The Essential Zen Habits of 2009

By Leo Babauta

At the end of every year here at Zen Habits (this is the third year), I write that I’ve had the best year of my life.

This year has been no exception.

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on this year, and to share the best posts of 2009.

Zen Habits has continued its amazing growth, going from 80,000 subscribers last year to about 150,000 this year. It was named one of the Top 25 Blogs of 2009 by TIME magazine. And it was just a really phenomenal outlet for me, personally.

At the same time, my book The Power of Less came out at the very end of 2008 (Dec. 30), and in 2009 became an international best-seller, helping me to reach readers in all corners of the globe.

But I did more than that:

  1. Created a new blog, mnmlist. Now has more than 4,600 subscribers and more importantly, is a fun outlet for my writings on minimalism. I created the WordPress theme for this blog and released it for free, uncopyrighted.
  2. Wrote a new ebook, The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life.
  3. Started on my next print book, Focus. Have released the first draft of the book online, for free, and will continue to update it online, based on feedback until it’s ready to be published.
  4. Created a new site to help people create and stick to 6 new habits for 2010.
  5. Helped start a sister site with fellow blogger Sherri Kruger. It now has over 4,000 subscribers and is a great resources for families.
  6. Revamped the Zen Habits design to reflect the simplicity philosophy of the site. This evolution in design has included getting rid of most of my ads, getting rid of a lot of links in the sidebar and footer, and more recently and controversially, getting rid of comments. This last move deserves a full post, but in brief: there was too much comment spam, resulting in huge headaches for me, and the tiny minority of legitimate comments were mostly bloggers trying to get noticed — not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just don’t want to spend my life moderating spam for this reason alone. People can still give me feedback via Twitter, and if I don’t always respond I do listen. Getting rid of comments has been regrettable, but they don’t scale, and it has brought peace to my life.
  7. Collaborated on another ebook, The Essential Motivation Handbook, with co-author Eric Hamm.
  8. Decided to move from Guam to San Francisco. We won’t actually be moving until June 2010, but we’re excited.
  9. Lost more than 20 lbs. as part of my Bellyfat Challenge (still ongoing but doing well).
  10. Continued running (in fact, just recently set a new PR for my 10K time) and working out (currently doing Men’s Health Homegrown Muscle series, finishing up Phase 4).
  11. Took a great family trip to Tokyo.
  12. Participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote 108,000 words for my novel.
  13. Helped Guampedia raise funds, developed its new site for WordPress, and helped it successfully relaunch using the new platform.
  14. Created a blogging bootcamp with over 100 awesome bloggers.

It’s been a great year. And for that, I thank all of you, my wonderful readers. You’ve given me more than you know, and I’m extremely humbled and grateful.

The 30 Best Posts of 2009

And so, without further ado, here are the best Zen Habits posts of 2009:

  1. Breathe. Breathing can transform your life. One of my favorite all-time posts.
  2. The Habit Change Cheatsheet: 29 Ways to Successfully Ingrain a Behavior. The best Zen Habits habit change tips all together in one cheatsheet, for those new to the blog and for those who could use the reminders.
  3. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (or, the Privatization of the English Language). My most controversial post ever — it kicked off a firestorm of comments and posts and debate. Fun stuff.
  4. Do Interesting Things. Another of my favorite posts.
  5. The Get-Started-Now Guide to Becoming Self-Employed. While being your own boss can be scary and a little risky, it’s not as difficult as people think. You do have to be someone who loves his freedom, likes to be able to set his own schedule, likes to work on things he’s excited about.
  6. The Little But Really Useful Guide to Creativity. While there are millions of creativity tips on the Internet, in this post I share the ones I’ve found most useful – the ones that I’ve tried and tested and found to be right.
  7. Love Life, Not Stuff. The how and the why.
  8. The Simple Fitness Rules. Fortunately, fitness doesn’t have to be that complex.
  9. The Lazy Manifesto: Do Less. Then, Do Even Less. “Simple Productivity” has been the motto of Zen Habits from its early days … and in this post I set out the reasons “Do Less” is one of my Four Commandments, and why it’s the ultimate extension of Simple Productivity.
  10. The Short but Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion. Title says it all.
  11. The Simple, Ridiculously Useful Guide to Earning a Living from Your Passion. Title says it all.
  12. Your Life, Simplified. A 6-step method you can do today to simplify your life, without being overwhelmed.
  13. A Guide to Beating the Fears That Are Holding You Back. Having the fear is natural. Letting it stop you from going after your dreams is a tragedy.
  14. Ultra-Simple 3-Step Productivity System for Getting Amazing Things Done. I guarantee you – if you follow these three steps, you’ll be productive, and you’ll accomplish great things.
  15. Minimalist Gmail: How to Get Rid of the Non-Essentials. Here’s how I’ve made Gmail into a minimalist inbox.
  16. The Single Secret to Making 2009 Your Best Year Ever. Still applies to 2010.
  17. A Simple Guide to Keeping Your Counters Clutter-free. Keeping counters (and other flat surfaces) clear, clean and clutter-free doesn’t have to be difficult.
  18. The 10 Essential Rules for Slowing Down and Enjoying Life More. Slowing down is a conscious choice, and not always an easy one, but it leads to a greater appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness. Here’s how to do it.
  19. How to Create a Minimalist Computer Experience. I love a clean desktop, a friction-free interface, and simple tools that help me focus on what I really need to get done: to create, without distractions.
  20. The Little Rules of Action. And while I’m no proponent of a whirling buzz of activity, I also believe people get lost in the distractions of the world and lose sight of what’s important, and how to actually accomplish their Something Amazing.
  21. 8 Ways Doing Less Can Transform Your Work & Life. Doing less is not about being lazy (though being lazy is a good start) – it’s about focusing on quality rather than quantity. It’s about getting off the hamster wheel of productivity, so that you can create something great rather than just being busy.
  22. The Mindfulness Guide for the Super Busy: How to Live Life to the Fullest. It seems contradictory to those who are used to sacrificing living for pursuing their goals … but cultivating mindfulness will help you achieve your goals and enjoy life more.
  23. The Minimalist Principle: Omit Needless Things. What’s important is not that you have as little as humanly possible, but that every thing you do have counts.
  24. Get Less Done: Stop Being Productive and Enjoy Yourself. People are working longer hours, constantly checking their inboxes, constantly focused on Getting More Done. But to what end?
  25. 10 Essential Money Skills for a Bad Economy. The best way to avoid fallout from the national economy is to take control of your personal economy. From guest writer J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly.
  26. Dead Simple Guide to Beating Procrastination. For those of you who want to beat procrastination, here are 10 simple steps.
  27. How to Live a Better Life with Less. The beautiful thing is that you don’t need to earn more money or buy a bigger house or car or have a bigger company in order to have this better life – you need less of all of that. It’s attainable simply by cutting back.
  28. The Only Way to Become Amazingly Great at Something. There’s only one way to become good at something.
  29. 55 Ways to Get More Energy. You won’t be able to do everything on this list all the time – you’d tire yourself out trying to get more energy – but do try them all to see which ones work for you and your schedule. From guest writer Gregory Go of Wisebread.
  30. 20 Key Questions on Motivation and Habits, Answered. It’s that time of year – the end part – when people start thinking about their lives, their goals, their habits, and how to change everything for the better.

For more best of Zen Habits: