Monthly Archives: April 2006

Lose stuff, get things done

My good friend Jorge recently recommended the book Getting Things Done to me. I guess the fact that I blew through the book in a few short hours is in itself testament to the power of this book. Just like another great short book, the very compactness is testament to the ability of the author to make their point without a lot of rambling (and yes, all you door-stopper computer book tomes sitting up there on my shelf, I’m talking to you – why is it that computer books so often are so darn chunky?) – but the idea of compactness, or I guess lightness, is actually also a core theme of the book itself, such as keeping your email inbox empty, as in unloading and keeping unloaded a lot of excess stuff so that you can focus on what really matters. Yes, I did say keeping the email inbox empty – after I was about half way through the book, I made myself a resolution to clear out about 100 emails a day (in addition to new emails), which means it would’ve taken me about two weeks and change to clear out the inbox. But when I started clearing it out, I found myself to be on such a roll that I ended up cleaning the whole thing out in less than a week. The fact that I was using Gmail is important to note here, since it wasn’t really a question of having to commit to deleting stuff, rather it was a question of organizing all those emails into a few large buckets like ‘reply’ ‘todo’ ‘purchases’ and ‘review later’ to mention a few, and then just outright archive the ones I couldn’t catgorize. Now my inbox is actually once again an inbox(!) This whole idea of lightness is of course not unique to being organized. I remember reading a great book about raw food detox diets, in which I didn’t really go for the whole raw foods thing, but one statement in the book has stayed with me: waste = weight. And another one: the more processed the food is that you eat, the more difficulty your body will have in breaking it down – if you eat an apple, your body will go – cool, I know what that is!, but if you eat a Twinkie, your body will go, hmmm…not sure what to do with this stuff, let me set it aside and get back to it later. Which gets me back to the whole inbox thing. Essentially, a bloated inbox is like an invisible weight, a collection of stuff that likely contains a lot of waste, which you have to wade through to find the important stuff. Just like the idea behind raw foods (and meditation, I guess, since that’s all about clearing out your mind, tho’ don’t qoute me on that as I ain’t no meditation expert), or just generally about clearing out ‘stuff’ – I recently went through a couple closets to make some more room in my Brooklyn apartment, and ended up taking an entire carload of ‘stuff’ to a nearby Salvation Army Thrift store – it was like getting my apartment back! Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to see the whole idea of lightness in such a wide range of places – another one is in the new eBook “Get Real” by 37 Signals – they spend a lot of time talking about keeping things stripped down (such as in a section called ‘Hold the Mayo’), describing it as a win-win for both the developer and the user. There is a lot that I don’t agree with in the book, but the whole idea of lightness definitely resonated. One thing lightness doesn’t prevent, it seems, is rambling ;)