Chapter 1: Why ZTD?

The chapter starts with the quote

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

As one can see with my blog…I love quotes. This one reminded me why I am reading this book. I tend to overcomplicate my life and let it run in way too many directions. So simplicity and focus are my zen words in this particular journey.

This chapter explains the improvements that ZTD has over other widely known productivity systems like David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. ZTD focuses on HABIT changes and simplification within a simple structure.

5 problems ZTD addresses:

1. Problem: Attempting a series of habit changes all at once.

  • ZTD Solution: Focus on one habit @ a time
    • This is a common problem I have when I embark on improving my life. I want to change everything all at once, and then I am surprised when I only end up frustrated and not having accomplished what I set out to do. I really want to take this seriously and will be taking the advice to incorporate only 1 or 2 habit changes every month (or every two weeks) to heart. This will make this blog series a lot slower than I anticipated, but honest change doesn’t usually happen overnight. (Don’t worry there are only 10 Habits *smiles*)

2. Problem: Lack of focus on doing (action)

  • ZTD Solution: Don’t worry too much on capturing and processing the stages but focus on the DOING . It gives tips on how to actually (stress free) complete the tasks.
    • I think this is one of the tenants of the system I look forward to the most. A lot of other programs I looked into in the past seemed so intent on explaining the intricacies of the “guaranteed successful system” but left me wondering how I was supposed to DO the system.

3. Problem: Unstructured Systems

  • ZTD Solution: Offer habits like the “Plan Habit” that sets up simple routines to offer structure.
    • ZTD talks about the diversity of what works for people. Unstructured systems that focus so much on in-the-moment decisions might confuse some people and muddle up the goal of productivity. Yet, the routines ZTD sets up many not work for people that need more wiggle room. I probably fall somewhere inbetween. What I like about the ZTD approach is the “adopt what works for you” mentality. While a simple, not unique concept, it takes a lot of the pressure off my shoulders (almost always self inflicted). I tend to get stressed out when I cannot accomplish what I am “:supposed” to have completed. ZTD is a system that gives you structure but room to individualize based on what works for you…what works for me *smiles*

4. Problem: Too Many Things to Accomplish (Increased stress factor)

  • ZTD Solution: Focus on simplifying and organizing things in life so one can focus (efficiently and well) on the most important ones
    • Triaging is important in many situations in life. I believe that I have a pretty good “last-minute-balls-to-the-wall” triage system that allows me to turn in work, school assignments, pass tests, and meet deadlines, but I lack this skill in the more mundane, less stressful everyday environment. Hopefully by focusing on the important tasks on a more regular basis & not procrastinating until I need my ER room triage system I have been relying on the past couple of years, I can be more productive.

5. Problem: Lack of Focus on Goals

  • ZTD Solution: Focus on the important stuff with continual (weekly, monthly, yearly) review of your goals and where you are at in accomplishing them.
    • Being a results-oriented person, I like goals and achieving them. A lot of the ZTD system seems to refocus energies in order to get to the meat of the issue and link this back to your goals.

I am very excited to start in on this system!


1 day = 24 hrs = 1,440 mins = 86,400 secs

Is 86,400 seconds enough time to do everything…and fit in sleep? This was something I was pondering today…and usually every Sunday when I sit down to “plan” my week. This involves very detailed lists upon lists, sometimes scheduled down to the quarter hour. As the week progresses my lists are followed less, and usually frustratingly disregarded by Thursday. I haven’t quite decided what is wrong: having such stringent lists or me. While I cannot inherently do anything about the lists (and it is a bit mean to blame an inanimate thing *smiles*), I can do something about myself and how I approach my week and the tasks that need to be done.

I learned in a mandatory assessment for my management class that due to my main personality type (Dominant) and its relationship to my other subtypes, I love new projects and innovation but am weaker at follow through (and thus I need to surround myself with people who are “task completers”). I strive for or rather need perfection and am not above upsetting the status quo to get results. My “life ADD” (as I like to call it) has me moving in way too many directions all the time (this is even reflected in my blog topics at times). Many times my “life ADD” conflicts with my perfectionism and results-oriented nature. You cannot juggle so many things and expect them to be perfect, so frustration builds up and a lot of negativity. With structured work environments, sports and personal tasks, these “mini failures” push me to do better, reach further. It is an inherent challenge that I cannot back down from (I stopped smoking 4 years ago because someone told me I couldn’t do it). Recently, in the last couple of years since starting medical school, I have felt less of a challenge and more of a withdrawal. Apathy has replaced drive and determination. Lists were a way to structure my life and whip my sorry butt into shape. This has been lets say less than successful. Work has gotten done…life has been lived…just not in the way I would like it to.

To an extent, I tend to live my life in extremes…”Go big or go home” my friends often tease me. I can spend 48 hours straight working on a project until my eyes can no longer see straight. Yet nowadays when I am feeling overwhelmed, I can put off a project (by reading 5 books, watching a whole TV series on Netflix, etc) until the last minute, so that the stress will motivate me to tackle and complete what seemed a week ago like an insurmountable task. So, time and time again when it gets down to the wire, I step up to the plate and do what needs to be done. But the cycle of stress and procrastination has not had a healthy affect on my life, mentally or physically. For the last 6 months, I have been trying to improve my lifestyle choices: eating healthier (and more conscientiously), losing weight, exercising more. I realized that there was another aspect of my life I needed to assess and tackle: my mental outlook. I need to work on my time management, follow through, and a more positive approach to obstacles (and more importantly “mini failures” (See 3/16/12 Daily Quote). A friend recently recommended to me the book “Zen to Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System” by Leo Babauta. Trying to simplify my life means doing less things that are “nonproductive”, but at a mere 80 pages, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity at learning techniques that could help me run my life better. Between my friend’s rave reviews and the raters on Amazon – I was in (if you are an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for FREE!). I am going to do a series of blog posts (not every day) about my journey through this book, what I have learned and challenges I face as I go through it. It is a struggle we all have at one point in our lives and hopefully the tidbits I bring to you are helpful in your life as well!

*Note: I will be setting up a separate page for series (linked) posts like these for easier assess to the content.