This is the first in a new series of interviews with veg*ns. The idea is simple: 5 questions about what they do and how it relates to veganism. I’ll post new interviews periodically and will try to talk to a variety of people from different backgrounds, including some folks you may never have heard of before.
Our first subject is Leo Babauta, proprietor of popular productivity blog Zen Habits and author of Zen to Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System. Zen to Done (ZTD) is a minimalist productivity system that is perfect for those of us that think David Allen’s Getting Things Done sounds great, but feel a little funny inside when starting to think about a “tickler file” and “next actions.” Leo is a transitioning vegan, so I talked with the father of six about how his simple philosophy goes beyond just checking items off of your to-do list.
Why is it so important to simplify how we manage our to-do list?
The more complicated our productivity systems, the more friction there will be for us to use them. Too much friction means that eventually, you’ll stop using it once or twice, and then it will start to fall apart.
Keep things simple, and you’re more likely to use the system. Another reason: most of us are pretty busy. We don’t have time to for the upkeep of a complicated system. We need to use tools that don’t require management … that just help us do what we need to do, and no more.
Lastly, it’s important not just to simplify the system, but simplify what’s on your to-do list. ZTD asks you to only pick the three most important things to do each day, rather than trying to tackle a laundry list of tasks. This simplicity greatly reduces stress and increases effectiveness.
All the cool kids use GTD and it seems like a great system, but I was never quite able to get on board because it felt like I had to learn too much. Have you heard from others with a similar problem?
That’s one of the main reasons I developed Zen To Done — I’d been hearing from many people who “fell off the GTD wagon” for one reason or another. It turns out there are just a small number of reasons most people stop using GTD (or don’t start using it in the first place). ZTD addresses those issues: it simplifies things, it gives your work day some structure, it focuses on the important stuff, it reduces what you need to do, and it makes things easier to use.
How is ZTD helping you transition to veganism?
Well, the two aren’t directly related, but the key to ZTD — simplifying things — is also the key that is leading me to veganism. My philosophy is to simplify things, to eliminate the non-essential, and in my opinion, meat and animal products are non-essential. They aren’t necessary for survival or enjoyment, and the death and suffering of animals isn’t necessary for our well-being either. As a result, I am attempting to eliminate as many of those products from my life as possible.
At the moment, I am completely vegetarian, and I don’t drink milk or eat eggs or buy leather. I’m trying to eliminate other foods with dairy or other animal ingredients, but I’m taking a longer transition to that goal than others might. It’ll happen eventually.
What are the main hurdles you think keep most people from even considering veganism?
I think it’s just a matter of what people have been raised to think. They have been raised with the misconception that meat and milk and eggs are not only good for you, but essential to a healthy diet and to our survival as humans. Vegans know that’s not even close to being true.
Most people (myself included) have been raised to love certain foods, and the thought of going without them (steak! ice cream! cheese on pizza!) is unthinkable. It seems like suffering to them, and anyone who “puts themselves through that” must be masochistic to intentionally suffer. Of course, once you transition to vegetarianism and veganism, you know that it just takes a little while to adjust to being without meat and milk and other animal products, and once you adjust, the thought of eating those things is distasteful. And vegan food, it turns out, is delicious.
Vegans also often are perceived as angry, self-righteous people, and this is caused by some vegans who actually are that way. Not criticizing them, but it’s just that in my opinion, we will only get others to accept the concepts of veganism by patient education, by being friendly (and not trying to debate people all the time), by cooking great vegan food and letting our friends try it out, by being positive instead of negative. That’s the way you win people to any cause. Negative tactics just turn people off, and in the end, if we do that, we are harming our cause.
What has ZTD not been able to do for you?
ZTD doesn’t actually get your work done for you. I wish it did! But it asks you to focus on doing. You still have to actually do the work yourself … fortunately, it helps you to simplify what you need to do and focus on the right things.
ZTD also doesn’t do windows. Or cook vegan food. Or give very good back massages.
It’s a simple system designed to keep your life simple and keep you productive and organized. That’s all. :)