Zen Habits and Simple Productivity

Every night before I go to bed, I read a book. Depending on my mood, I may paw my way through a foodie memoir, a prize-winning novel, or a popular piece of fiction. Back in the days when a new Harry Potter book would come out – I used to stay awake until the wee hours, my mind filled with witches and warlocks.

But it’s the rare non-fiction book that makes its way into my bedroom. I usually do my research (or self improvement reading) as I think of these things, during the daytime.

So I was not exactly enthusiastic when my husband, passed Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less: The fine art of limiting yourself to the essential…in business and in life, over to my side of the bed one night. That is, until I cracked open the cover and began to read it. Something about the no-nonsense, clear and concise way that he approached the subject of simplicity, calmed down my information crammed brain.

I admire Leo a lot. Time Magazine named his blog ZenHabits.net one of the top 25 blogs of 2009, he has over 100,000 subscribers to his site and to top it all off – he’s a nice guy. Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to know him a bit – via email and skype, I’ve followed his blog, and even been honored to guest post on it. In light of his release this week of the new ebook – The Essential Motivation Handbook, I thought it was a fitting time to interview him on his ideas about simple productivity.

Q. Do you have a time of day when you are more productive than others?

A. “I work at home and have six kids, four are home schooled, so I have a full house and it’s busy during the day. I work best when everyone else is asleep and it’s quiet. This means that depending on my energy, I will often work between 6-9 a.m., sometimes earlier.”

Q. Do you think morning is the most productive time for most people?

A. “I don’t think it’s the same for everyone, one friend of mine tried working after midnight. You need to find your zone by experimenting and seeing what times allow you to work with less distraction.”

Q. The big emphasis these days seems to be on social media. How do you think it can be simplified?

A. “There is a lot of noise out there about social media right now and while social media is useful, it can also be a time suck. You have to integrate marketing time into the rest of your life.”

Q. How do you do that?

A. “I’ve been experimenting with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others. Twiter is the one I really enjoy the most. I think you have to understand that each one you use on a regular basis requires a time commitment. So I set time limits. I don’t leave my Twitter open all the time, I check it twice a day and even then, I skim the messages. I also split my Twittering time into 20 minute sessions – a morning session, one after lunch and one towards the end of the day.”

Q. You seem to have found something you are really passionate about writing, how easy was that to find?

A. “It can take years to find that thing you are really passionate about. My 20′s were a decade of exploration and I did not stick with a lot of jobs for very long. When I started blogging a few years ago, I was working a full time job, but when I found blogging it clicked and I knew it was a perfect fit for my talents. I made a conscious effort to move my career in this direction. It took a year from the time I started, until the time I was able to earn my living as a blooger.”

Q. It must have been hard to work essentially two jobs at a time – one, your full time day job, the other building a serious blog?

A. “when you find something you are passionate about, you don’t mind being busy. But once it clicked for me that blogging was it, I put all my focus on that one goal. I made it happen, but I also enjoyed the journey along the way.”

Q. Your new ebook is on how to stay motivated. How do you stay motivated?

A. “I’m motivated because I pursue things I’m excited about, activities I enjoy. If I really enjoy the exercise, or the project I’m working on, I can keep doing it for much longer. I’ve learned to focus on the enjoyable aspects of whatever I’m doing, instead of how difficult it is or what a sacrifice I’m making.”

Q. Do you ever face motivational challenges?

A. “I face the same motivational challenges we all do — of how to keep going when my enthusiasm isn’t as strong, of being pulled in many directions by many different goals and projects, of how to persist despite obstacles and negativity from other people. But each of these challenges has been a learning opportunity for me, and as I’ve failed, I’ve learned to beat the obstacles. The right mindset is the most important thing: if you don’t look at failure as something negative, but as a way to learn to become better, and if you just keep going despite failures, you’ll get there in the end.”

Q. What is one piece advice you would like to leave us with?

A. “The most important tip: Enjoy the journey, and don’t be so focused on the destination. You’ll reach it eventually, but you’ll be much more likely to stay on the journey, and you’ll be happier, if you’re enjoying yourself along the way.”

Please note that this article is copyrighted by Karen Leland. If you would like to reprint any or all of it on your blog or website you are welcome to do so, provided you give credit and a live link back to this post.

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3 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    I’m starting to have trouble integrating social media into my business, either I find I’m not spending enough time dedicated to exploring its potential, or when I do, it seems to take up too much of my time.

  2. Kay Hall says:

    See, this guy is lucky, he actually has something he’s passionate about. As you say, it’s much easier to dedicate yourself when it’s enjoyable, than when it’s just, you know… Work.

  3. Carol Sveilich says:

    Easy to stay motivated when your work excites you, but how does one stay motivated when it’s boring? Someone should write a book on that one.

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