February 27, 2021•646 words
TL;DR I sectioned off different parts of my room in order to increase focus and help organization.
I put masking tape all over my room today.
"Why?" is a reasonable question to ask, especially when I deliberately give no context for a lackluster comedic effect. The reasoning comes from various different sources: "Spaceship You" by video creator and podcaster CGP Grey, Deep Work by Cal Newport, some articles I read online, the Cortex Podcast (also from CGP Grey), and also my own mind... but basically, it goes like this.
When my room and the smaller spaces in it are places of ambiguous purpose, there are two negative consequences:
- They're hard to keep clean
- It's hard to stay focused
For example, if I keep some old technology on a shelf next to my Math binder, the purposes of the shelf become mixed and I'm not exactly sure what goes there. Chances are, I'll end up just leaving an old tablet I get from someone I know (I like to keep outdated electronics for projects) sitting around somewhere, somewhere it doesn't belong, because I'm not sure exactly where to put it. "Does it deserve to be on that electronics shelf? What about the one under my desk?" When it comes to low-effort, tiny actions like these, it's crucial to minimize the friction involved in getting it done. Having to decide where the old tablet goes may be enough friction to, in that moment, leave it to be organized at some future time. (Another way to say I am going to deal with it later.) Also, obviously, it's generally difficult to clean things up if I don't know where they should go.
Let's follow that example to later, when I am sitting down to work on a project. To my right-hand side is that shelf of electronics, which entices me and tries to distract me. Suddenly my desk is no longer a space for work; it is also a space for tinkering and messing around. My initial goal was "work in the work space"; now it is "do things in the work and also tinkering space". The door has been opened, and while I'll probably have the self-control to keep working in that moment, it's the long-term erosion of will that I am worried about.
I pretty much sectioned off each part of my room and gave it a purpose. My bed is purely for sleeping and doing some light reading before I go to bed; my bedside table and the cabinet underneath it is for holding things that relate to personal projects, along with heavily-used personal items; the desk is purely for work, along with the shelves that go with it; the storage console is for storage; the beanbag next to the bookshelf is for leisure reading; and the closet is the only place that clothes can go. Most of the floor space is just for walking on, so I left it as an "empty" section, so that I don't let random items pile up on it.
Now that each place has a purpose, identifying locations for storage and focused activity is a lot easier. My tablet goes into the storage console > tech section > old devices, while my math binder goes into the desk area > shelves > lower shelf for highly-used school items. Additionally, when I go to sit down for work, I know exactly what I want to do: open up my math binder and pull up a lecture or a textbook. There's no hesitation, because everything has its place and every place has its purpose.
I used the masking tape to visually represent these sections. Thick lines of yellow-white on my floor and some parts of my furniture now mark out clearly where I'm allowed to do things and where I'm not. It's a nice reminder of my goals, too.