In a previous post, I shared my success with The Zone Diet. I am now one year into it, and as I reflect, I realize that I can learn a lot about personal productivity. When you boil it down to its essence, The Zone Diet is all about managing your hunger through portion control, planning, and maintaining a balanced diet. Furthermore, it tells you what to do if you eat a really unhealthy meal, and makes it easy to get back on track if you have a weekend of decadent food.
How does that relate to personal productivity? Let’s take them one at a time:
Portion Control: Don’t overeat, and don’t over-commit.
You start with The Zone Diet by calculating what you should be eating based on your height and body size, and you start eating that way from day one. This is followed by monitoring and controlling what you eat at every meal.
With personal productivity, you can start with an accurate assessment of what you can handle, by figuring out what your hard commits are versus your discretionary time and activities. This is followed by monitoring and controlling what you do (and don’t do) each day.
Planning: Success favors the prepared
With The Zone, I can resist the temptation of junk food because I always carry healthy snacks. I also spend more time planning what I buy at the grocery store, and choose restaurants that will provide me with options compatible with my diet.
With Personal Productivity, I follow David Allen’s advice and spend time doing (mostly) weekly reviews, I resist the urge to waste time by bringing my Read & Review folder and other optional work with me in case I get stuck in some kind of delay, I listen to audio books in the car, and use other techniques to make the most of my ad hoc time. I’ve also become more mercenary about accepting meeting requests – so I can choose meetings that are more compatible with my time management goals.
Maintaining a Balanced Diet: Stability comes from balance
With The Zone, you strive for 40/30/30: 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat. This keeps your metabolism and blood sugar in balance, making it easier for you to eat a healthy diet and not send signals to your body that might encourage it store fat or cause fluctuations in your energy levels.
With Personal Productivity, we all need to maintain balance of health, work, and family to increase our success and happiness. This is similar to the Covey philosophy of “First Things First” and its “Sharpen the Saw” mantra.
Knowing what to do when you fall off the wagon:
With The Zone, you forget about it and try to get back on track at the very next meal. Persistence and the law of averages will pay off. If you stick to it most of the time, and don’t let yourself get out of control when you stray from the diet, you’ll do OK.
With Personal Productivity, I find it helps to get back to the basics. As a follower of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, when things get crazy a good mindsweep and a comprehensive weekly review do wonders for me.
Whether I’m dealing with diet or productivity, the more disciplined I am, the more dramatic your results. The same will be true for you. It’s important to find a system or philosophy that fits your lifestyle and philosophy.
This reflection has also helped me spotlight an area where I need improvement in my Personal Productivity world: Balance. I'm way too skewed toward Work with the way I balance things now, and need to adjust my "diet" to include more time devoted to my family and personal fitness.
Update, July 7, 2005:
I have spent some time this week with folks who haven't seen me in a while, and we've been talking diet. This has made me realize another common trait of diet and personal productivity: Knowing what to do is quite different from doing it. And, you don't get the results without being willing to change what you're doing.
Simple as that.