Archives for category: Do

Ahoy fellas!

Today (first post in a long time) I’ll set the ground to a number of mini-challenges to redress my usage of ZTD.

I have had big problems, in particular with the DO habit.

The COLLECT and PROCESS habits I perform quite well (they’re perhaps the easiest).

In the PLAN habit I stumble a bit. The main problem is that I set the alarms for tracking my BR and monthly goals via my GoogleCalendar, they get mixed with all my other emails, which I tend to ignore more often than not, and as a result, these alarms get also ignored sometimes. The thing is: although I could set a different gmail account for my GoogleCalendar, switching between gmail accounts is a pain. I could maybe use some other tool, but I have everything set up in my GoogleCalendar already… I’ll see how I tackle that. Maybe as one famous entrepreneur says,the best is to “let little bad things happen”.

I fail the DO habit, having one same item in my MITs list for the day during days or even weeks. If I managed to empty that list everyday, I’d be a happy man. Today, I want to set a mini-challenge to try to tackle that.

I’ll do a one week version of the challenge I did for the DO habit. I’ll track the number of MITs that I set for the day, and the number that I have left at the end of each day.

I should fill the following lines:

Initial MITs/Final MITs

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:


I’ll start tomorrow!

Note: Sometimes, it happens that I couldn’t do a MIT that day because I had to wait for another thing to be complete, which didn’t depend on me. If that happens, I’ll mark a number with a *. Example: Let’s say that I had 3 MITs, I completed 2, but one of them I was unable to complete for external reasons. I’ll mark it as: 3/2(1*)

Hope to report in a week!


This is sort of an interlude post.

I’ll briefly address 3 points today:

  1. The 5th habit: SIMPLE TRUSTED SYSTEM
  2. What I’m doing to apply it.
  3. An experiment on how to improve DOING

First is first. The 5th habit of the ZTD system is all about setting up a good and effective system that allows you to use ZTD comfortably. What are the tools of the trade? How to use them best and in the most simple way? About the tools, several are suggested in the book, but as I don’t pretend to write a review, I’ll directly mention the ones that I’m using: For all the lists I use Evernote, which I utterly love and is the best thing in the world (I use it also as a database of all my stuff). For date-specific events I use Google Calendar, and to take notes on the fly, I always carry in my pocket a small post-it stack and a pen. Plain and simple. This is what I’ve been doing all along so in this sense there isn’t much of an update.

The new stuff for me here is the context lists. They are also an element in the GTD system, and they pretty much play the same role here. Instead of having all your to-do things in one single lists, you put some of them in separate lists by context. The point is, some actions can only be done at a particular place or time. I have lists for @work, @errands, @calls, @waiting for, @someday/maybe, and I have one context list for my next private project. The ones that I find most useful for the moment are the @work and @errands list, it’s so easy to check the errands list right before going shopping! And in the office I just take a look at the work list and I’m no more wondering what the heck I was supposed to do…

Still, the fight against cluttering my lists is neverending…

I don’t think I’m going to set a challenge for the 5th habit, since I don’t quite see the point. It’s not so complicated anyway, took me about 10 minutes to set up. In addition, every morning I check my lists and shift tasks between lists or erase them depending on what they are. That’s all that there is about this habit, in a nutshell… So eventually I’ll move to the next one.

The last thing that I want to talk about is about DOING. That was the 4th habit, and yes, still, definitely and by far the most important. And sometimes I completely mess up with it, mainly due to procrastination. So I want to talk about an experiment to try to decrease the procrastination time and improve in doing things. In particular, I address the problem of procrastination at work and what it generates: massive loss of free time (because you’ll have to finish the work eventually, anyway, and if you need more time you’ll have to extract it from your free time).

I start with the assumption that a 8h/day is not necessarily the best schedule (laughs) and does not need to be followed. I also assume that there is an amount of enforced working hours (indentured time) of  at least 40h/week. With this we pretty much have the following simple possibilities:

  • Work 5 days/week, 8h/day
  • Work 4 days/week, 10h/day
  • Work 3 days/week, 13.3h/day

Of course, it is possible to envision many other more complex distributions of 40 h in one week, but let’s not get too fuzzy. The approaches up there are time-based. You set a certain time and once it’s finished you forget about your job till the next time. I thought of another approach, project-based, which might be more sensible. This is: you work in a certain project, until you finish it. It doesn’t matter if it’s work or private. Just keep track of the hours you’re devoting to work, only to be fair and make sure that you’re at least working the amount of hours that your contract demands from you. Still I didn’t figure out exactly how manage the times, but I’m tying this and I’ll see what is to be done. I just count the time I work (I use a simple and useful timer that you can find here)

I believe that the project-based schedule has the potential to promote effectiveness and reduce procrastination, because you’re no longer dependent on waiting for a certain hour to arrive to stop working. To get your free time, you depend on finishing the work, which looks much more powerful motivator to my eyes. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 or 8 pm. You gotta finish the project and then you get a lot of well earned free time, to full focus in a private activity and again don’t stop until you finish it.

Of course, this may not be possible in every job (in mine it is, fortunately).

Possible advantages of a project-based schedule:

  • Strong motivation to finish your work.
  • Less procrastination (since procrastination, whose main “purpose” is to let time pass, is rendered useless).
  • More adaptable to your own lifestyle.
  • You free yourself of a dull and ineffective routine of working 8 hours/day.
  • Probably increased productivity and focus.
  • Less disruptive job, devote more time in a row to private projects without distractions.

Possible disadvantages of a project-based schedule:

  • May be impossible to apply in some jobs.
  • May result in a chaotic schedule which could get out of control.
  • You may end up working more than 40 hours a week.
  • Many hours working in a row could result really boring and tiresome

I’m not a project-based schedule guru or something, I’m just a guy trying some ideas, so if you can add something or give some suggestion, I’ll be really glad.

In one sentence, my idea was to adopt some schedule that focuses on finishing projects rather than risking prolongating them forever.

We have adopted an established working routine of 8 hours a day and 5 days a week. Why? Do you know? I don’t. Does it make sense? I don’t know, but like anything assumed as something natural, it is good to experiment with it. I bet that the 8-hours-day schedule is not the best possible schedule. I didn’t manage to adopt a 4-hour-week schedule yet, but give me time.

In any case, drop your thoughts below! 🙂

EDIT: I wrote the whole post thinking that the habit here discussed was the 6th habit, that’s why the web address has 6th habit on it. I apologize for that!


The result to my DO challenge is: 169 points! (check the original post here).

Far below the win goal. I don’t call it extreme failure, because… well, because I was trying. Anyway, it’s about half the way, which is not so bad.

But I still have to nail down a bit the DO habit. Particulary to what timed bursts refers. DOing is an art in itself, and is not mastered so easily.

This is what I’ve learned:

One must learn to do the minimum necessary to be effective. Yes, when things could be better, believe it or not it’s not about working harder, it’s about optimizing and reducing to the essentials (work smart). Carefully analyze what you’re doing. Is it necessary? In other words, will something very bad happen if you don’t do it? If not, don’t do it. Do exactly the minimum possible for things to come out right.

This is contrary to all what is commonly said. Work more, work hard, do more, multitask! I say that all that is moronic.

But doing the opposite is not easy. We’re so much inclined to waste time in futile work, and that is because we have 8 hours work days no matter what. Just to quote something that appears in the 4 Hour Work Week: How is it possible that every professional in the world needs exactly 8 hours every day to complete his/her daily work?

I say, be like a surgery knife. Cut exactly where you have to, do it fast, and get the fuck out.

That said, although I’ll keep on improving on DOing, I’ll be already checking the next habit, #5: SIMPLE TRUSTED SYSTEM (STS).

Where half the way! I’m excited!

See you over here.


It’s not like it doesn’t make perfect sense.
With the first habit, you collect every whimsical little thing that you want to do. The second habit allows you to filter, process, the ideas you collected. The third habit is about bringing a schedule to your day and week. But all would be irrelevant if in the end of all the planning, you do nothing.

So this habit –DOING, is about crushing it and just actually friggin’ do the damn things.

What does ZTD say about that?

In a nutshell, just do the friggin’ thing, stay FOCUSED, and do NOT MULTITASK. Welcome to the monotask world.

To be a little bit more explicit, the text gives some further guidance to find focus:

  1. Choose a Big Rock and work on it for x minutes or until it’s done. I say, 1:50 hours for instance. Or about 2 hours.
  2. Zoning: remove from your working space everything that could distract you.
  3. Time yourself, set the chronometer on, and do the thing like an oyster on crack.
  4. Interruptions? Put them into inbox for later (i.e. collect them)
  5. Do not switch tasks, just do the damn thing. Feeling the urge? Stop, breath deep, and control yourself.
  6. Sometimes we have to interrupt what we’re doing by something inevitable. In this case, take notes of where you are in the task to go back to it again easily.
  7. Relax, take a walk outside, go to the gym. Remain sane. Take a time everyday to not do things.
  8. In between task and task, relax and mess up for 10 minutes (10 minutes, no more!!)

I’m going to face that as a challenge as usual, and I thought the best way is to set the rules of a game, and if I win it, reward myself. It’s going to be fun.

Based on the guidelines above, I have selected a set of good and bad things.

Good things:

  • Accomplish Big Rock within timed burst
  • Get zoned
  • Collect interruptions
  • Make notes if the inevitable assaults
  • Relax
  • Reward after the task

Bad things:

  • Multitasking
  • Procrastinating

Now that’s how it works: for every good thing that I do, I earn a point. For every BAD thing that I DON’T do, I also earn a point. SO for two Big Rocks within one day, I’d count each thing twice (once for each BR).

I’ll keep daily track of these, write them down in a table, and let one month pass. This sounds easy, right? It’s not. It not so obvious when I’m doing something that I shouldn’t. Procrastination is not always easily identified. Let’s put an example: I am reading a textbook about science and my goal is to get a rough overview of the topic. Now I find a particularly interesting or difficult to understand equation, and I begin trying to develop it by myself. Is this procrastinating? YES! Absolutely! I’m wasting time doing something which slows me down in my purpose.

Identifying multitasking is not so difficult, but one must take care of it. Think for instance that you’re working, and at the same time eating a sandwich. This is ok! Or not? Well, bad news, this is still freakin multitasking. Yes! What I wouldn’t consider multitasking? Drinking something while working. Any action that does not disturb focus and does not hinder physical action for more than one or two seconds.

Going to the bathroom is not included in any of the above and can be done at any time (but take notes if needed!).

Ok. Rules defined.

Now I gotta set quantitative goals.

Let’s imagine that I do 2 BR every day, on average. In one month, this is 2 x 30 = 60 BR. If they’re completed, it’s 60 points. Now, for each BR there’s a certain number of things that can bring me points: zoning, rewarding myself, not multitasking, and not procrastinating. This adds to 4 additional points per BR (if I do everything right). 2 x 4 x 30 = 240 points. Finally, there are things which are independent of BR; dealing with interruptions, and relaxing (e.g. take a walk). Let’s assume that I get interrupted on the 25% of my BR, and that I relax once daily, this amounts to a number of points equal to 60 x 0.25 + 30 = 45 points.

So, as an orientative number, assuming everything goes perfectly, I can accumulate 60 + 240 + 45 = 345 points/month. I am going to take the 80% of this value, 276, as a realistic goal. If I accomplish it, I’ll give myself a moderate reward.

Now the fun part comes, if I achieve >90% (310 points), I’ll increase the reward.

80% reward: Spend some hours in a nice spa.
90% reward: Spend some hours in a nice spa and do couchsurfing in a place of my choice.

Now that’s something interesting. I am excited!

See you in a few days! And if you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments 🙂