A Day with Zen To Done

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You might think about all of this, about the 10 habits, and wonder what it would look like in practice. Well, Zen To Done is pretty much the system I use, and I can tell you what a ZTD day would be like.

However, instead of getting into the details of my personal life, let’s look at a hypothetical Zen To Doner ... just to give us an idea of what the system looks like in practice. We’ll take a look at Steve, who has been implementing the habits of ZTD for the past year.


Steve’s an early riser, so he gets up at 5:30 a.m. This is by no means mandatory in Zen To Done, of course, but Steve enjoys it.

First thing to say about Steve in the morning? He’s quick to get up, because he’s excited about his day. Why? Because in the past year, he’s achieved Habit 10, and found his passion. It’s now his job, and he does it at home. Of course, you don’t need to work at home to implement ZTD, but Steve enjoys it.

So he gets up out of bed, ready to greet the day. Then he begins his morning routine: he grooms himself, then enjoys a nice cup of coffee and watches the sunrise. Then he begins his morning writing ritual, writing an article that also happens to be one of his Most Important Tasks (MITs) for today.

When he’s done, he changes to his running clothes, laces up his shoes, and goes for a 30-minute run. Steve enjoys his run, because it gives him some quiet time to think. After his run, he takes a quick shower, eats a healthy breakfast, and then gets to his second MIT for today.

When he does one of his MITs, Steve clears his desk, turns off the Internet and phone, closes all programs on the computer except the one he needs to do his work, and focuses completely on the task at hand. He will get up and take a break every 10-15 minutes, but doesn’t allow himself to connect to email or other distractions, until he’s done.

Only when he’s completed this morning routine, and done two of his MITs, does he allow himself to check email and read his morning RSS feeds.


Steve actually set his three MITs the night before, during his evening routine, so he would be ready for the day. He uses a simple Moleskine pocket notebook as his ZTD tool, and on a fresh page, he puts the day’s date, and then lists his three MITs for the day. At the bottom of the page, he lists his "batch tasks" -- smaller tasks that he has to do during the day, but that he saves up for "batch processing" later in the day so that they don’t interrupt his MITs. He also uses the Moleskine notebook as a "capture" tool, carrying it wherever he goes, and has a section (marked by a little Post-it) where he writes down thoughts and tasks as they come to him.

Today also happens to be the day of his Simple Weekly Review, so he does a quick run-through of his system, spending only 30 minutes on the review. He goes through his to-do list (which he keeps at the back of his Moleskine notebook), and weeds out tasks he doesn’t really need to do, leaving only those that are most important.

He reviews his Single Goal for this year, ensuring that some of his Big Rocks for the next week are related to moving that Single Goal forward. He also looks at the progress he’s made on that Single Goal in the last week, and is pleased that he’s actually ahead of schedule. He crosses off some tasks that were completed, and then emails a few tasks to others that he doesn’t really need to do himself. Satisfied that his list is simplified as far as possible, he now plans his Big Rocks for the coming week, ensures that his inboxes are empty and his filing system in place.

Evening Routine

Steve’s day goes pretty much as planned. He accomplishes his three MITs, which is satisfying, and gets most of the batch tasks done near the end of the day. He clears out his email inbox and his physical inbox by the end of the day. A few other tasks came up, but he disposed of them quickly, adding one to his to-do list at the back of his notebook. After he’s cleared out his inboxes, finished his batch tasks, and checked off his lists, Steve does the rest of his evening routine. He gets lunches prepared for his kids for tomorrow morning, reviews his calendar and to-do list to see what he needs to do tomorrow, selecting his three MITs. He reviews his day, writing in a journal to record his progress and thoughts.

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