How To Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps

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.

***

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).

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55 Responses to How To Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps

  • [...] Read more about how to defrag your mind in 5 easy steps. [...]

  • This is excellent advice with a new twist. I’m currently working on social media. I’m going to check my plan with your advice and see how I can improve it. I also like that you gave an example of how you’ve taken your own advice. It’s a sign of integrity and how you walk your talk and take your readers along for the ride!

    • Glad you found value here, now boldly go and make it real :-)

      • Hey Dragos, I sincerely think our mind constantly defragments itself and simultaneously working and comparing to get better results. De fragmenting, as you call it, is quite confusing. Sometimes, it can click wonders and sometimes it can just kick you off the track.

        It good you wrote this post, I just found big ideas on how mind can work better by just no defragmenting. Our mind works like a number less statistic machine. It constantly compares and tell us what to do.

  • More than the tips, I love how you included a specific run-through of how you would defrag your own mind. This helps the techies and non-techies see how beneficial and applicable it is.
    .-= Kikolani´s last blog ..Best of #SMAZ – Blogging Tips, Social Media ROI, & SEO =-.

  • GREAT…GREAT blog post. Thank you, now backt to work…

  • Great Dragos, I am also in for the geek lingo!
    My advice is to not only maintain your GUI, but more often than that check out your kernel. Then upgrade, enhance, simplify, test, beta-test and implement. Work on new feature, tweeks and bugfixes as well. Repeat until dead.
    .-= Tom – Healthy Donating´s last blog ..New Study: How to Donate Money in a Healthy Way =-.

  • Holly shh… Dragos,

    When I read the title, I thought you were gonna advice to get drunk, pass our and start fresh (which does make sense in an extreme kind of way :)). Reading the post, I see your advice makes a lot more sense. It sounds gradual, organized and efficient.

    Eduard
    .-= Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..Facing your fears the right way =-.

  • This is a really unique approach to goals and all sorts of important personal development ideas. I recently wrote an article about enhancing the goal setting process and like you, I addressed the prioritizing of tasks. My post uses the same basic prioritizing ideas but enhances them with a creative technique that has worked wonders for me.

  • 你好,想问下你的站点是PR2-PR5的站吗?我们想在你站点做个文字连接,每月给你钱的,如果有意向请联系Q2â‘ 523,做过我的请忽略。

  • Hey Dragos,

    I love the idea of defragging my mind. Very timely as I’m planning a workshop and I only have a week to prepare so those tips will certainly come in handy!
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..Honouring People And Cultures With Language Skills =-.

  • Hi Dragos,

    So far I’ve only been familiar with the GTD methodology where David Allen besides the “mind like water” metaphor also talks a lot about “emptying your RAM.”

    I probably still need some time to think about it, but comparing the GTD way with your 5 mind defrag steps I intuitively get the following impression:

    GTD seems to be an “outward” oriented method. You try to get the stuff out of your mind into a (trusted) system and all the tools/methods/processes are around you.

    With your defrag method I have the sense that it actually helps to pull stuff closer to me, albeit in an optimized, streamlined fashion – therefore it’s an “inward” oriented method.

    Hope that somewhat makes sense. As I said, I probably need some more time to reflect on it.

    But exactly that pulling the defragged information closer to me has a lot of appeal to me. I’d rather have the reliable tool to be able to trust myself than putting everything into some outside system.

    A second observation…

    Kind of ironic that a “not to-do list” can be even more powerful and necessary than a to-do list.

    Makes total sense to me, though – with all the time/energy leeches around.

    Also, thanks for including your real-life example. Always great to see the theory put into practice.
    .-= Marko´s last blog ..Mind Mapping for Musicians =-.

    • Interesting how you put this in context. I’m more than familiar with GTD and yes, one of his strong points is to take out the steam and load into an external, trusted system. I don’t want to challenge GTD in any ways with this, but I just realized that yes, this is an “inward” approach. And it works for me, at least :-)

  • [...] January 28, 2010 by smuttreja How To Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps [...]

  • As I mentioned on your post, “Are You The Best Version of Yourself?” – I can’t tell you how much I love this analogy. This is a great way to explain to our coming age how to keep your life healthy and on track. I especially like the bit about Running A Dry Test and allotting 10-15 min towards imaging how your day will pan out. It is a really effective way to jump-start your day and be prepared for whatever may come.
    .-= Steven | The Emotion Machine´s last blog ..How To Combat Work Overload =-.

    • This is why I liked best interpreted programming languages as opposed to compiled languages. It’s something interesting in seeing your results faster than going through the whole setup. The analogy stops here though, when it comes to implementing something serious, I’d always go for a compiled language (speed, stability, etc).

  • Hello Dragos, I really loved this article. In particular, I found “Chose Your Dominant Setup” an intriguing idea. I think this is a problem with me personally. i tend to lose focus because I probably haven’t identified my dominant mindset for the time period. Excellent. Well done!
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Linchpin – A Review =-.

    • Thanks for the comment, appreciated as always. Choosing a dominant setup is fundamental, if only for the fact that we’re so well designed to tackle almost anything in this world. Hence, everything seems easy and possible, stealing our focus away. A dominant setup will coagulate this focus into something easier to manage.

  • The post-industrial revolution in the west has brought about an environment unseen to humanity in past generations. We’re constantly distracted, at work, or sidetracked and in living such a lifestyle we’ve lost our connection with nature. Thus, our ability to handle situations and our overall sense of drive tends to wear down as the years go on. That is, unless you know how to manage these situations in life!

    Anyway, great post, and obviously by relating life to a computer you’ve made things click in your readers’ minds.

    Personally, I’ve found meditation to be the ultimate form and method in defragging my mind.
    .-= Jeremy´s last blog ..Global Consciousness =-.

    • Absolutely agree about meditation, I meditate constantly so I know the benefits first hand. Sometimes, we have to package the message in an understandable way.

  • I’m glad things are working out for you. I’m a tech nerd with similar leanings, but I found this dull and boring. Once I read “As you may already know I already have 5 books published on Amazon and things are going pretty well on this direction. “… I figured you were a bit pretentious. I’ll back away timidly and say I haven’t been following your blog and obviously many people appreciate what you have to say. I’ll be reading in the future and not providing such negative responses. Thanks for keeping up the blog and best of luck in the future.

    • Why telling what you’ve been doing is pretentious? Do you have a problem with asking for (and getting) recognition for your work? I don’t value timidity much, to be honest, if you feel to express yourself in a certain way you should do it.

      As a rule of thumb, things are working out when you work it out. Not only for me. It would work for you too. What stops you?

  • A nice idea, and good thinking. The computer analogy goes further than you may have imagined. Only Windows machines need deframented. This is a process us happy Linux users don’t have to put up with. Does Linux do defragmenting on the fly? Don’t know, but the human equivalent is having a personal information system managed with say, GTD principles, that means your mind is always optimised. Daily habits in maintaining the system keep a focus on the job in hand and ubiquitous data capture means best use is made of passing information for when a new task or project is started.

    • Glad you liked it. As a long time Linux fan, I think there is something similar to defragmentation, but it comes in the form of fsck, if I remember well. :-) And in Linux you gave a very interesting concept: lost & found, where you can find every bad or corrupt inodes. I wish my brain had something like this :-)

  • Interesting idea… but unrealistic for anyone but the steriotypical geek who can focus on one thing twenty-four hours a day. I have a real job with half a dozen areas of responsibility to juggle, a family who are always important to me, a two-month holiday that will be broken up by a few weeks work-related travel, plus some hobbies that I’d like to spend some time with every now and then. How does “defragmentation” work?

    Not all of us can sit around writing books all day.

    • At the end of the day, you are the one who choose to make something out of what you read or not. There is no such thing as something “suitable”, if you find something interesting enough, you put it into practice. The least I can do is to offer some food for thought.

  • Thanks,

    Good Idea, Good statement, But I think such a procedure has a little effect on lazy persons.
    I was not a lazy boy, Im Ph.D student in comp science (AI) but in last 3 years I have became lazy and I do not know how to get rid of it.
    I do a lot of scientific works but when it is publishing time I get rid of what I have done.
    Can you help me? If so please send me with mail.

  • Amazing blog. But i have a question
    I feel that i have too many things to take care of. There are like 5-6 things that i need to concentrate on at one time. So accordingly, my dominant setup would change at least 5-6 times in a day. Tell me how do i manage that, becoz even after defragmenting, i feel that i end up juggling things and not doing a single one completely..
    Please reply…
    .-= Prabhjot K Saini´s last blog ..Where are the answers ?? =-.

  • Sorry, but your post got an immediate “compiler error” when I started reading it and my processor refused to continue. I can’t “chose” to do something – because if I chose to do it, the decision is already made – “chose” is past tense. I need to choose to do something. If you’re going to be a great blogger (as I see from your next post), you need to use the right word or some people are going to immediately tune out… I hope that English is not your native language, in which case the error is excusable (and the rest of your writing is very good, from what I see), but it still makes it difficult for some of us to get past red flags like this to see what you’re trying to say…

    • You’re absolutely right :-) And I know that feeling of getting errors from the compiler, very frustrating. Now, if you want to know more about this issue, feel free to take a look at this post: How To Be Ridiculous where I address this exact situation. Yes, my English is my biggest liability in this blog business, but it’s also the area in which I can grow more than in any other one.

      And I appreciate you being helpful :-)

  • Nice article. I myself am trying out the pomodoro technique. From what i’ve read, the pomodoro is like a 25 min defrag.
    Have you tried Pomodoro?
    What are your thoughts?

  • Intriguing analogy and a useful post. Several of your steps correspond to parts of my 5F method of managing information overload–focus (most important!), fun, find, filter, and file.

  • Nice post. I’ve always seen similarities in computers and our minds. I suppose its because minds created computers.
    .-= Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com´s last blog ..Lessons From a Month of Meditation =-.

  • Just to thank you for the brilliant concept of “defragmenting your mind”.

    Eliminating distraction or clutter is fine… but “defragment your mind” is really a stunning image.

    I’m experimenting with the pomodoro technique (www.pomodorotechnique.com), and defragmenting my mind before begining a new pomodoro makes it even better!

  • frumos post si interesant
    .-= urdu´s last blog ..Pumpkin Patch Blast =-.

  • Awesome article!

    I’d also suggest doing a “disk cleanup” as well. De fragging is good for optimizing, but we leave all of our files in disarray, and our “computer” (brain) struggles to keep up. It’s a huge source of stress and it sucks up our mental RAM.

    Doing a disk clean-up is easy though.

    I take 20 minutes and write down everything that is on my mind that I need to get done. And I mean EVERYTHING. Laundry, cleaning the house, changing the oil in my car, talking to a friend, repairing a relationship, cleaning up the yard, cleaning up my files on my actual computer, ANYTHING.

    This is a list of things that cause friction in your life and in your mind. Once I write everything down, I take a day and go through the list and purge as many items as possible, until my list is down to nothing. It may take more than one day, but giving a whole day to this project is an awesome start, and you will notice that your brain feels clearer and more focused because it’s not constantly thinking about all the things that need to get done.

    It’s about filling in those “open loops” in your life.

    It truly is life-changing, and can instantly make you feel better, and more motivated to work because your brain is clear of distractions.

    I write more on personal development and online business (specifically blogging) here at http://www.conscious-growth.com.

    Thanks!
    .-= William Womack´s last blog ..How to Build Your Power =-.

  • kim Saunders says: March 7, 2010 at 5:05 am

    This was very illuminating to me. I’m an alchoholic and the 10th of the 12 steps is to continually take personal inventory. The 12 steps are designed for those of us who have a hard time staying balanced so in the 12 steps it reccommends that the personal inventory be daily or periodically or at crisis points (like going on vacation or changing a job).

    The personal inventory is equivalent to defraging or changing direction or refocusing on a goal. Your blog adds a nice pattern and direction to the inventory.

    One intersting thing about the 10th step is that we are told to keep a small monitor awarnesss at all times watching ourselves to tell us if it seems we need a personal inventory or defrag soon or immediately. Alchoholics and obsessives can totally lose focus if we don’t keep watching whether we are off track or not. The normal person may not need to keep this little monitor program running.

    If you have never done so, try reading the 12 steps sometime and comment if you feel so inclined. – Thank you for the insight – Kim Saunders

  • [...] - How to Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps – I know one of my biggest problems is I have too much crap in my head competing for my [...]

  • [...] - How to Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps – I know one of my biggest problems is I have too much crap in my head competing for my attention [...]

  • [...] each step in his mind-defrag process, follow the link for the full post. Comment on what you think? How To Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps [Brilliantly [...]

  • [...] your brain could be assimilated to a computer hard-disk, do a raw format. “Accidentally” lose some data. Re-arrange drastically all your information [...]

  • [...] post was about and How To Be The Best Version Of Yourself and the second one was How To Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps. Got an incredible spike in the number of visitors and a lot of hosting problems associated with it [...]

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