As usual, when you start dealing with one thing in your life, you tend to narrow in and focus on it. Which is great, however, what if you have several things to do in your life, as most of us do, how do we manage creativity and productivity?
I find myself always on the quest for better productivity and better ways to perform things.
One thing that I find to increase productivity and generally lower stress is to clear. I didn’t say Clean, I said clear.
One of the basic things that is taught, on like Step 1, of Getting Things Done (GTD for those of you that love abbreviations) is to clear and empty. Take everything off your desk, empty your inbox, etc, and then perform actions on everything. Recently I wrote a blog post issuing my New Year’s Challenge to everyone about clearing off your desk and reducing clutter, paper, and digitizing everything you can. Because, you know, how easy is it for you to perform Boolean searches for post it notes?
So here comes the second part of my challenge, assuming you have performed challenge one, clearing off of your desk and surrounding area, hopefully putting things away and digitizing as much as you can, step two has to do with your computer.
Desktop. Your Desktop. I want you to perform this in two steps. First step, is to change your desktop background. Your kids and dog will understand I am sure. Get rid of anything busy, photos, etc. What I want you to start off with is a black background. You can make one in Paint if you are using Windows, if you are using a Mac, I’ll let you get away with Grey just to make life simple. (There is a grey solid color background built into OSX. Linux users, since you have to compile your own fonts, I think you can figure out how to make your desktop black. BSD users too, since you guys actually have to build your keyboards out of small pieces of a scrabble board and a leftover IBM keyboard without scissor keys....
Rid your desktop of all icons. Okay, I’ll let you have one or two, maybe the trash can, and the Harddrive icon. For Windows users I’ll allow you, say the Recycle Bin, and My Computer, or whatever is on the Windows Desktop nowadays.
Get rid of all your shortcuts (put them in the dock, or the quick launch section of your Task Bar), put your Shortcuts in a stack or something. Better yet, learn to use Butler or Quicksilver and do away with your Shortcuts all together.
Take all your pictures on your desktop and put them in the Pictures folder
Take all your Documents and put them in the Documents folder.
No excuses. Black Background, no icons.
Now, auto hide your Dock, or your Task bar. Get rid of it. You should have One icon maybe two, and no TaskBar/Dock.
For extra credit, you mac users, feel free to use MenuShade to get rid of the Apple Menu (unless you actually use it for things like Google Notifier like I said in a previous post.)
Okay, so now, I want you to work that way for a minimum of two weeks. Nothing on your Desk, Nothing on your Desktop. If you have things like Firefox that dumps your downloads on your Desktop, Create you a “Downloads” folder in your user profile and point Firefox there. Same thing with IE or whatever. OSX already has a downloads folder, tell Firefox to go there.
Two weeks. Make a conscience effort to keep things off your Desk and your Desktop for two weeks. Until it becomes natural. Then give me feed back on how it’s working for you by posting in the comments.
Yes. I do this.
BTW -- This methodology of working does really well with an app like Spirited Away, which auto hides apps.
I’ll explain why you are doing these exercises after my third and final exercise that I ask you to do. But for now, conduct one and two, and work with that for awhile.
To be successful with the “clear Desk” thing, you have to have someplace for people to put things instead of “on your desk”. Try an inbox or a special place on your desk to set things, then train your co-workers, spouse, secretary, and dog to place things in this space.