The Box and the Stopwatch

Two lifehacks I’ve found useful to share with you today.

1. THE BOX.

Have you ever had something that you are obsessing over and it takes up all of your mental and emotional energy? It might be a problem you are facing, a mistake you made, someone you’ve lost, hunger pains or even a pain in your back. I’m a pretty obsessive personality. I *like* being obsessed. Being obsessive has certain negative associations in our society but, as I always say, the difference between a considered fanatic and an eccentric is just how much money you have. After spending the first ten years of my adult life fighting my genetics, I finally decided to accept them and build on top of them, use them to my advantage if I can. That said, there are times when my obsessions aren’t productive. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. When I realize one of my obsessions is stopping me from moving on with my life, here’s what I do. I put it in The Box. It’s a simple little mental exercise whereby I mentally gather up all of the items associated with the obsession and put in into a solid, lead-lined safe. Then I lock the safe and store it away in one of the back compartments of my mind, like the Ark at the end of Indy 1. Then, whenever a thought associated with the obsession pops into my head (because, as you know, you can’t stop these thoughts from happening as there is no free will. If you don’t believe me yet, listen to G’Day World podcast #155), I just say "put it in The Box". And the energy (what is the definition of that again?) that the thought has seems to lessen. That’s not saying it completely disappears, but it diminishes and, over time, will drift into the background. Remember: put it in The Box.

2. THE STOPWATCH.

I learned this one from Merlin Mann’s excellent “(10+2)*5” productivity hack but it has a range of other uses. Again, even when I’m using The Box to store away something that I need to forget about, going completely cold turkey is frakkin hard. So I’ll allow myself to think about the thing inside the box for a couple of minutes a few times every hour. I use a stopwatch (if I’m working at my PC I use this excellent little app) and set it for ten minutes. I make a deal with myself that I will ignore the urge to open the box for ten minutes and, for that ten minutes, I will work on something important. Then, when the alarm of the stopwatch goes off, I allow myself 2 minutes to think about the thing inside The Box. Then, reset the stopwatch for another ten minutes, and get back to work. Eventually I can lift the time on the watch to 15, 20 and 30 minutes. Then a whole hour will go past before I remember I need to visit The Box.

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