Zen to done (ztd): the ultimate simple productivity system

Post written by Leo Babauta. Website – zenhabits. net

“It’s about the habits and the doing, not the system or the tools.”

In order to capture the essentials of being productive & organized, while keeping things as simple as possible, I’ve developed my own productivity system: Zen To Done (ZTD).

ZTD captures the essential spirit of the new system: that of simplicity, of a focus on doing, in the here and now, instead of on planning and on the system.

If you’ve been having trouble with GTD, as great as it is, ZTD might be just for you. It focuses on the habit changes necessary for GTD, in a more practical way, and it focuses on doing, on simplifying, and on adding a simple structure. Read on for more.

ZTD attempts to address five problems that many people have with GTD. I should note that GTD isn’t really flawed, and doesn’t really need modification, but everyone is different, and ZTD is a way to customize it to better fit different personality types.

ZTD addresses five problems people have with GTD:

1) GTD is a series of habit changes. This is the main reason why people fall off the GTD system – it’s a bunch of habit changes that are attempted all at once. If you’ve read Zen Habits long enough, you know that focusing on one habit at a time is best, and guarantees the most success. In addition, GTDers don’t apply proven habit-change methods (the ones I talk about on this site) to change their habits.

Solution: ZTD focuses on one habit at a time. You don’t have to try to adopt the entire system at once – it’s overwhelming and it’s too hard to focus on your habit changes if you do too many at a time. Instead, focus on one at a time, and adopt the system in phases. Use proven habit-changing methods (30-day challenge, commitment, rewards, motivation hacks, etc.) to successfully adopt each new habit.


GTD doesn’t focus enough on doing. While it’s called Getting Things Done, often what we end up doing most of the time is Getting Things in Our Trusted System. The book, while presenting an excellent system, focuses more on the capturing and processing stages than it does on the actual doing stage.

Solution: ZTD focuses more on doing – and how to actually complete your tasks, in a simple, stress-free manner.

3) GTD is too unstructured for many people. This can be one of the brilliant things about GTD – its lack of structure, its in-the-moment decision making about what to do next – but it can also be a huge source of confusion for many people. Some people need more structure in their day, and GTD can be disorienting. Different people have different styles.

Solution: ZTD offers a couple of habits to address this: the plan habit, where you simply plan your three MITs for the day and your Big Rocks for the week, and the routine habit, where you set daily and weekly routines for yourself. These habits, like all the habits of ZTD, are optional. If they don’t work for you, don’t adopt them. But for many people, they will compliment the other great parts of GTD perfectly.

4) GTD tries to do too much, which ends up stressing you out. GTD doesn’t discriminate among all the incoming stuff in your life, which again is part of its beauty. But the problem is that we put everything on our lists, and end up being overloaded. We try to do everything on our lists. This isn’t really a problem with GTD, but a problem with how we implement it. But it should be addressed.

Solution: ZTD focuses on simplifying.

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Zen to done (ztd): the ultimate simple productivity system