I was listening to an interview of author John Briggs over the weekend. He coauthored a book I refer to in 2 Weeks to a Breakthrough called Seven Life Lessons of Chaos. You can listen to the interview here.
He said something that I have been processing in my mind all weekend. He said that fractals are the marks left by a chaotic system. I love fractals and have read about them in several books but I had never heard it said so simply and elegantly.
This morning, my thoughts went to clutter. All the little things in front of us that keeping us from doing meaningful work. Emails, bills, following-up, etc. The sorts of things that Getting Things Done helps us tame.
I was thinking about my own clutter and began to see it as a shape – a fractal. Fractals are interesting shapes. Whether you zoom in or out, you will see the same pattern.
My clutter is a fractal – a mark left by a chaotic system. When I zoom out, I see larger categories of clutter, and when I zoom in, teenie weenie bits of clutter. It’s all the same. Clutter swirls and grows and takes on a life of its own. To enjoy the opportunity to focus today, I need to eliminate – not just tame – a bunch of clutter.
Ignoring the clutter does not work, we know this. Clutter is both physical and mental. Each undone bit fills up the "gotta do" part of our thoughts until we deal with it.
This morning I:
- Cancelled a mag substription
- Opted out of a few newsletters
- Cleaned out a bunch of emails, responded to a bunch too
- Straightened up the pile on my desk (I had been looking at it for days wondering if there was something in there that needed attention)
- Renewed my car tabs online
- Paid a credit card bill online
- Mailed off the proofs of Focus Like a Laser Beam
Now I am ready to chunk (three chunks on tap for today).
What’s the shape of your clutter? What can you do to reduce it for now AND prevent some of it in the future? If clutter is part of a chaotic system (it is), then making small positive changes could have a big impact on your ability to focus and enjoy work.