zenhabits : breathe

Eliminate All But the Absolute Essential Tasks

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Recently I posted my new twist on the excellent GTD system, Zen To Done (ZTD): The Ultimate Simple Productivity System. This is the eighth in a series of posts exploring each of the 10 Habits.

If you’re like me, you have a long list of tasks to do, perhaps broken down by different contexts (work, home, errands, calls, etc.). Your list of tasks is so long that it’s overwhelming. You can never completely wipe out your list because it’s growing every day.

Simplify your list down to the barest of essentials, and you can eliminate the need for complex planning systems.

The long to-do lists are one of the problems of GTD, which as I’ve said before, is an excellent system. But it does no prioritizing, and everything is added to your lists. In the end, it’s overwhelming, and you are left extremely busy, trying to knock off all your tasks.

Today we’ll look at ZTD Habit 8: Simplify – reduce your goals & tasks to the essentials.

Let’s first imagine the ideal scenario. Recently I’ve begun simplifying my time management system from GTD down to basically nothing. I still have long lists of things to do, but I don’t look at them much anymore. Instead, I’ve begun the process of elimination, and focusing on what’s really important.

Now my to-do list is basically one list of three essential things I want to do today. I also have a list of a few smaller tasks that I want to knock out, all at once, usually in about 30 minutes or so, leaving the rest of my day free for the more important tasks. I still use my calendar, just as a way of reminding me of appointments, but it’s not really a time management tool. I don’t need time management tools anymore — I’ve simplified my list down to three tasks, every day.

How can you get to this point? Here are the key steps:

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