zen habits : breathe

ZTD Habit 4: Do

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

4 do (focus)

Habit: do one task at a time, without distractions.

This is one of the most important habits in ZTD. It’s the doing part of the system. All the other parts are useless if you don’t do the doing part — so emphasize this the most. The tools, the system, the planning, the to-do lists … none of that matters as much as the doing (well, as long as you’re doing the most important things).

ZTD focuses on doing your tasks one at a time, to the exclusion of all else. Don’t multi-task, and don’t let yourself get interrupted. Follow this advice, and you will really get things done.

Here’s how:

  1. Choose a Big Rock. First, select a task (preferably one of your MITs) and decide that you are going to work on it either until it’s done, or for a set amount of time (say 30 minutes).
  2. Get zoned. Before you get started, eliminate all distractions. Shut off email, cell phone, Internet if possible (otherwise just close all unnecessary tabs), clutter on your desk, anything that might interrupt you.
  3. Timed burst. Set a timer if you like (a simple one like CoolTimer will do), or otherwise just focus on your task for as long as possible. Don’t let yourself get distracted from it.
  4. Interruptions. If you get interrupted, write down any request or incoming tasks/info on your notepad, or toss the document into your inbox, and get back to your task. Don’t try to multi-task.
  5. If you feel the urge to check your email or switch to another task, stop yourself. Breathe deeply. Re-focus yourself. Get back to the task at hand.
  6. The inevitable. There are times when an interruption is so urgent that you cannot put it off until you’re done with the task at hand. In that case, try to make a note of where you are (writing down notes if you have time) with the task at hand, and put all the documents or notes for that task together and aside (perhaps in an “action” folder or project folder). Then, when you come back to that task, you can pull out your folder and look at your notes to see where you left off.
  7. Relax. Take deep breaths, stretch, and take breaks now and then. Enjoy life. Go outside, and appreciate nature. Keep yourself sane.
  8. Ahhhh. When you’re done, congratulate yourself! Reward yourself with a short burst of email or blogs — but limit it to 10 minutes, and then move on to your next task. Don’t let yourself get carried away — it’s very easy to get off track and wander for hours.

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