Jim Duffy: Clear up the clutter in the internal hard drive of your mind

When the mind has reached the point of overload, it is time to work out what is important and what is not.
When the mind has reached the point of overload, it is time to work out what is important and what is not.
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We cannot function coherently when we have fragments of our lives scattered all over our brains, writes Jim Duffy

I once owned a Microsoft Windows enabled laptop that had a program called Disk Defragmenter. In essence, my laptop would become full of disparate stuff and the hard disk would have it stored all over the place. This caused the disc to become cluttered and then the performance of the computer would deteriorate. I’d run the Disk Defragmentor utility which would rearrange files stored on the disk. In my head this was into nice neat lines. But apparently the technical term was into ‘contiguous storage locations’. This resulted in optimum performance as my laptop ran at a faster speed. I’d watch the little defragmenter icons on the screen and I could see that my computer was getting a tune up. I can totally get this and I loved using it as I felt my computer was honed and focused. But, if we do this to our computers, why do we not do it in our lives?

The process of defragmentation sounds a bit extreme, a bit sterile and a bit invasive. I once had a colonic irrigation treatment. Now that was invasive, albeit most uplifting. But, as I watch so many people and organisations operate in a most fragmented fashion I wonder, why we do not teach defragmentation as a way of adding proper focus to our lives. And it doesn’t need to be as invasive as my colonic irrigation experience.

In fact, we might have less people off sick with stress if we better understood defragmentation. We might have less aggression and short-tempered people cutting around if they had some regular defragmentation. And we could possibly have a better standard of politician and business leader if they themselves were better tuned and running with real focus.

How many of you reading this article right now are experiencing some de-focus in your life? At work, in the office, in your careers, in your personal or family relationships? It causes direct and ancillary problems as one area of de-focus spills into another area of focus. It messes with your thought patterns and, unlike my old computer, your emotions.

Feeling fragmented in an area of your life pulls your performance down in other areas. If you are feeling unsatisfied at work, but trapped in that you have a mortgage, kids to pay for and car payments, then you can be operating or existing in a fragmented state of mind. This will manifest itself in strain within the household or poor relationships or performance at work. If you reach the age and stage where you feel you have not achieved your potential or the dream that was sold to you as a kid is not quite what it should be, then you will feel a period of de-focus.

De-focus is not a good thing. It leads to frustration, out-of-character behaviours and low mood. It is the first dead canary in the coalmine. Our GP surgeries are full of people like you and me who tell the doctor they have lost their oomph, their pep and feel low. This is not however to be confused with clinical depression, which is whole different ball game. It is fair to say that right now as you read this, doctor surgeries the length and breadth of the UK are prescribing anti-depressants for fragmented and de-focused people. I was there once…

So, how do you defragment? How do you regain that focus so that your equilibrium is in balance and you can see things clearly again? Well I can’t dole out selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to you, but I can suggest that you do one thing. Yes, that is the answer – do one thing. Sit down with a notebook or a piece of paper and a pen and put your name on the middle of the page. Draw a box around it. This is your life on this page. Now mindmap all the stuff that is impacting you on a daily basis. I guarantee that you will fill the page with a whole raft of subject headings. From kids to bosses to pensions to health to savings to Brexit to schools to sex to money - and everything in between. And herein lies the problem.

A simple analogy that we use in business is we tell entrepreneurs to work on their business rather than in their business. As the business travels from A to B, the entrepreneur is in the business driving the car. However, working on the business looks at the car and journey in a whole new perspective. The mindmap of stuff, that fragments and defocuses you, is you working in your life. My suggestion to add focus to your life is to work on your life. There’s a huge difference here. It will make you think about where your priorities are and what is important to you, not others.

If we are to have a better tuned up society, better run businesses, universities, colleges, local authorities and government, then we need to spend more time on creating focus and defragmenting our internal hard drives. If we have stuff scattered all over our brains, then they cannot function coherently. We contribute less and less and do ourselves long term damage in so many ways and on so many levels.

My challenge to you today or tonight or this weekend: Run your own form of internal disk defragmenter and see if it can help tune you up and re-focus on who you are, who you want to be and where you want to go. Trust me when I tell you, it’s so important to you. Yes! You!

Agitator and disruptor Jim Duffy is Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark