Improve Your Life – An Interview with Leo From Zen Habits.

May 4, 2007

One of my favorite bloggers, Leo from Zen Habits, agreed to my request for a quick interview with a resounding yes! You see, Leo is one positive guy, his posts are always spot on, inspiring and informative. Zen Habits is a place you want to visit to learn about motivation, making lifestyle changes, improving your productivity and creating an overall better life for yourself. After you read his answers, be sure to go check out his site, you will not be sorry!

Question: What inspired you to create and write Zen Habits, and did you expect such a big following so fast?

For about a year before I created Zen Habits, I’d been working on changing a lot of my habits, from smoking to running to eating healthy to becoming organized and more productive to my personal finances. I wanted to create a personal blog to kind of motivate me to stick to my goals for the next year — a way to put positive public pressure on myself, which is one of the most important factors in achieving goals and establishing habits. Second, and just as important to me, I was excited about the things I was doing and learning about and wanted to share my most successful things with others. I figured there must be at least a few others like me out there.

At first, I didn’t expect any readers at all, except my wife and my mom, really. But as I was reading other blogs on similar topics, this past January, I was thinking, “Hey, I could do this!” And so I set out to write regularly, trying to put out useful stuff every single day. Even then, I was only hoping for slow growth, over the course of a couple of years (I remember being thrilled when I got 20 subscribers!). I never thought I’d get this kind of positive response — I’m still shocked, every day. But the response has been overwhelming, and I know now that I’ve found my passion in blogging about this kind of stuff.

Q: How do you find the time with a wife and six children to maintain your site?

It’s tough. Three ways, really: I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and spend about 30-60 minutes (sometimes more) responding to emails and comments. I exercise after that, and get the kids’ lunches ready, and get ready for work. Second, when I’m at my day job, I often spend a little time here or there to check email or respond to comments, and I spend my lunch hour writing the day’s post. Sometimes if I have other things to write, like my responses to this interview, I’ll use other time during my day job — my job’s pretty flexible. Third, I do some before I go to bed (after the wife and children are sleeping). I actually get a few hours less sleep than they do, but it doesn’t bother me.

Truthfully, I’ve cut a bit into my family time by blogging, but I’m working on controlling that. When I figure out a good system, I’m going to write about it. Another thing I do is write my weekend posts during the weekdays. That way I can take the entire weekend off and spend it with my family.

Q: What types of things have you learned from your readers of Zen Habits that you might not have known before?

Gosh, there’s so much. I learn new stuff from my readers every day — multiple times throughout the day. I do my best to share what I’ve learned, but there’s so much that I haven’t learned, and that’s the beauty of my blog — the readers share their experiences and tips and tricks and tools as well, and it becomes a sort of community pool of wisdom.

What types of things have I learned from readers? I’ve learned about new techniques and tools for being productive, frugal, achieving goals. I’ve learned about new books, authors, websites, services. I’ve learned new recipes and fitness secrets. But most important of all: I’ve learned that it’s possible to develop positive relationships with others through my blog, that the power of a group is stronger than the power of an individual, and I’ve learned about courage from some of the most amazing people, and I’ve learned that I have something to share and that people find my writing interesting and of value. And just as important: I’ve learned about what my calling is, which is amazing.

Q: In regards to the environment, you and I talk about ways to make our world a little bit better. How can developing habits such as those on your site relate to being a steward for the environment?

Well, I wrote a guest post for you awhile back about how being a vegan, as I try to be, is better for the environment. So that’s one example … but there are others. I have also been trying to commute to work by bike more often, which is not only great exercise and saves money on gas but is much less polluting than cars. And two of the topics I’m passionate about, being frugal and simplifying, almost always mean using fewer of the earth’s limited natural resources.

Q: What is your 12 month plan with Zen Habits?

My only plans right now are to continue to try to put out the best, most useful content that I can, every single day, and to continue to interact with my readers. Other than that, it’s hard to plan when the site grows and changes all the time. I’m kind of taking a “we’ll see what turns up” attitude, and leaving myself open to more possibilities.

One thing I can say is that I’d like to eventually quit my day job and blog full time. I’m slowly moving in that direction now, increasing the income I make from the blog and starting to free-lance for other blogs. I don’t have a timeline for that … again, I’m going to have to wait and see how it turns out. Also, a friend I met through my blog has offered to take a look at the design and possibly re-design it, which would help, as I’m far from being a designer.

Lastly, I also plan on writing a book based on Zen Habits. Well, a couple of books — one is a small eBook that I hope to put out this month, and the second might possibly be published (if I can find a publisher) or be put out as an eBook. If anyone reading this is a publisher, feel free to contact me. :)

Q: What would be some tips you could offer other parents in order to stretch their dollars? With six kids, you must have some insight into making this work!

I have a lot of tips! Actually, I’ve written several posts on this topic, and I can’t cover everything in this interview, but let me offer a few of the more fundamental things I’ve learned about being frugal:

* Make gradual changes. I’ve simplified my life and become frugal in dozens of ways, but you shouldn’t try to make all those changes overnight. It’s too hard, and you will feel deprived and eventually go back to less frugal ways. Do them one at a time, and eventually you’ll get used to the changes and they won’t seem hard at all. Simple things like brown-bagging it to work, or staying home and watching DVDs or playing outdoors instead of going to the movies.
* Eat out less. This is one of the biggest changes you can make. First, make a weekly dinner menu, and go shopping for at least a week’s worth of dinners, and cook simple, easy to make dinners at home instead of eating out. Second, if you can, brown-bag it instead of eating out for lunch.
* Find cheap ways to have fun. On my blog, I did a list of 100 Ways to Have Fun With Your Kids for Free or Cheap. There are hundreds more. It just takes a little imagination, but you don’t need to go shopping or to the movies or eat out to have fun.
* Curb impulse spending. This is the worst enemy of frugality. Don’t buy stuff online (it’s too easy to buy on impulse) and don’t go to the mall (you’ll inevitably buy stuff). Instead, when you want to buy something, put it on a 30-day list and wait until the 30 days are up until you buy it. Often, the urge to buy it will disappear and you can just cross it out.

Q: If you could offer 1 tip on making lifestyle changes for the better to everyone reading, what would it be and why?

One tip? Always think positive. As trite and as corny as that sounds, it’s been the most important factor in my success. When I start to doubt myself, start to say that I can’t do this, I squash that negative thought like a bug, and replace it with a more positive one. I can do this! And as self-conscious as that may make me, it works. Every time. I’ve learned to monitor my thoughts more and recognize when I’m being negative. This one tip can get you to achieve any positive lifestyle change you want — it’s extremely powerful.

But I’m going to cheat and slip in four more important tips: set extremely achievable goals, take baby steps, put as much positive public pressure on yourself as possible, and most of all, have fun doing it!

Well, there you have it, an interview with Leo from Zen Habits. If these answers have piqued your interest in what is going on over at Zen Habits, be sure to give him a visit. You won’t be sorry!

Filed in: Favorites

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
Like this post? If so, please consider subscribing to my full feed RSS. Or, if you would prefer, you can subscribe by Email:

Enter your email address in the box below. Address will only be used to deliver a daily email and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Comments (7)

  1. Great interview, very interesting questions and helpful answers. You’ve sparked my interest in two new blogs – thegoodhuman.com and zenhabits.net. Thank you.

  2. kara says:

    Great interview – uplifting. Thanks for sharing.

  3. david says:

    Thanks everyone, glad you enjoyed it! Leo’s site is great, be sure to check it out…