Deep in my heart I want to be organized. Somehow, though, what’s on the inside never manifests itself on the outside. My office is filled with stacks of personal finance books, money magazines, and scribbled notes. My e-mail box is packed with questions from GRS readers, guest posts, and correspondence from friends — sometimes I have time to read this stuff and reply to it, but mostly I don’t.

For years, I’ve been searching for the Holy Grail of productivity systems. I haven’t found it yet. I did my best to implement David Allen’s popular Getting Things Done, but the system breaks too easily when not maintained every single day. I need something simpler.

Leo Babauta from Zen Habits may have the answer. He just released Zen to Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, a $9.50 e-book designed “for those who want to get their lives organized and actually execute the things on their to-do list”. Zen to Done focuses on simplicity, on actually doing things instead of planning to do them. Leo writes:

If you’ve been having trouble with Getting Things Done, as great as it is, Zen to Done might be just for you. It focuses on the habit changes necessary for Getting Things Done, in a more practical way, and it focuses on doing, on simplifying, and on adding a simple structure.

I was ready to dismiss Zen to Done as “yet another system J.D. won’t be able to follow”. But after starting to read the book, I couldn’t stop. I realized that maybe — maybe — this was something that could work for me. Though Zen to Done features a detailed description of Leo’s 10-step system (as well as some handy forms), I’m most attracted to what Leo calls “minimalist ZTD” — a bare-bones productivity plan designed to capture ideas and to actually do things. At its core, Zen to Done asks readers to do just these things:

  1. Carry a notebook or an index card. When you think of something that needs to be done, write it down. These are your new to-do items.
  2. At the end of the day, add the new items to a master list. My master to-do list will be a text file on my computer. I already have one that contains dozens of tasks I want to accomplish.
  3. Each morning, designate up to three items from the list as Most Important Tasks. These are the things you will get done today. These take priority over everything else. Try to get them done as early as possible.
  4. Make quick decisions. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t let things accumulate.

That’s it. This system is brilliant in its simplicity. I have high hopes that this is a productivity plan I can actually stick to! If you, too, have tried other systems and failed, consider Zen to Done.

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