Introducing Zero Thinking Memos

Hello, I’m toricago. This is my first blog post! I already have a blog that’s written in Japanese, but I decided to write another one in English. My interests are mainly life hacks, so I'm planning to introduce some cool life hacks that are popular in Japan (which is where I live). If you can read Japanese, you can check out my Japanese posts at the following link:

So I would like to start off by introducing one of the most popular memo taking methods in Japan. You might have heard that stationary technology is very advanced in the Japanese market. There are many cool and fantastic pens, markers, and notebooks. The Japanese have been observing and trying out many different stationaries, but at the same time, they have been keen on taking memos in the most comfortable or the most efficient way. If you go to a Japanese bookstore, there will always be many books on “How to write memos?”.

The method I want to introduce today is called “ゼロ秒思考”. A direct translation of the Japanese letters would be “zero second thinking”, and it means to come up with ideas instantaneously or thinking in a blink. I’m not sure of the English name, so in this blog, I’ll just call it “Zero Thinking”, ZT for short. It was proposed by Mr. Yuji Akaba. The book he wrote was published in December 2013, and quickly became one of the bestsellers in Japanese bookstores. The number of ZT fans are rapidly increasing, and people all over the country are posting their thoughts or ideas about the ZT technology online. Recently, the words are spreading throughout Asia, and Mr. Akaba’s book on ZT is now published in several countries.

The ZT way of writing memos is super easy. Prepare a pen and some A4 sized papers. A4 is a standard paper size in Japan, but anything similar will be fine. I think letter-size in US is very close to A4 in Japan. Place the paper horizontally, write a title on the top and the date on the top-right. Then, write four to six lines (sentences) on that paper. On each line you should write about 10 to 15 words. The contents can be about anything, but you should write about what you are interested in or what is bothering you from concentrating. One simple example:

How can I use my time more efficiently? 2016-8-28

  • Maybe I should wake up one hour earlier.
  • Or I should stop going to “nomikai”s so many times.
  • I heard from my friend that meditating is good for concentrating.
  • That might be good for using my time more efficiently.

(Nomikai is a drinking party that is a tradition in Japanese working culture.)

It's super simple, but there is one rule that you have to keep in mind. You have to write one page in a minute. This is actually pretty hard. If you write four lines without this rule, it usually takes three to five minutes. It can even take more than 10 minutes if you write slowly. You should use a timer, especially if you are a beginner.

The example that I showed is just one page. You should keep writing until you feel satisfied, or in this case, you should keep writing until you feel that you have some good ideas for “using your time more efficiently”. Usually, this will take about 10 to 15 pages. If this only takes 15 minutes, it’s actually a good deal, isn’t it?

You might feel there is nothing special to ZT way of writing memos, but if you do this everyday, you would be able to think clearly, because you take everything that’s bothers you inside your head outside by writing it out. You can have new ideas for your job, you can relieve your anxiety about your next week’s presentation, and you can even start to feel more confident in yourself. Here is a photo of the ZT memos I've written for the past year. If you're interested, try it out!