Review on the 1st month ZTD: The collect and process habits

So this is my first monthly review on Zen to Done. I’ll use this post to look back over the past weeks, review the entries, review my experiences, write down any new experiences and also comment on what I think after one month of ZTD. Did anything crucial change? Did I experience anything that works better now, than it did at the beginning? How will I close this chapter and open the new one?

First of all, reviewing the first entry on Zen to Done, I want to talk about in what extend the first month changed my situation (described in that entry). I’ll then like to talk about the tasks, and how they helped me. Talking about the tasks, some of you may have realised that there is one promised entry missing. I’ll get to that as well (and I’ll promise it right away – I will still write that entry). In my entry about the outline I wrote about what it takes to change habits, and I’ll like to pick up one of the points there.
And finally I’d like to draw a first conclusion, and while doing so I’d like to close the circle by coming back to my first entry and have a look at my expectations.

Changes of my situation?

Well first of all, a brief summery on what I wrote about my current situation in the beginning of the month:

I am a chaotic but orderly person that somehow got overwhelmed by all the new tasks that came into my life all at once – starting from housekeeping, my job my studies, and ending at not having one single place that I live at, and the fact that there’s hardly any time for myself. This eventually led to demotivation, discouragement and procrastination, putting me in a very unpleasant situation.

Did anything of that change? Well, to be quite honest, 1 month isn’t much time, especially if your live goes on as it did. Still there are quite some factors that changed. To start with, now I do have more time for myself. This actually evolved out of the fact, that I am not living on myself anymore – there’s my girlfriend who takes over half of the housekeeping tasks. We share cooking, cleaning tidying up, etc. And she pushes me to do stuff that I need to do – which is really cool for me as I somehow need it.
On the other hand of course I also need to spend more time with her, than I used to.

But that’s not an achievement of Zen to Done – but still worth mentioning as it changes some of the things.

So what did Zen to Done achieve? Not much until now, I would say. Of course there’s some motivation, as my expectations are pretty high – but the higher the expectations the higher the risk to be disappointed. Still I am motivated. Though Zen to Done actually only made me have more work to do, than making things easier. But isn’t that true for everything at the beginning? Anyway, processing is quite a heavy task, heavier than I expected it to be.

So to conclude: Though things are even getting harder I am still motivated. There aren’t any further situational changes except for the ones that have other seeds anyway.

The tasks

While coming to the tasks I have to confess that I did not manage to fulfill all of them. Especially not the diary. It’s strange but somehow I did not find the time for it – even though it would have been only some lines every day. Still by having to concentrate on collecting, processing, my work, stuff that comes up at home and my studies, I am so busy that writing a diary’s just more than I could handle at the moment.

Now with the next task, I’d have to sit down every evening anyway, to plan the next day – so now a little review could be more easily done. Maybe. We’ll see.

I also tried to present you all of my other solutions, but so far you only got to read how I introduced myself to you and the number of inboxes I identified and to which extend I was able to reduce them. Though I didn’t kept a diary I managed to write weekly reviews which worked quite well if you’d ask me.

I also visualized the process habit by drawing a process diagram on a small sheet of paper. It actually even worked quite well for me, as I used it whenever I was actually processing. I laid it down in front of me so I could see it, and whenever I lost focus it reminded me, that I was actually processing, having my next item at hand. This may sound stupid if you take into consideration of how simple the workflow actually is – but I am pretty easy distracted – and when I have something in my hands I rather tend to doing it right away – even if this may take an hour and leads me to stuff I’d rather not wanted to spent time on.

I wanted to present that workflow to you as well – so I thought on redoing it digitally. But actually that did take long enough even when evaluating on what tool to use (I do not possess Visio and all the other stuff didn’t seem to be as simple as I needed it to be) – and actually it would just lead me to loose my focus and to not concentrate on what is important – and I can’t make that happen, so sorry, not this time (maybe some time later, when I stumble across the right tool and have some spare time – actually I would also like to have it for myself, so I could make a big poster to hang over my desk).

The habits

In the beginning I felt like a month is a lot of time, and that I couldn’t possibly be busy with that one whole month and wait for the rest of it until next month. But then I realized that this wasn’t the truth. While having all the other tasks that I have, Zen to Done is definitely an extra tasks that consumes extra time and extra energy. Of course the collecting habit is nearly working by itself. Though I realize that now, while making sure where what is going to and where I’ve got all of my stuff, I feel more comfortable. I know that I have everything and that nothing gets lost, so this results in quite a good feeling.

On the other hand the processing step is really hard work. First of all, because when you really start of, your inboxes will fill up with more stuff than you could have possibly imagined. So the first time you empty your inbox is quite a fight. It took me weeks. And of course there isn’t just one inbox. Don’t forget about that! You’ll have one to two physical inboxes at your desks, you’ll have your e-mail accounts, you might have a notebook a superbook, a tickler file you carry around, maybe an answering machine, short messages on your cell phone, bookmarks, download directories, etc.

So as said above it was a really hard step for me – I managed to empty my physical inbox on my desk and my virtual mailbox at work. I still have a lot of boxes awaiting me to process them. And of course – once you are finished with the inbox, your work doesn’t end – it has to be a periodical task, it has to get into you as a daily routine – and on that I am still working!

This is also why I didn’t manage to write on the second habit. I mean on the one side I would have really loved to do that on time – but on the other hand I already spent so much time doing my weekly reviews plus writing the outline, writing on the collecting habit and giving you an introduction to everything.

Self motivation

What does it take to change habits? Well, the driver is motivation and you can motivate yourself best by having some kind of reward. So what are good rewards? That’s quite heavy to decide, and especially if you are under time pressure you tend to forget rewards and just go on and on, which might be good for the moment, but in the long run you’ll finally get demotivated as it seems that you don’t have any leisure time at all anymore. And that doesn’t need to happen – as with short rewards you get even more motivated to actually do stuff – and so you do stuff more efficiently than if you would do it without motivation.

Actually this week, or in the last few day I actually got an idea for rewards. Two of them, btw. On the one side I was pretty frustrated about the fact that I have more and more books I would love to read, that pile up while I realise that I don’t have any time for it. The last book I read without having in mind that I have no time for it, was in 2004. Until then I just took myself some time for the last two Harry Potter books, and now I read “The Alchemist” – 3 books in nearly five years, bearing in mind that reading is one of my great hobbies, and that while being a kid I spent more time reading and in the library than others spent playing football or watching TV.

The other thing is really taking time off; meaning that I don’t even try to think about work that needs to be done, and just feel life. Don’t think about money, time, or any other concerns. Just enjoy life.

I consider both things being ideal for a reward, so I just tested how this could work out. I predestined reading as a daily reward. After finishing my day, after really doing everything that needs to be done, and everything that I wanted to do, after reaching that point, I’ll take myself the time to finish the day off by reading one chapter of a book I want to read in my leisure time. And right at the moment there are a lot of candidates for that.

Right at the moment I am reading Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimäus. When finishing the first novel, The Amulet of Samarkand, there are two other novels in that series waiting, The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate.

But still before those two I have two other books waiting (I just got them last weekend), Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Cliffor Chase’sWinkie and I cannot wait to read them – both of them. As well as the other Bartimäus books. And my girlfriend also has a huge pile of more books, some of which I cannot wait to read – Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld Trilogy or The Black Magician Trillogy by Trudi Canavan, to just name two of them.

But somehow I am loosing scope.

The second reward will be a weekly reward, and that’ll be a day off, spend with my precious girlfriend. She has a monthly railway ticket where at weekends she can take someone with her, and travel the whole of Schleswig-Holstein. So on Saturday last week we spent a whole day in Kiel going shopping (actually I got my two new books there 😉 ).

Thirdly I decided to buy some things, actually until now three things – one of them, the special edition of Akoasma is already ordered. The second thing I am still thinking of is the special edition of Zaubererbruder (which unfortunately is really hard to get, but still available in some music stores). Both are music albums by Asp, which I am actually pretty excited about.

Maybe I’ll also get myself the two Artwork books Die kleine Balade vom Schwarzen Schmetterling and Varieté Obscur. But for those two I’ll have to ask and hope for eBay to come up with appealing offers.

And the third thing (beside the two albums – the books I didn’t count, as until now I do not have a clue whether I really want and also get them), I’ve just learned about: An ultimate special edition of John Roland Reuel Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, in the much more appropriate old German translation, designed as a beautiful bible would be. The price is horrific, but well, how often do you investigate in luxury things? Until now I only saved all of my money.

These things I will buy myself when needed (as all of these items are limited editions, I’ll need to buy them when they’re out) but I won’t open or use them until I reached something really big or difficult (e.g. passing maths).

I think these are great ideas to motivate yourself. I am even motivated when just thinking about those things!


So to conclude this first month I would like to take some considerations on my expectations I had in the beginning and compare them to what I think now, when ending the first month.

First of all I really spend more time on Zen to Done than I expected, and while so, I lost focus on the important other tasks I need to do – I really hope this’ll get better in this month – it actually has to, as otherwise I’ll get into great trouble.

My expectation of being able to do more, and to have more time are not met at all. Same applies to the fact to be more organized. Though I now know where my stuff actually is, and though I am not afraid anymore to loose something or to forget stuff, I am still not happy with how things go on, once they are processed. I have used Thinking Rock for a while now, and I still have a lot of stuff in there – on the other hand I really liked my paper lists, I had before that – but those aren’t ideal for projects. Still while working with projects in Thinking Rock works fine, I somehow feel strange when using the Kontext Lists. But maybe that’ll come later. So right now I did not put much effort in doing the stuff – I’ll hope this’ll change with the next month – at least for the Big Rocks and MITs.

The processing step doesn’t work as it should – finally I managed to get some of my inboxes empty – now it is actually possible to use the process as intended to (every day, until the inbox is empty). So concentrating on the processing will continue into the next month – but I guess that won’t be as hard, as the next habit will only take about 20 minutes per day, and maybe 40 minutes at the end of each week.

I’ll also take the task of writing about the processing habit into the next month.

So all in all until now one could say that nothing got better, instead things even got worse. But I’ll guess that’s normal in the beginning – I am still motivated as hell and I even found ways that’ll help me to be and to stay motivated. So I really look forward to this month.

So let’s see how this’ll go on.


Please comment. I really enjoy your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s