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08 Jun

Remove the outdated that is distracting you

Datum: 2023-06-08 12:30
A rusty car wreck protrudes from the ground in an American ghost town on a sunny, warm day.

It is great to clean and clear things out once in a while. Some peo­ple, myself includ­ed, thor­ough­ly enjoy doing so. Oth­ers find clean­ing to be some­thing they would rather post­pone for a bet­ter day. 

But would you not agree that it is both nice and makes things eas­i­er to not con­stant­ly spot all kinds of dis­tract­ing items as we look around the office or as we are look­ing for some­thing rel­e­vant to what we are cur­rent­ly work­ing on?

When old or irrel­e­vant items, papers and oth­er things clut­ter our desk and view, it can hide what we real­ly need at the moment in annoy­ing, and some­times dev­as­tat­ing, ways. The con­se­quences can be greater than we might sus­pect, and at the very least our struc­ture, effi­cien­cy and con­cen­tra­tion will suf­fer from the disarray.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

As good as gone

Per­son­al­ly, I feel it is time to do some clean­ing out again. This time I have the struc­tur­al tools, tem­plates or pro­ce­dures in mind — those we devel­oped or found a few years ago when we had a spe­cif­ic need and want­ed a solu­tion that specif­i­cal­ly solved our prob­lem. At the time, we found the tem­plate ter­ri­bly use­ful, but since then the sit­u­a­tion has changed and we have not used the now out­dat­ed tem­plate in ages.

Because we all cre­ate tem­plates, short­cuts, texts we reuse, email­ing sig­na­tures and notes with details for our invoic­es, in one for­mat or anoth­er. At the time they are incred­i­bly use­ful to us. But after a while we adjust some­thing since the cir­cum­stances have changed. Time goes by and at some point we cre­ate and save a 2.0‑version, and end up using this updat­ed ver­sion more frequently. 

We leave the old ver­sion in the fold­er as well with­out real­ly think­ing about it, after all, it was so use­ful and valu­able just recent­ly. But with time, the num­ber of alter­na­tives and ver­sions increase, and we even­tu­al­ly have so many of them that it is not imme­di­ate­ly clear which the most recent one is when we look for a tem­plate or tool. It might not take hours to locate the right ver­sion, but it will def­i­nite­ly take longer than it should. Our flow is slight­ly obstruct­ed and slowed down, and per­haps we are even dis­tract­ed by an old ver­sion we come across, and lose focus on what we were actu­al­ly in the process of doing.

What doesn’t help you, hin­ders you

Take a few min­utes some­time this week to remove the tools, tem­plates and check­lists that are no longer accu­rate or up to date. If they are no longer help­ing you, they are only hin­der­ing you.

So, what tem­plates and tools are we talk­ing about? Well, for me these could for instance be:

  • Dif­fer­ent ver­sions of email­ing signatures
  • Doc­u­ment tem­plates that are no longer relevant
  • Brief texts in the text-expan­sion-tool Tex­tEx­pander that I have not reused in a long time
  • Check­lists of process­es and tasks I no longer perform
  • Autom­a­ti­za­tion-scripts in the file-mov­ing-tool Hazel that I have not used for a while

It could also be:

  • Short­cuts to doc­u­ments we no longer need to locate quickly
  • Pages in the place we always tend to flip past, since we nev­er search for the spot we are look­ing for
  • Worn out Pos­tIts with our most fre­quent­ly used online accounts and their login-infor­ma­tion. Since the adhe­sive has gone dry, we have now resort­ed to pin­ning them to our pin-board.
  • Favorites, book­marks or short­cuts in our web browser
  • And of course, any­thing else you once cher­ished, but which has now lost its purpose

Do this

If you feel tempt­ed to do so;

  1. Choose what kind of infor­ma­tion you want to sift and sort through, for instance some­thing men­tioned above.
  2. Set aside half an hour, and in that time either fin­ish clear­ing out what you intend­ed to get rid of, or at least get thor­ough­ly start­ed. This half hour could com­mence as soon as you fin­ish read­ing this newslet­ter or you can sched­ule it in your cal­en­dar for some time this week.
  3. When the time has come, start cleaning!
  4. Then notice how you feel. If you are like me, you will enjoy hav­ing made it eas­i­er to use the struc­ture tool or tem­plate in question.
  5. Choose some­thing else to clean up, or just enjoy what you accom­plished so far.

Focus more and find things faster

If you take a moment once in a while to remove ver­sions that are out-of-date in terms of tools and tem­plates you once cre­at­ed to make your life eas­i­er, they will again serve you as effec­tive­ly as they were intend­ed to. You will find the cur­rent and rel­e­vant tem­plate or stan­dard­ized text faster, and will be less dis­tract­ed by old and irrel­e­vant mate­r­i­al. You will gain both focus and speed, and per­haps you even man­age to do more of what is impor­tant now that you have less clut­ter stand­ing in your way. But above all, you will have to sift and sort through less infor­ma­tion when work­ing, and that in itself is reward enough if you ask me.

An addi­tion­al effect obtained by sort­ing through old mate­r­i­al is that you are remind­ed of what tools, tem­plates and oth­er mate­ri­als you actu­al­ly have at your dis­pos­al. Speak­ing for myself, I have on sev­er­al occa­sions dis­cov­ered that I have some kind of sim­pli­fy­ing tool which I had for­got­ten hav­ing devel­oped or found at some point.

What is your way?

In what area or aspect do things tend to over­flow some­how? Of what do you have too many or too much, hence mak­ing it hard to dis­tin­guish which the right one to use is? Share your thoughts with me.

(And, when you clean out — clean out rea­son­ably.)

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