This is a follow up to my post: “Are You The Best Version Of Yourself?“. Specifically, that article used a geeky metaphor, comparing our own being with a computer. In order to be sure you run the best version of yourself, a certain number of maintenance tasks have to be performed, such as “updating your drivers” or “stay virus free”. In this post I’m going to detail on “Defrag your mind”.

Defrag Your Mind? What Exactly Is That?

For the non-geeky versions of my readers, I will briefly outline what a defragmentation is. Although it sounds pretty harsh, it’s nothing but an optimization process. The data on your computer hard-disk is not written and read in sequential order. It’s broken down into smaller pieces and written at arbitrary locations. Now, after a certain period, the effort for retrieving that information, scattered around your entire hard-disk, could become really time consuming.

This is where defragmentation comes in: it re-arranges the data on your hard-disk so it would be much more easier to access. The expected result of such a process is an increase in speed and a higher reliability of your equipment. In other words: you’re going to work not only faster, but also much safer.

Now, how can you do this to your mind? Here is my take on it, in 5 easy steps:

1. Chose Your Dominant Setup

Maybe you’ll be in travel mood for the next couple of weeks. Or maybe you’ll have to deliver something big at your job. Or maybe you’ll want to learn something new. Whatever the case, you’ll have to identify your major focus in the next few days or weeks. This is what I call your “dominant” setup. It will be your main concern, your essential duty.

Similarly, there are computer setups for video processing or for games.  There are setups for text or image processing. Depending on these setups, your hard-disk algorithms may change. This is why it’s important to do an assessment first and understand what are you going to perform in the next few weeks. You’re going to setup your mind exactly for that.

Based on this initial assessment, when you’ll chose a dominant configuration for the next period. try to identify it with a single word or a small sentence: “finish project”, “workout” or “visit Rocky Mountains”. Your whole defragmentation process will target this dominant setup.

2. Identify Necessary Information

Once you correctly identified the main concern for the next period, start to identify related areas. What information do you need to succeed? Are there any important actions you need to perform on a regular basis? Are there any specific attitudes you need to adopt? Any habits you need to implement? All these items are part of your main setup.

Identifying your necessary information should be done rather slowly but thoroughly, than quickly and fuzzy. If you’re going to establish a new algorithm for your main central unit, you’d better make sure you  won’t let out something important. That will only make the whole process slow if you’d have to go back and re-start it again.

One tip in this step would be to make a log of it. If it’s something about holiday, just write down the “cloud” of necessary information, actions and habits in a list format. Next time you go on a holiday, you’ll have the info available and spend less time on assessing it. Another tip that could significantly shorten this step is to use mind-mapping. A non-linear document would be more appropriate for this process than a sequential one.

3. Establish Priorities

You know the setup, you have the tools, now all you have to do is to establish priorities. If you ever witnessed a defragmentation, you saw that the most frequently accessed information is usually moved in the first sectors of your hard-disk. That would make it easier and faster to be accessed. And you’re going to do exactly that: make things easier to manage.

Identifying priorities is obviously closely related to the dominant setup. If you’re going to work more than usual, then one of your priorities would probably be to have your laptop charged as often as possible. If your main setup would be traveling related, maybe the tool which should be constantly charged is your mobile phone.

The easiest way to assess the priority is to use a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being the higher point of the scale. Take the previously gathered information and run it through this filter. Ok, this is a laptop, on a scale from 1 to 5 how important is that for my dominant setup? Ok, will give it a 2. Just start practicing and in time you’ll get better at it.

4. Ignore The Unimportant

One of the biggest clutter sources in our lives is the excess luggage we’re carrying around because we think it’s necessary. Or because somebody else has already decided for us it’s necessary. Or simply because we didn’t do any assessment whatsoever and we’re still carrying around those lose ends. Our focus is too loaded with too many lenses.

The 4th stage of your mind defragmentation should address exactly this question. If you moved all the important stuff closer to your core in the previous step, now you’re going to take the unnecessary bits and pieces and move them far away from your reach. Don’t get rid of them, of course, just offer them a well deserved break. :-)

For instance, if you’re going to travel, you may totally ignore your office suits. Push them away, ignore. If you’re going to learn something new, decide you’re going to cut on your distractions: ignore watching TV or social activities. The most important function of this step is to actually write down what are you going to ignore. Don’t expect it to happen naturally.

5. Run A Dry Test

Once your dominant new setup is in place, try to run a dry test. It won’t have the benefits of actually implementing the whole things, but it will still be useful. Take 15 minutes to imagine a whole day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you get to bed. Every information you need is in place? Are your priorities well balanced? Is the clutter properly stowed away?

If you’re satisfied, congrats, you just had your first mind defragmentation.

A Real Life Example

1. The Dominant Setup

I do a little bit of defragmentation every time I enter a new milestone for my blog. One of the dominant setups this year would be “monetize my blog”. These are at least 3 main functions I should perform under this new setup:

  • create new products
  • identify markets for the products
  • promote my new products
  • increase blog traffic

2. Necessary Information, Actions and Habits

  • focus on creating extra products (text, audio and video)
  • focus on promoting my blog via social media
  • allocate at least 2 extra hours each day for new products
  • evaluate the promotion and generated income

3. Establish Priorities

  • the most important thing: create products (priority 1)
  • the second most important thing: promote the products (priority 1)
  • the third most important thing: increase blog traffic (priority 2)

4. What To Ignore

  • spend less time reading other blogs
  • spend less time on other projects (workshops, for instance)
  • ignore alternative monetization like display advertising

5. Run A Dry Test

As you may already know I already have 5 books published on Amazon and things are going pretty well on this direction. The dry-test started on early January and just finished a few days ago when my 5th book was approved. I know how my dominant setup will look like for the next few months. :-)

Well this is how a basic mind defragmentation process looks like. This is really sketchy but I hope you got the idea.

How Often To Defrag?

Similar concepts in productivity metodologies (like GTD), suggests that a thorough review should be done weekly. In my experience, there’s no need for a weekly review in order to keep your mind defragged. It’s more about how often you will change your dominant setup, or your goals. This is also closely related to your own lifestyle.

For instance, I do think you should do a defrag every time you leave on holiday, but only if a holiday will mean a major shift in your regular lifestyle. If your current lifestyle is a nomadic one, living location independent, maybe you should do a defrag every time you check in to a new country.

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What are your thoughts on this one? Do you see any more steps involved in the process? Do you see the process with even fewer steps? Would you try this? Did you already tried it but under a different name? Would love to hear from you in the comments.

Translations of this post: Spanish (Como desfragmentar tu cerebro).