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Simplify Your Life

The Captain frowned. After a while he said, “Anjin-san, what’s the significance of the stone?”

“Please?”

“The stone. Why, Anjin-san?”

“Ah! I watch stone grow.”

“Oh, so sorry, I understand,” the captain replied apologetically. “Please excuse me for disturbing you.”

— James Clavell, Shogun

Although this is mostly a music blog, I believe time management and organization are important to success in any field. Earlier, I shared the Pomodoro technique, which for me has been instrumental in making sure tasks get done effectively. Now I’d like to share a thought on how we can reduce “mental clutter.”

Mental clutter can be described as nagging thoughts that make us feel more stressed and busy than we probably should. They also tend to distract from the higher-level thinking which enables us to do great work. We like to attribute it to the pressures of our jobs, raising children, and other adult responsibilities; but I suspect a large portion of mental clutter is self-inflicted. If we can remove what is within our power to remove, how much more effective can we be? Imagine a PC that is slowed by hundreds of background tasks. If that PC is my brain, then I want to close those background processes and apply a greater portion of my mental resources to the work that requires the most focus.

Here is my plan: Each week, I will choose something to remove from my life. It can be a habit, like watching a specific television show, or it can be an object, like a box full of junk in the garage. It might be an unused application on my computer, or an unnecessary step in a routine process. My expectation is that with each thing removed, I am contributing to a cleaner home and work environment, and freeing space in my mind that was once occupied by the thought of something that should not require attention.

How scientific is this? I’m not sure what the literature says; but at the very least I will be systematically tidying up the space around me, and that should certainly have a demonstrably positive effect on my life.

 

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