A few months ago, I enrolled in an online course on User Experience Design, one of the key learnings that I had is that the more visible items or features there are on a software, app or website, the less likely the users will continue using it because of stress due to cognitive load. Cognitive load refers to the weight our limited working memory carries. Too much cognitive load leads to stress and breakdowns.

  • A few weeks ago, we downloaded a bad copy of Game of Thrones from a shady source and it infected my browser with a type of malaware called surfvox.
  • I spent hours trying to fix it but didn't get to because most of the fixes didn't work or required too much time.
  • I eventually set my computer up to run on Ubuntu Linux. The experience had been fine so far. I got my side work done and completed many of the tasks I set out to do.
  • Running on Ubuntu is somewhat distraction free (so far) because my games and other apps (which I am prone to fiddling) are out of reach.
  • The reason why I can't do many things I set out to do is not because I lack things but because I have so many other things distracting me or slowing me down. Each item that I have increases the cognitive load in my head.
  • I'm thinking of the saying "A place for everything and everything in it's place."

This results in this week’s minimal change. If you would like to participate, here are the steps:

1. What are the spaces where I am required to be effective? I have a freelance workspace at home. My bedroom is designed to be a sleep/rest area. I have a kitchen where I prepare my food. 2. What am I doing in these spaces, the most often and what should I be doing? On my iPad, I am reading blogs instead of the books I set out to read or the training materials I paid for to acquire. On my bed, I play games or watch movies when I should be resting. Whenever I see the kitchen, I’m often discouraged to make my own meals due to the sheer number of items that we don’t use. I feel the need for a flat surface is necessary for many of my workspaces. Whenever I’m about to leave for work, I go back to my room at least five times to check if I forgot something. 3. If I removed everything and had to add what I need one by one what would the items be? For my writing and other freelance work, I just need a text editor and a way to file my work. I also use work sounds (to train my brain that it’s time to work) and headphones. On my bed, I just need my fan, my iPad as my sound machine (I use AmbiSci to play rain or white noise) and my eye cover. I’m setting up a space to have everything I need to prepare for my day job before I leave. I’m setting up a clear space policy on the kitchen, the dining table should be clear and so should my work area for chopping and prep work. 4. Write down the list one by one. I have a really short attention span. Therefore I am easily distracted, instead of waiting for years to train myself to be disciplined, I believe, the path of least resistance will get me started to eventually discipline myself. Instead of willpower, I rely on developing an environment and habit formation to achieve what I want. 5. Clean up the space, add only what I need and defend it tooth and nail to keep it that way. That’s it. Just implement the changes and work on getting it done.

I write this blog for myself. To solve my own problems and to give myself advice. I like reading others and eventually, I forgot to value my own opinion. This format was created to help me correct my error. This advice had been working for me so far and I hope it works for you too.