Book Review: Two Excellent Ebooks for Your Perusal

September 12, 2009 at 3:50 am | Posted in Book Reviews, Productivity, Work Life | Leave a comment

The Zen Habits system is this simple and elegant.

The Zen Habits system is this simple and elegant.

I like ebooks. They’re free to cheap, they often include great advice in an easily digested format, and the money you spend on them benefits the author directly. Today I’ll be reviewing an old favorite, Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done (cheap); from there, I’ll move on to a new find, Marelisa Fabrega’s 114 Ways to Celebrate Life (free). Neither is directly concerned with bipolar disorder, but both offer a direct boost to your wellness.

I’ve often pushed Babauta’s Zen Habits blog in this space. It’s had a huge positive effect on my wellness, and the author is endlessly creative in his posts. Zen to Done summarizes his advice for personal productivity, and it’s quite simply the best book I’ve read on the subject — and I’ve read just about everything out there, from Getting Things Done to old antiprocrastination classics. Babauta really does do what he promises: he distills and simplifies the best advice out there on how to organize and prioritize your life and meet your goals.

To begin with, ZTD introduces a 10-habit system. You can begin with any habit that addresses a need in your life, or you can take them in order. Babauta emphasizes that each habit takes time to establish, and that you should spend time establishing them one at a time rather than trying to adopt the whole system at once. This really helped me. In typical bipolar style, I tend to get all fired up about each system I read about, then to drop each one in turn as I find another, newer, more sparkly-seeming life-improvement system. I went ahead and began with the first habit, and have gradually working my way through. The results have been remarkable.

The first habit is “collect.” All this means is that, GTD style, you keep a notebook or PDA and write down every single idea you have — everything from plans for businesses to start to the humble fact that you need to buy sparkling water at Trader Joe’s. Everything goes into the hopper.

Once you’ve got the trick of collecting, it’s time to process, plan, do, and so forth. I won’t go into every step of the system. Suffice to say that if you follow it — and it is simple — you won’t just accomplish more, you’ll accomplish what’s important.

Babauta also includes his priceless advice on how to change habits. Unlike all those books out there that promise flat abs in nine days, or an ageless face in 10, Zen to Done doesn’t try to conceal the sad fact that change is difficult and takes persistence.

Probably the best habit I’ve adopted aside from collecting and processing — which in themselves will make a huge difference — is that of setting weekly priorities at work (I’m still learning to do this at home), and making those my primary focus until they’re, well, done. I choose between three and five projects that can realistically be finished within the week, I schedule prime time (in my case the wee hours before my coworkers show up), and I damn well do them. It’s amazing what a difference that alone makes in my sense of accomplishment at the end of the week.

I’ll return later to go over Fabrega’s book. Until then, love to all.


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