Zen To Done- Organization that Works

Collect, Process and Plan.Check Mark

So I’m 4 steps into 10 in Zen to Done by Leo Babauta. Zen to Done is a minimalist, productivity ebook. The ebook walks you through nearly a year of steps to change your habits to become more organized and less stressed. It’s one of those teach a man to fish ideals.

The Habits are:

  1. Collect
  2. Process
  3. Plan
  4. Do
  5. Simple, trusted system
  6. Organize
  7. Review
  8. Simplify
  9. Routine
  10. Find your Passion

Collecting was easy for me because I already did most of those things. I started entering appointments into my phone immediately, standing in front of the reception desk and not getting a reminder card. I always used to get one, oh in case I forget. I can’t ever remember actually looking for one of those cards and if I forgot the appointment how would I remember the little card.

The only thing I have really deviated on in Zen to Done is the device advice. My Blackberry never leaves my side (yes I’m an addict.) I have the automation and sync set on my Blackberry to even remove a few of the processing steps now.

Leo says in Step 1 “So for papers coming to your desk, you should have one place to collect them: an inbox.” And you have to learn to only touch the paper once. I also still use the measles method in this guest post by John Erdman. When I receive a paper it gets a spot. Every time I see the paper, it gets another spot. When my daughter, Riley, decides she likes spotted paper its time to clean the desk!

Dean Hunt said recently at the Brand Out Marketing Breakout or B O M B (I’ll stay off that special FBI list) workshop in Nashville “Don’t go back to anything. Rereading emails wastes 97 hours per year. That’s 9 days. If you touch it, take action and complete it.” Link to Dean and John.

Leo says Process to Empty. Empty is scary when you first start out. I’m sure you’ve all had that shock occasionally when you have nothing in your email inbox… Imagine it happening every day. It’s actually quite an accomplished feeling. I’ve been totally sorting, processing/responding and deleting emails to Zero a day for over a month. And once the backlog is gone, it really doesn’t take that long.

Paper- Dreaded Paper

I hate paper. Stacks and stacks of paper everywhere. When I was 16 I started working for an attorney. My first day on the job she told me “Always create a paper trail. No matter how bad you screwed up, someone else screwed up worse.”

As you might imagine there was paper on paper on paper in this office and for the first year I was there I didn’t have my own computer. I think it gave me a compulsion of being organized. My boss didn’t have time to know where all the files were but I could tell her exactly where to look. I loved working for her.

Now that I get to run things myself, I scan everything. If I need it, it’s in my computer. I’ve managed to never lose anything and I have external harddrive backups and Mozy to thank for that. And then I shred. I don’t have a filing cabinet.

If I have an important paper (like my business licenses) I put it on a French bulletin board on the back wall of my office.


“Take Control of Your Day, Instead of Letting the needs and wants and priorities of others control it for you.”

This is the hard part for me. I know what I need and want to get done. I get a great start and then 15 hours of audio comes in and suddenly someone else’s needs stepped in line in front of mine and then the line changed directions.

I know I know. Close my email. its not as easy as it sounds. And my Blackberry tattles on my inbox.

When it’s not my clients or lovely contractors needing my attention, in comes my 3 year old, usually followed or proceeded closely by our kitten that doesn’t know she’s not a 3 year old.

I took the plunge on this whole heartedly and it works. I’m super pumped to finish out the last 7 monthly tasks in the book. I’ve tried different programs in the past to get a clamp on super-organization and always failed because I tried to change everything at once. Between Zen to Done and using my Mindmaps, I almost feel like a different person. I’m much less stressed. I don’t have email hanging over me for days. I’m getting a lot better about getting things done on my to-do list that aren’t urgent, crisis status,  but need to be done.

Because the system teaches you to set a few big goals for each week and a few smaller goals for each day, you can manage your day better. I am much more likely to get two things done than 12. Having a super long to-do list doesn’t help. If you read my mindmap post, you know I have started tracking out all my to-dos and projects on a big mindmap. When I want to work on a particular project, I collapse all the other legs. Visually all I see on my screen are the tasks I need to work on and I work on them until I’m done. Freemind has a big green checkmark icon that I can click so at the end of the day, I see a field of green checkmarks and feel accomplished. Doing the mindmaps this way keeps me from writing and rewriting my to-do list. Probably saved several forests already.

After Zen to Done

I’m sure you will hear more about Leo from me. I’ve bought all of his books aftergot started on Zen to Done. Like I said, I’m on step 4 so I’ve been working on this for several months. I think the reason Zen to Done works is you don’t go into it with the misconception that it’s going to work overnight. You do have to work at it. But Leo’s primer is perfect to get you started. And you can’t beat the price either. For less than $10, how can you go wrong?

What would be the best part of being more organized for you?

Mine is definitely getting things done quicker with less stress so I can get out and spend time with my daughter.

Talk to you soon,


P.S. Be sure to catch the rest of my tools series, starting with Mindmaps and finishing up on Monday and Wednesday. I’m also giving away an autographed copy of  Scott Stratten’s new book UnMarketing.

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1 thought on “Zen To Done- Organization that Works”

  1. I’ve always took a long time during the collecting part, I would really have to get into organizing it and I will definitely try your tips. And like you, the extra time I get form being organized is spending more time with my family, and also doing things I like, my hobbies.

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