zen habits : breathe

Lifehack founder Leon Ho on success and staying focused

This is one in a series of interviews of notable bloggers in the Zen Habits Golden Goals series.

Leon Ho started one of the most popular productivity and self-development blogs on the Internet: lifehack.org. Leon is a techie who lives in Brisbane, Australia, where he surfs Internet, enjoys his job on Linux, improves himself on management skills. Most of his time, he manages a team of software engineers on delivering internationalization support into Fedora Project and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Also see his linked profile for more.

1) What would you consider your greatest achievement in the last few years? Feel free to add other achievements or goals if you’d like.

Four years ago, one of my goals was transforming my day-job responsibility from software engineering to management, and improve myself in this new position. Two years ago, I was promoted to manager of a software engineering team. Since then I have pushed myself to the limit by learning different aspects of management. Some examples are: I went back to university and studied at night; regularly read books and materials; and founded lifehack.org to share my resources and consolidate my ideas. All of them went well and the results helps my job everyday. Another achievement is definitely the progress at lifehack.org.

2) What was the key to achieving that success for you? Was there one thing, or were there a number of factors?

Being productive is definitely the key factor. Saving time on some aspects in my life definitely contributed a lot to my objective. Keeping persistent and an ability to finish what is started are probably another factor.

3) What are the essential habits that you’ve formed to help you achieve your goals?

For me, staying focused is an essential habit I need everyday. Without focus I would not have enough time to pursue what I want.

4) How often do you think about your goals, review them, and take action on them?

I review my long-term goals every half year to note down my progress, and re-align the goals if required. My habit of focus allows me to take action on them everyday. In fact, most of my tasks are directly contributing to my goals. If they are not, I review those tasks and see if I can use my time more wisely.

5) Describe how you overcome failure, how you pick yourself back up if you are struggling, and how you motivate yourself if your enthusiasm is lagging.

I always believe that failure is a step towards success. With that belief, I can move on and learn more from the mistakes I made, and make sure it will not happen again. Struggling on a task is tough and demotivating. If it happens, I usually will take a break from it, and then find other ways to solve the problem. That’s why motivation is the topic I am most interested in at lifehack.org. Again, the most effective way to gain traction is reviewing my goals, and to create a clear link between the task that I am doing and how it can contribute to my goals. As I am a purpose-driven person, it gives me an urge to climb over the obstacle and complete the task.

6) Could you describe your productivity system and any productivity tips you have for people?

My system is pretty simple: I use Tasks and Calendar in my Palm Treo. Tasks is the central place to keep my todos with different contexts. Calendar is being used if I have a time sensitive task and it requires alerting (for instance, meeting). I also use a private wiki to keep track of my notes, and moleskine to draw diagrams and brainstorm ideas. For emails, I developed my own email organization system.

I recommend keeping your productivity system simple. Do not overcomplicate your process and workflow. Find new ways to optimize your productivity system once in a while. Change one thing at a time so that you can track its improvement.

7) Why did you start up Lifehack.org, and what is the secret to your blog’s success?

I like to find and read content related to productivity and lifehacks. I usually spend one hour daily reading books and articles on the Internet. I think if I properly use time to find good content, those pointers will save people time as well. So that’s how lifehack.org was born – with a motivation of sharing good content and pointers. Secret? I probably don’t have one to its current status, but I do think constantly publishing good content daily is a major factor to the blog’s growth. As long as I remember, lifehack.org has at least one post every weekday since it was started two years ago.

Others in the Golden Goals series:



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