How clutter ruined your life while you weren’t looking

Posted by in Productivity

How clutter ruined your life while you weren't looking

It might not feel that way, but there’s a clutter leak in your brain. Unseen and unbeknownst to you, the unholy trinity of clutter – physical, virtual and mental – has besieged your life, and along with it a considerable amount of your brainpower. This is the first part in a series on how to fight back.


Setting the scene


You’re likely aware that every single thing which runs on your computer occupies part of its memory and processing power – but did you ever stop to consider that your brain works in almost the exact same way? The’re but one major difference: your computer only tries to hold what you tell it to, whereas your brain tries to hold… everything.


Just close your eyes for a moment, and recall where you last saw your household’s pair of scissors, or your car keys. A child’s favourite toy. That new pair of socks, perhaps? The weekly business report? Your spouse?


It’s a neat trick, and our vast memory keeps inventory of all this subconsciously without so much as batting eye – or so the brain would have you believe, just as computer makers would have you believe that running a two-digit number of system “utilities” in the background has only a minimal impact on your user experience.


Your brain plays the wrong game all too well


From an evolutionary perspective, our brain has served us well for millions of years – after all, we owe our position as the dominant species on the planet to it. In the course of the past century, however, our world has changed immeasurably. A vast part of mankind’s labour has changed from physical to mental – as well as from simple to advanced, and it’s becoming painfully evident that our biology is struggling to keep up.


At a time when every little scrap of information may have held clues to ones furthered survival, the brain’s insistence on hoarding it all would have been singularly beneficial. But in the 21st century, the game is no longer about survival through knowledge: it’s about succeeding through knowledge, which is a very different game indeed. And in order to succeed – which I define as achieving a lifestyle in accordance with ones goals and desires whatever they may be, productivity is a prerequisite.


Despite its simple underpinnings, productivity is a trait sought by many yet truly obtained by few. To me, its essence is a state of introspection where I have constant and complete awareness of every single task I must, want or may do; can effortlessly process a manageable stream of information, and from this extract new tasks into my workflow; prioritize said tasks according to which offer the greatest progress towards my goals; and subsequently execute on them – in as an uninterruptive environment as possible.


To achieve this state, however, we must avoid falling prey to the biological mechanisms that have worked so well for millions of years – to avoid playing the wrong game, per se. Rather than expend our brainpower on every single piece of unnecessary information that crosses our path, we must find ways to restore it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, means we’re declaring a war on clutter.


Prepare for the cluttercut


As we’re now aware, our subconscious consumes precious brainpower for every single item that it keeps track of; brainpower that we would rather utilize to increase productivity. The question for the next part in this series then becomes as follows: how do we free it up?


By the time you’re reading this, you’ve likely already been reminded of several items of clutter courtesy of your friendly cerebral skull-dweller; my advice – and challenge – to you is to act upon these while you wait for the next part in this mini series on how to conquer your clutter.