Getting Things Done: Zoom Start To Zoom Finish

Task List

I came across a great post about blogging yesterday that was guest blogged by Leo Babauta over at Freelance Switch. His own site, Zen Habits sounded catchy so I wandered by and found a really great post about getting things done.

Leo reframes GTD to ZTD (Zen To Done) and he makes some great points along the way. I’ve had some great experience pushing 20 hours worth of work through a 12 to 13 hour pipeline (day). So I thought I’d share a little of my own GTD philosophy here.

GTD: The Zoom Method

This is a list of personal productivity strategies that I’ve put through the meat grinder. They work for me. If you’ve got your hands up in the air, don’t surrender quite yet. Give ’em a whirl.

1. Keep one list

I use a pad of lined paper. Very high-tech. I divide it into big picture stuff, tasks, and miscellaneous ramblings. Whether you use a pad of paper, a day planner, a Palm Pilot, Outlook or the wall next to your desk, keep only one list. On one page. If your list is longer than that, it’s time to stop listing and start doing.

Big picture stuff is longer term. Maybe a week or a month or so into the future. If something sits there undone for too long I cross it out. It was meant for someone else’s picture.

The task list is the daily or through-the-week stuff that needs to get done. Pretty straight forward.

Ramblings. Phone numbers, events, addresses, pricing, brain-waves. This is where I jot down stuff on the fly. Info. Reminders. Some of it needs to be put into a permanent archive like an address book. And some of it just needs to make sure I get to the dentist at 3:00.

2. Prioritize, consolidate, ruminate and delegate

Prioritize the things on your list. If you’re not sure what to do first, do the stuff that makes you money first and the stuff that costs you money last. Other than that, knock off the easy stuff and then settle in all relaxed on the tougher stuff.

It’s okay to jot down things on napkins, sticky notes, business cards and whatever. But at the start of the day I put all this stuff into my organized list. Remember, keep one list.

I’m always adding to the list. When it starts to get messy, I rewrite out whatever is left on it and add a few new things as needed. It might seem kind of slow and silly, but I do it as needed and it helps me ruminate or, think about, the stuff I need to do.

The easiest way to knock stuff off your list is to get someone else to do it. Sometimes someone else can do better than you can anyway. Delegate.

3. Everything has a place

Whether you’re controlling a 24 square foot piece of desktop real estate or a hundred thousand square feet of manufacturing facility, everything has a place. And at the end of ever day, it needs to go back there. No excuses.

I know, you’re just going to use the whatchamacallit again tommorrow. So make that place where it belongs a little more easily accessible. And put it away when you’re done with it, or at the end of the day. Whichever comes first.

This is the absolute cornerstone of keeping any physical space organized. No matter how big or how small.

4. Keep it simple

Spend less time planning what you’re going to do and more time doing it. I can’t make the Zoom Method to getting things done any simpler than this.

If I could, I would.


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  1. Good tips mate. I am always planning to get organized and somehow don’t get around it much. I am definitely going to give this a try, I invariably have a few bits of papers and sometimes a few get lost and my task list sometimes keeps getting transferred to tomorrow or next week..

    Always something to learn from your site mate, thats why you on my daily must visit list.

    Take care and Cheers.

  2. Hey Robin,

    Let me know how it goes. I’ve tried a lot of things; calendars, day planners, all sorts of stuff. I finally settled on a plain old notepad and I do all the stuff I mentioned here.

    It’s simple. And that’s the key.

    And the “putting everything in it’s place” works. I do it at home, and yeah, I’ve literally kept 3 shifts and a 100k sq ft plant organized by making sure everyone followed this principle.

    Less planning to do, and more doing.

  3. Yet another really interesting article. I particularly like your comment:

    ‘On one page. If your list is longer than that, it’s time to stop listing and start doing.’

    So very true, although for procrastinators like myself that is easier said than done!

    – Martin Reed

  4. ya… i put off reading this for a while, but i’ll comment later…

  5. Hey Martin,

    It still takes SOME effort. But you get out of it what you put into it. I usually find if I’m procrastinating too much it’s because I’m just not into it. If it needs to be done anyway, I step up to the plate. If it’s an elective endeavor, I elect to do something I am in to instead.


    Just make sure it’s on your big picture list 🙂

  6. I was actually thinking about doing something like this the other day. I use mozilla calendar and was think that wasn’t enough.

    First, I’m probably going to start off with a list of goals I want to accomplish and put that piece of paper in the front of every one of my class binders. That way, when I go to class and open it up I’m reminded of them constantly.


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  8. Gregg,

    That’s a great idea. I think it might “stick” better if you keep the list in one place, like a thin journal or a notepad and take it with your other binders to every class.

    I’m just thinking this because it’s more of a conscious effort. If you plaster the page all over, you might get “blinded” to seeing it after a while.

    If it’s in one place, it’s easy to update, and you can write down actionable milestones to your goals and keep score.

  9. I do something similar. I divide my paper into Things to do Today and the Follow-ups. Whatever I can not do today, goes automatically to Follow-ups for tomorrow.


  10. Rajesh,

    Keeping it simple is always good.

  11. I like the idea of breaking things down into ‘big picture’, ‘tasks’ and ‘ramblings’. I’m really bad about writing down big picture ideas or things to do, but I think those are some of the most important ones to bring into focus from time to time, or we forget where it is we wanted to go in the first place. 😉

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  13. Charity,

    Absolutely. Big picture stuff is just as important as the everday details. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and all its pieces … there is no one without the other.

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  21. To be honest i really do think that could work because i really and trully do spend a huge amount of time planning something rather than doing’s so scary that i will do a course,that i find great interest in and then just when completion time is about to hit,i procrastinate and it just never gets completed…:(,i am very creative and do start loads of projects but am intimidated at the outcome and never actually successfully complete things.

    I will try the ‘one’ list idea and see how it goes!…thanks


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