Do you ever get to a point in your week where you seem to be on autopilot? You’re tired and just don’t want to work harder to get the remainder of your to-do items done. Do you feel like you’re in a rut and treading water waiting for someone to rescue you or something to happen where you can clean the slate and start over?
A reset can sometimes be necessary for you to break out of the slump and progress.
Most of us are hoarders in one way or another. Some people collect apps on their mobile devices, some fill their hard drives with photos, some collect trinkets, and yet others collect obligations. Mental or physical, at some point you will need to sift through the mess and find the foundation to move forward.
The Idea Behind a “Reset”
When we get to the point where we feel like we can’t handle another thing being added to our plate, it’s time to reset and start from scratch. This reset is scary.
Calling it quits and starting over means admitting failure. We are stubborn.
The alternative, to starting over is, digging our daily rut deeper and living the same day over and over again — without trying to be happier or be more productive.
Analyze the Rut
When working on anything, an easy way to start analyzing your rut is to think to yourself…
“Why am I doing this, is it helping me toward (___enter goal here___)?”
This can be work or personal tasks. There is usually some underlying goal you are trying to achieve when you are busting your hump trying to check everything off your to-do list.
Take a look at your day and where your time goes. Look at the things in your daily life bogging you down and start to match up the daily activities to your end goal.
Being totally honest with ourselves is ironically hard. The easiest lies to tell are the ones we tell ourselves, yet it’s totally necessary to be honest with ourselves. Self-awareness is a critical step for any change program. An old-fashioned pros and cons list can be a powerful agent of change.
As Dr. Atul Gawande points out in The Checklist Manifesto — simple checklists can improve any outcome.
Proconlist.com is a cool site to help you out with your list. Each pro or con is weighted. You can rate the pro or con with an emotional and a rational rating. Once the list is completed, you’ll have a score to help make your decision more clearly visible.
Once we have a heart to heart with our self and figure out what’s bogging us down, we need to make a plan. Like any change, you’ll need to be ready and have the willpower and resources to make the change stick.
All of this sounds pretty basic, right?
Well, putting into action is the scary part. When you purge your life of things you are accustomed to, you will resist. Even if you know it’s in your best interest to change.
Fight the Resistance
Our time — both for work and relaxation — is spent in the digital realm. It’s hard to stop using our computer, smartphone or tablet for pleasure when a distraction is just a couple clicks away.
Fighting the resistance to clean your digital slate and reset things to a state where you’re not so cluttered can take some work. Start on the smaller side and work your way up to bigger things.
Take baby steps.
Take a master reset of your phone, for example. After you make sure you backup all of your contacts, pictures, and stuff you don’t necessarily need, hitting the final button to wipe everything is nerve racking. What if you missed something really, really important and it’s gone forever?
Once it’s cleared, the arduous process of installing all essential apps and logging into your accounts begins again. The process isn’t fun at all, but it is freeing. You can download the apps you absolutely need and see how long you can go without all the fluff apps.
Attachments to the status quo makes many people freeze and stay in their comfort zone. That’s why the smallest first step breaks resistance and builds momentum.
The Little Things You Can Do?
Technology is so pervasive, it can be the first place you begin resetting your life. If you have already made a list of the problems and decided to take action, here are some ways to act.
Start by purging your electronics. Getting rid of clutter in your digital life can make your days feel less like an obstacle course. We all have computers and phones with little quirks because there is excess stuff on them.
As mentioned earlier, removing unused applications on your devices is a good place to begin. That game you played on your flight 6 months ago but haven’t since, yeah, you should really get rid of it.
Suck it up and delete it. You’re not going to play it again. If you are not able to decide, take help of apps like Frequency (Android). See which apps you use, how much you use them, and when you use them.
Declutter and save money. Clearing out unused apps can save you dollars in hidden data expenses and also prolong your battery life.
Let’s say you are paying for Dropbox and have 1TB of space. What if you got rid of all the ebooks you won’t read, blurry pictures, and other junk files you’re holding onto. Would you be able to get by with less space and save a few dollars a month?
Scale back on subscriptions. Newsletter subscriptions are huge inbox villains. The majority don’t help us move towards our goals and are just distractions. Dann shows a few ways to declutter newsletters if you don’t want to trash them right now.
Simplify Your Organizing
Some people, including myself, are guilty of being too organized. To the extent of having a folder in a folder in a folder. Unless you go 5 layers deep into your sub-folders, you don’t know what you have. Aaron shows us how to create file and folder from the chaos of a disorganized desktop.
Again, I have way too many labels in Gmail. With the great search feature most apps have, it’s not too necessary to be extra OCD in organizing files and emails. Simple grouping is good enough in most cases.
Reinstall The OS
Master reset your connected devices or clean the hard drive with a reinstall of the OS. Start with a clean slate.
I took a tablet which was low on space and cleared it of everything to help speed it up. Since it was a blank canvas, I made it into my work tablet. No games or anything unproductive on it.
Only have what’s necessary to complete the tasks it’s used for. The more clutter on your device, the more likely you are to be distracted. Distraction defeats focus and that can inject unhappiness.
An interesting experiment by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are.
We see evidence for mind-wandering causing unhappiness, but no evidence for unhappiness causing mind-wandering.
Reset Your Routine
Make small changes to your routine to change your habits. Some habits like hopping over to Facebook every spare minute you have can be a hard habit to break. Try deleting the app from your phone and/or blocking Facebook and other social apps on your computer during certain times of the day. Or you could take Akshata’s excellent tip to play dirty with your habits.
Communicate Your Goals
Some parts of your life aren’t easy to reset though. If your spouse is a trigger for a particular habit, you will need to have a talk and explain what you’re trying to change. See if they can help by not triggering the (bad) habit or make you feel bad for not being a party to it.
It may be as simple as sending frequent text messages throughout the day or using a family email address to sign up for all kinds of sites that invite junk mail.
Communicate your goals and ask them to help, not hinder you.
Be it by choice or by disaster, at some point we all reboot our digital lives. Taking the initiative and making the needed changes on your own will do greater good than facing the costs of a hard drive crash or a digital burnout. The road back is a long one.
What part of your life is weighing you down? What can you do to wipe the slate clean and go at it in a new direction?