Although I need to be on my way to sleep because I’ve turned my life around and abandoned my night owlish ways (ha!), I had to briefly share an article that I need to revisit and a productivity hack that I need to reintegrate into my life: The Clear to Neutral Method.
Let me start by saying I don’t know where I would be without Lifehacker.com! I love love love their website and I can always find something good and useful over there. Like this.
Thanh Pham, the author of this article, asserts that there’s one thing that makes us procrastinate: Friction. Friction in this sense can be anything that must be done before you can do what you actually need to do. So on top of tackling whatever the task is that is already daunting, you automatically have to add another task to the to-do list before you can even start.
I think I’m the queen of friction – or at least a duchess or something. I will tell myself that I need to complete several tasks before I can get down to the one that I need to actually do. For example: I need to wake up early in the morning and go to the gym. But first,
- I need to make breakfast.
- Before I can do that I need to clean the dishes in the sink
- Before I can clean the dishes in the sink I need to make sure that all of the dishes from other areas are picked up and in the sink
- But I can’t pick up those dishes without cleaning up the other food-related trash that may have been left out with the dishes
- And I need to wipe down whatever tables the dishes had been left on
- Those tables probably have other stuff on them too that prevent me from fully cleaning the table so I need to return them all back to where they belong or at least move them out of the way
- Finally I can clean the dishes, make breakfast, and hit the door.
Had I utilized the Clear to Neutral method, I would have already cleaned up all of my food and trash, wiped the table down as well as done the dishes the night before so that when I woke up in the morning I could immediately make breakfast and head to the gym. Actually if following the CTN method, I would’ve done all of these things immediately after eating. The key to the Clear to Neutral method is eliminating any friction related to a task immediately after you have completed it so that the next time you need to do the task, you won’t have anything in your way, thus eliminating any excuses to procrastinate.
Pham gives some other ways in which this method can be applied to life:
- Getting enough sleep – energize yourself so you set yourself up for the next day.
- Close relationship loops – do you have unresolved issues with people, especially people you see on a regular basis? Close them so there is absolutely no friction when you two need to work together.
- Clean your desk – whenever you finish a task or you call it a day, clean your desk.
- Wash your dishes as soon you finish eating – don’t let dishes linger around for too long. The longer it is in the sink, the dirtier it will get.
- Close all programs – as you as you finish your work on your computer, close all windows so you only see your desktop.
- Post-morning ritual – whenever you finish your morning ritual, set everything up for the next morning.
- Note – this applies on a larger scale too, like in clearing the small tasks on your to-do list. Sometimes the simple presence of these 2-5 minute tasks is enough to make you procrastinate on doing bigger and more important things.
I said all this to say I’m packing up my laptop and bookbag tonight because I have an early day tomorrow and I don’t need any excuses not to hit the ground running in the morning…My dishes will have to wait though (I loathe washing dishes). But I will be reimplementing this method into my life because I need to make everyday tasks more efficient and less of an obstacle that prevent me from doing what I really need to be doing.
Note: I left in the original links from the article so check those out too!