Getting started with Zen to Done


Actually one of the main reasons I created this blog, was to keep track on and to commit myself to the tasks that will approach me while implementing Getting Things Done. But it so happened that I just posted 5 entries that are tagged with GTD/ZTD, and only two of them are really going deep into the problem.

So now I will surely, definitely start with Zen to Done, I will commit myself to it, and of course I am now committing myself to you as well. So if anyone of you is interested in my progress (or is also working on Zen to Done, has questions etc.), just contact me, so I will feel myself pushed.

So to start this series, I will first of all write down my current situation, including my relation to GTD/ZTD, and explaining what they are and how they work. I will then write down my vision, and my expectations, not only concerning the positive aspects, but also the negative ones. In addition I will present you some of my information sources, and how I will try to implement everything. And to conclude this entry there will be an overview of what to expect the next weeks and months.

My Situation

The starting point of everything, and of course my main reason for getting in touch with Zen to Done is my current situation. Over all I am a pretty orderly person, who on contrary is also very chaotic. This of course is an explosive mixture 😉

While being a scholar I had a pretty ordered life, I managed everything that I wanted to – and it was much that I wanted to reach. There was my really good degree at school, that I reached, I was swimming in the competition group, had five groups that I coached myself, I was giving tuitions for school mates, I was having a job training beside school. And I managed everything I wanted to.

But then somehow everything changed. To start with, now I live by my own. And till this month (as you may know from other entries) I lived alone. Actually that is only partly true. I have two places I live in, separated 2,5 hours from each other. The one (where I live alone) is my main living place. The flat I have here, was until some months ago pretty empty, which made organization and tidiness pretty complicated.
Then there is the job, where I have tasks in different roles, three of them all the times: IT-Supporter, Assistant of the IT-Manager for Central Europe, and member of the Company’s Youth Association. The tasks are pretty interesting, I have to do a lot at the same time – I also work a lot overtime, or take tasks at home for the weekend, etc. In company I work pretty independent, which means I inform myself – and I need to do that a lot, as I get different projects and tasks, that require a lot of knowledge which I first need to gain. But still I love it.
On the other side there is my studies, for which I need to switch my living place. I need to do that every 3 months, so all in all 4 switches per year. My second living place is a half-room (half because it actually belongs to my two little brothers). There I have lectures from sometimes 7:30 to 16:00-18:00 o’clock. Additionally I still need to drive like an hour to university.
And beside that I have a girlfriend that needs my attention every now and then 😉
And then there is my free time, my hobbies and interests (and they are still a lot).

All this led to the current situation where I feel overwhelmed by information, where I just come home to sit down and relax and that’s it. I slowly but surely started to get pretty serious procrastination problems. I failed some of my goals, which led to frustration and demotivation and discouragement all in all that led to a total chaos.

This is why I was searching for self-management methods and finally also found David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” which then led me to “Zen to Done”

What Zen to Done is, and how it differentiates to Getting Things Done.

Some words on GTD in short (if you are interested in a more comprehensive version, please look at this entry on mine – I pretty much summarized everything there, and you’ll also find more information sources)

Getting Things Done describes a way of organizing your life in a world where you are overwhelmed with tasks and information. It targets people who have difficulties with that, and who tend to forget things, miss important dates, etc. although they are motivated and try.

It is a pretty well-defined set of workflows, a toolbox of methods, which you can implement, and that will help you. Though it is pretty open, you decide how you want to do what. And that is one of the main advantage of GTD, but also a point for critics – David Allen’s descriptions are open and simple, they tell you everything but leave you with that knowledge, and now you’ll have to find your way to implement all of this.
On the other side many people are overwhelmed with the possibilities there are, and with all the information and work that is to be done at once.

Here is, where Zen to Done comes into action. It is an addition to Getting things Done, which focuses on the “how”, telling you the ideal way (in the authors point of view) of implementing the workflow. This ideal way is based on some assumptions:

  1. Change needs time (approx. a month)
  2. You’ll need to focus on change so best is to do only one thing for a period of time.
  3. You need to get a routine in your workflow
  4. The workflow should be implemented as simple as possible – for Leo Babauta (the author) this means without many fancy tools and software, but simple and fast with pen and paper
  5. GTD focuses on the tasks that get to you every day – you are driven by the tasks. Leo Babauta however wants to put the focus on the person – your goals, your visions and your desires decide what you do and when you do it.

My expectations

My vision for the end of the introduction of this workflow is that I will be able to do more. My goals are to get more organized, to reach my goals again and not to fail – to get all my things done and to get them done faster, so I can enjoy more leisure time. I want to be able to focus my self more rather then be pushed around by the tasks that come in every now and then. And I want to have a good feeling, I don’t want to think about things I might have forgotten, things I didn’t do or didn’t manage to do – I want to KNOW that everything is done and that I am going the right way.

I know that is a lot I put into GTD/ZTD and not all of this can be matched by those methods (I’ll also need some coaching on self motivation but I found some good podcasts there – maybe I’ll start a blog series about that as well). But I feel like I am on the right track.

Still not everything is positive; we need to be realistic, so there are also some disadvantages I can see: First, it will be a lot of things that I’ll need to be doing now. The timing is not really ideal. There is a lot to do for university, I have a lot of open exams and my diploma is waiting for me. So ZTD is an additional burden. But on the other side, when will it be not? I was procrastinating this starting point a long time, and there won’t be any better date then now, the sooner the better!
A problem I see, is to stay focused. To actually DO it. So I’ll need to focus on that as well. This is why I will keep a personal diary about it in which I’ll write every day, what I did, and what I experienced (of course only concerning GTD 😉 ). And to force myself, I will blog on them. Every week! Expect those entries to be online between Sundays and Mondays.

My implementation and further information

I’ve decided to orientate myself pretty much on the information of the “ZTD Erfolgsteam” that found together last year on the German GTD-Forum. Their idea was to implement it as a group, so they can assist themselves with information, experience and questions they had. To stay focus they also published a list of tasks for each month, that each one had to do, and that helped them to implement everything. Every habit that Leo Babauta describes in ZTD is focused on for one week. The direct link to the forum is this:

Further Information you will find on:
The German GTD-Forum
The Weblog of Leo Babauta (this is the original ZTD Manual)
A German Translation of the ZTD Manual
Same as previous one, but as PDF to download

Forecast on the next weeks and months

So according to the “ZTD Erfolgsteam” my implementation will last until June 2009. Though this month is nearly half over, I will take this month as a full month, as I already have some experience with trying out GTD.
This month, I will focus on two habits than on one (contrary to Leo Babauta) – the “Collect” and the “Process” habit. This is because only collecting, and doing that for one month does not really make sense, does it?
The next to moths will be on the habits “Plan” and “Do”. But I’ll come to that then.

For this month you should expect two further posts on theory and implementation of ZTD, one will focus on collecting and one on processing. In them I will not only give you the theory (in my words – so I am forced to reproduce them, making sure to keep them by heart), but also the tasks, my solutions to the tasks, and my implementation. If you are introducing ZTD to your life as well, you could check with me, get inspired by me – and best, leave a comment with your ideas as well 😉 I will look forward to them.

Beside these two posts there will be, as promised, my two weekly reviews, as well as a monthly review.

Next to those entries, it might occur that I’ll make an interesting discovery, experience or have an interesting idea that I might judge worth blogging – so there could be further, additional entries.

So I hope you’ll stay tuned and support me with my project.

Oh and by the way: I already fulfilled the first task by writhing down my vision, my expectations and my situation including the way I got touched with GTD/ZTD. 😉

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3 thoughts on “Getting started with Zen to Done

  1. For implementing GTD and/or ZTD you can use this web-based application:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version and iCal are available too.

  2. Hey Dan,

    first of all thank you for your comment, that’s great 🙂

    Actually I am already using a tool called ThinkingRock. Maybe you’ve heard of it, or even used it? If so, then why do you think, that Gtdagenda is the better tool?

    Another thing, that I slightly dislike is the fact, that your data is online (from me there’s enough data online anyway) – would be critical if you have business information in it.

    But anyway, I will surely test it out, if it suits my needs/demands better than TinkingRock I will maybe change.

    But for now, while implementing ZTD I will stay with TR to keep my focus on the actual Habits 😉

  3. Pingback: Review on the 1st month ZTD: The collect and process habits « ~ PygoscelisPapua ~

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