This week will go down as one of the most stressful ones. I'm writing this blog post looking out to the ocean sitting on my deck in Miami Beach, not exactly the most nerve wrecking environment! But on Monday I finally decided to do something that was long overdue, to deal with my poor technical set up and a super slow computer. I erased my computer's hard drive.
DrivenWoman is about finding your passion and becoming happier and more successful in your chosen set up, so you might wonder, what has a computer hard drive have anything to do with that?
A lot, actually.
At the beginning of the year I set myself three development goals, one of them was never to be in a hurry. I wanted to stop rushing and start fully enjoying what I'm doing. To be more present. I've noticed is that the more I pay attention to the way I arrange my setup, the better I can get rid of all distractions, the more I can focus on what I enjoy doing. And the more I enjoying doing what I do, the more I get done. And the more I get done the more satisfied I get with my progress. And so it goes on.
Computer is no different to your mind, your relationships or your wardrobe. The more cluttered they get the more stress they generate. Having a great set up is means you have a great foundation to build on.
Over the years computers - like minds, relationships or wardrobes - get cluttered with stuff we no longer need. In my case, this had resulted in the fact that my computer was hardly functioning. It kept crashing and it was slow.
If your mind is crammed with stuff, it's unorganised and you keep hanging onto things you don't need the same thing will happen.
You will hardly function, you keep crashing and the progress on your projects is slow.
We all have a limited amount of capacity. The way I see it is if I use my capacity on unnecessary relationships, scattered thoughts and pointless emails, I get nothing that matters done. The problem is that most distractions are so small that we can hardly take them seriously. It's easy to think "well this will only take me 1 minute" but all of a sudden you have 100 of those little things in a day and, huh, your day is gone. I call these distractions 'time robbers'.
But now to the story of erasing my computer's hard drive.
I had tried the quick fixes. I spent money on installing a program that was supposed to get rid of the unnecessary clutter and dublicate files. It did't work. Looking back, it was like wishful thinking, expecting that someone else would fix my problems. I didn't want to face my technical problems.
The magic pill. I know it doesn't exist so why did I think it would this time?
I had not been able to get an appointment at the Mac store in London, the Genius Bar appointments were always full. But, had I really tried hard enough? Did I make this my priority? Probably not. It's so much easier to just carry on with your life and try to ignore the growing problems hoping a simple solution will magically present itself. Instead, you keep digging yourself deeper into the hole.
So here in Miami I finally managed to secure myself an appointment at the Genius Bar and on Monday evening I drove down to the Aventura mall Mac store with great anticipation. I backed up my hard drive, just in case. Of course I knew deep down that I'd be desperately needing my back up but I was still hoping for another solution.
The guy at the Genius Bar was called Steve. He was smart and friendly and I felt a bit like going to a dentist. I'm afraid of going but once I get there and discover the dentist is nice and gentle I relax and start trusting him. I decided to be brave and do what ever Steve would suggest. After all, I had already tried all of my own tricks, none worked.
Steve explained that the only real solution was to erase my hard drive. I only had 17 megabites memory left! He could look into the hard drive and try to find the items that were clogging it, but it would be unlikely to make much of a difference. What I should do was to erase it all and then put things back selectively from my back up files.
This sounded like a sensible advice and I agreed to pull the trigger. I was calm and I thought everything will be ok.
Back at home I started panicking. I realised I had lost all programs such as Microsoft office. I also realised the backup wasn't bullet proof and I couldn't find my passwords. Setting up email accounts was painful. But I decided to feel the pain and examine it rather than run away and rush into pushing all of my files back into my computer from the backup. I discovered that my computer was simply old and Steve had not been able to instal the latest operating system which resulted in the problems carrying on I set out to solve. (Most websites and virus prevention programs require 10.8 or higher but the highest Steve could go with my machine was apparently 10.7.)
I learned a lot about myself whilst calmly sitting in that pain. Instead of rushing into solutions (my default reaction) I decided to become a little internal spy quietly noting the feelings inside of me at this very stressful moment.
I decided not to act, but to observe until all solutions would come to me.
This is what I learned.
1) I was addicted to my computer
We can make ourselves important through the work we do. I'm not my work, I keep telling myself, but now that my computer was not functioning I felt super uncomfortable. I realised how addicted I had become to posting on social media (for work and for pleasure) and to working on something all the time.
I decided to see what will happen when I can't do that for couple of days. I knew that the most important things would automatically raise to the top. I knew the work that really mattered would naturally come to me and I would find a way to do that bare minimum even with reduced resources. And that's exactly what happened.
Now I know most of the work I think I should do is not important.
2) Erasing everything liberates
I wasn't able to set up all my email accounts immediately. And rather than panicking, I decided I will use it as an opportunity to clean out email accounts that don't serve me. (Well, to be honest, I did panic too.) My emails were still working on my mobile phone so for a couple of days I followed my email accounts to see what I could live without.
Also most of the files I've created I no longer need. Most of the photos I've taken are no longer useful. Most of the music I have I no longer listen. Most of the things I've collected simply don't service me anymore. Letting go of thinking 'maybe I need this one day' has been very liberating. I enjoy the feeling of being able to go back to my back up hard drive to retrieve something if I really, truly need, but so far I've picked up two files. I also realised that those files will no longer be relevant next week so I will make sure to delete them.
3) Clutter keeps you from attending the real issues
Because I was so busy doing stuff (we all are), attending the everyday business, I thought I had no time to fix my computer. Most of us are guilty of this. It's much easier to keep going as usual, attend small little problems and worship the nonsense rather than erase the noise and let the real problems come to the surface. But if we don't let the true difficulties come out we can never find solutions to them and they will never go away.
No program you download from the internet, no book you read, no women's network you join is going to solve your problems. At the end of the day we all must take the advice and then figure out our own solution that works for us and then put it into practise. We must take our own pill, not expect a magic pill.
Steve didn't solve my problems but he gave me a kick in the back side to go and deal with what had to be dealt with.
4) Becoming hyper critical
Erasing my computer hard drive has given me much more than just a faster computer. It has given me a lot more mental space. I'm not going to let anyone or anything re-clutter it again. So I've kept unsubscribing from email lists (about 50 so far!) and I will make sure I always click the 'unsubscribe' button on all but the most interesting email lists. I will be hyper critical who can have my email address, what questions I will answer and what meetings I will take.
Protecting my time and my space is going to be a priority if I'm going to get to my goal of focusing on what matters and enjoying my work without stress. From now on all distractions must go!
5) Don't be afraid of erasing everything
People hang onto old relationships, old jobs, old business relationships, old plans, old clothes, old eating habits, even old nail polish colours that no longer suit them. We cling onto the past because its familiarity gives us false security. But this false security creates nothing but clutter and prevents you from enjoying your work and doing things that matter.
When everything is erased you can build a foundation, a really powerful set up that will allow you to focus, get lots done and enjoy it every day.
Steve helped me to see my true tech problems. The fact of the matter is that my computer is simply too old and I need a new one. I have now bought a shiny new Mac which has the latest operating system. I've decided to become more tech savvy and not shy away from really understanding how I need to set up my work. It's no longer ok to say 'I'm not good at this'!
Do you have a nagging situation that is slowing down your work and happiness? Have you tried the quick fixes hoping they'd solve the obstacles standing in your way to your goals? Don't wait for the miracle. Don't be afraid to eraise your hard drive from the noise and cut out old toxic projects and people. And finally, find your 'Steve', a person who can help you to get to the bottom of the mater that needs solving.
I wish you a clutter free week,