Simplify Your Life- Habits of Zen to Done!

10 habits that will help you get organized, simplify your life, get things under control, and get things done.

Instead of trying to implement all 10 habits at once, choose one habit at a time and focus on it for 30 days. Then move on to the next one.

Habit 1: Collect
Carry a capture tool with you wherever you go–whether it’s a small notebook, a PDA or anything else that works for you-and write down tasks, ideas, projects, phone numbers or anything else that pops into your head.

The key elements of the capture habit are: take your capture tool with you wherever you go, write everything down before you forget, and empty your notes into your to-do list when you get back to your home or office. (Take note that your capture tool is one of your inboxes).

Habit 2: Process – Make Quick Decisions on EMail
An inbox is any place where you check your messages or read incoming information. The first thing you have to do is minimize your inboxes. List all the ways in which you receive information, evaluate each to see if it gives you value, and find ways to combine or eliminate inboxes.

For example, make sure that all the papers that come into your home get placed in the same inbox. If you have several email addresses, can you get them all forwarded to one service?

The next step is to check and process your inboxes once a day; you may need to check some of your inboxes more often, just don’t do it obsessively.

Start with the top item on your inbox and work your way down, making immediate decisions as you go along:
Delete (or trash it).

If it’s something you can deal with in 2 minutes or less, do it immediately
File it: if it’s something you need for reference.
Add it to your to-do list or calendar to do later.

Work your way down through each item until the inbox is empty. Leave nothing in the inboxes.

Habit 3: Plan
At the beginning of each week list the larger tasks that you want to accomplish–the 3 to 6 “Most Important Tasks” you want to get done that week–and schedule them first. Each morning, create a list of 1 to 3 most important tasks. Do your MIT’s early in the day to get them out of the way to ensure that they get done.

Planning gives purpose to your week: you’re not just checking items off of a to-do list, you’re doing what’s important to you and what will take you closer to achieving your goals.

Stephen Covey tells a story that one of his associates heard at a seminar. The seminar presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, “Is the jar full?” The group replied, “Yes.”

He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar. The speaker jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?” This time, the group replied, “Probably not.”

The speaker then added some sand and asked, “Is the jar full?” “No!” shouted the group.

Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group the point of this illustration. Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if “you really work at it.” “No,” countered the speaker. “The point is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?”

Habit 4: Do One Thing at a Time Without Distractions
Select a task and decide that you’re going to work on it either until it’s done, or for a set amount of time (say 30 minutes). Before you get started, de-clutter your desk and eliminate all distractions: shut off your e-mail and cell phone, get off the internet if possible, and so on. Focus on the task you’ve selected to the exclusion of everything else during the time that you’ve allotted to that task.

If you get interrupted or think of something else that needs to be done while you’re focusing on a task, write it down and get back to the task.

Habit 5: Simple, Trusted System
All you need are lists. Instead of getting caught up fiddling with tools and creating complicated systems, concentrate on “doing” and not on the tools. Place your tasks (“next actions”) in a series of context lists, such as the following:
work: for everything work related
personal: all your personal tasks
phone: for calls you can make from anywhere
errands: your list of errands
waiting for: a list of things you need to follow up on
Someday/maybe: a list of stuff you don’t want to or can’t do right now, but want to check on later.

Keep simple lists: all you need is one list for each context–which you check daily–and a projects list that you review either daily or weekly. These are not your daily to-do lists; they’re master lists from which you pull your MITs.

But what about all those little things that need to get done? You should reserve time in the afternoon to complete these small tasks.

Habit 6: Everything in Its Place
Your life can be completely organized with the following two rules: everything you own should have a home, and when you’re done using any item, put it back where it belongs.

Create a simple filing system so that you can quickly file any papers you’re going to need for future reference.

Putting things where they belong, immediately, is a habit. Treat it like any other habit and focus on it for 30 days to turn it into something automatic.

Habit 7: Weekly Review
You should have a list of life goals; that is, long-term goals. From those long-term goals, you should have between one and three that you want to accomplish this year. If you choose too many long-term goals to work toward on any one particular year, you will lose focus.

For each long-term goal that you choose to work on, choose one medium-term goal that moves you closer to achieving that long-term goal, and which you can accomplish within the next few months. Next, choose one short-term goal that you can accomplish in the next week or so that will move you closer to your medium-term goal. Once you’ve done this, each week review of the progress you’ve made on those goals, and a refocusing on those goals.

Review the notes you made in your capture tool: check that you remembered to add the phone numbers to your contacts, to add items to your context lists, and so on. Also, review your calendar and review your lists.

Habit 8: Simplify
Reduce your goals and tasks to the essentials. Review your task and projects lists and see if you can simplify them. Simplify your commitments and your incoming information stream. Make sure that your projects and tasks lineup with your yearly and life goals. Take everything that you can off of your to do lists: just do the stuff that matters.

Habit 9 – Routines
Set and keep routines. A morning routine, for example, could include meditating, going for a run, processing your inboxes, and reviewing your MIT’s for the day. You could also have an evening routine and weekly routines, such as doing the laundry on Monday, planning your menu and going grocery shopping on Tuesday, paying your bills on Wednesday, and so on. Find routines that work for you.

Habit 10 – Find Your Passion
If you’re passionate about your work and life, your task list will almost seem like a list of rewards.

Create simple habits that serve your life so you can achieve your full potential! Work with a Business and Life Management Coach with over 20 years experience empowering individuals, executives and business owners to attain self-defined success in their professional and personal lives. Book your complimentary session to get started in reaching your goals today!