Farhan and Steve Bridger are with me on the whole multiple open tabs thing. So is Talia. And Sarah Stewart apparently distracts herself with Twitter, while Christine Martell shares my angst about needing to get clearer about her big goals.
This is good. At least I know I'm not alone.
I promised to share some of what I'm trying to do to deal with the problem in today's post. But I'm also going to point to some of the ideas my readers had because isn't that why we spill our guts on the Interwebs in the first place? To get others to commiserate and share their ideas?
So this is what I've been doing:
1. Keep Gmail and Netvibes closed, except for specific periods during the day when I'll deal with email and read my feeds. This is something suggested by the GTD cult and by Tim Ferris, but it's advice that I find hard to take. It actually seems to cause me physical pain.
2. Minimize multi-tasking. Also difficult to do, but when I can I'm much more productive.
3. Observe the 2-minute rule. This is another GTD fix that I started with in 2008 but that fell by the wayside. It's back.
4. When I start thinking about other people and the problems I need to solve for them, stop myself and ask what I'm trying to avoid by doing this so I can get back on task. This one sounds a little strange, I know, but I've found that when I start thinking about how my ex needs to deal with our daughters, I know that I'm really just trying to NOT deal with something else. I'm trying to cut down on letting my "fixer" mode interfere with actually fixing things that I have the power to fix.
5. Limit the scope of work and stick to those limits. I have the capacity to give a client about 4 times more than they expect from me. This can be good, but it can also be a killer. Sometimes I've even found that they wish I'd given them less. Scope creep is a big problem, but I'm trying to keep it under control.
6. Journal every day to get stuff out of my head and down on paper. I'm trying to journal every morning and also when I feel like I have something to work through, just so I can get it out of my head. It seems to be helping.
7. Use index cards. This is a big one. I'm writing each task on a separate index card. I know it's both low-tech and environmentally un-friendly, but for now it's helping me organize and re-organize what needs to be done in a visceral kind of way. I can group related tasks together and also group by days of the week, hours of the day, etc. I know there are digital ways to do this, but for whatever reason, I'm needing something physical right now to ground me.
8. Work this as a process, rather than focusing on "Am I more productive today?" Sometimes when I focus too much on the end result ("I need to get my act together!") this actually becomes its own form of mental clutter. So what I'm trying to do is focus on the different elements, rather than my desired end result. Call it a 12-Step program with fewer steps.
I also got a lot of excellent ideas and feedback from commenters:
- Even though I mentioned daydreaming as a way to avoid work, Steve Bridger pointed out (and Amy Harbison agreed) that it can be a positive development too. His post also led me to a great resource called "Mindapples," where readers submit 5 daily things they do for mental health. It has a whole host of other strategies for me to explore and try.
- Cammy Bean reminded me that it's easy to get bogged down in doom and gloom, but that the way to get back to "the glass is half full" is to focus on solutions. That's actually what led me to journal about this problem. I was getting sick of listening to my own whining and needed to find SOMETHING to do differently.
- Mike Slater said he leaves his computer and goes for a 2-3 hour walk when he needs to. That's something I find easier to do when the weather is nicer, but maybe I need to stop being such a big baby. At the least, maybe I need to play a little Wii tennis or something.
- Farhan leaves open the tabs he needs to get a particular job done and closes everything else. He is also checking email only a few times a day. Amazingly, the world apparently keeps turning!
What else did we miss? What are your favorite ways to reduce mental clutter?