ideas on how to fix them.
The issues many people have with GTD is that the system is so complex and overwhelming; it constitutes a big change to workflow and lifestyle for many people. But the book also makes you enthusiastic and eager to try it out, so you try to do everything Allen says and then find it not working for you. I know many people do actually succeed, but as he said himself in the podcast at 43folders, the implementation rate of GTD is fairly low compared to sales figures.
One other problem I personally had, is that many of my tasks do not lend themselves well to breaking up. How do you break up the task "prove theorem 2.1 of your paper"? Or figure out algorithm for this problem? (These are personal examples, but I read other people's complaints about similar tasks.) It could take hours or even days, but it does not have a clear next action. I still put these things on my next action list, but it did not work well with these things mixed with email this or print that document.
The Zen to done system remedies both problems, at least it does for me. The book consists of ten habits; which it asks you to implement one by one so as not to overwhelm yourself. For each habit it gives tips on how to implement them, to make it easier. Also, the habits are not at all mandatory. If one does not fit in your life or your work, then skip it. These habits are simple, but not necessarily easy to implement. That is why the book also has a chapter on implementing new habit. This explains proven methods for changing habits, which can be used for the habits of the system.
The other good thing is that there is indeed room for larger, more undefined tasks. One of the habits is to plan large, important tasks for each day and week in advance, so-called big rocks, and to concentrate on them first before you do other tasks. So my think up algorithm task could be one of my big rocks, and not need to be broken up any further.
The last chapter of the book describes a day of a fictional person who has implemented the Zen to done system, so that you can get a feel of how your life could be when you implement the habits. This looks a bit unrealistic to me, but it is fun to read.
The book closes with an overview of some resources you could use to make your own system. The author warns us however not to keep trying out new tools, not to focus on your system, but instead to focus on doing your tasks and living your life. And I think many of us here, myself included, are guilty of playing with our systems a bit too much at times.
So, if you have not already done so, take a look at the e-book, and also at the blog Zen habits. It is certainly worth reading. Even if you will not completely be implementing the system, there are many ideas you can use for your work and life.