Discovering what is essential and removing what is not.
8 entries
First: Oct 7, 2020
1 contributor

I find myself wanting to move through the day in one continual motion. No thinking, just seamless transition from one activity to the next, trying to maintain flow. Anything in my environment that causes me to stop or think about the next step I find myself wanting to remove or redesign.

I will return to this journal in 3-4 weeks once I have adjusted my routine in a lasting way to start at 4am. 3-4 weeks because I have read it takes that amount of time to make a lasting change to your sleep routine. Then I'll figure out the next thing to work through which will probably be my work space.

I really like the idea of only ever improving or working on one thing at a time. It's tough. It can be difficult to figure out what that one thing should be. Part of figuring out what is most essential is thinking that something is essential, working on it and then finding out that it is not. Determining what is essential and not essential requires a wide range of experimentation. This can seem counter-intuitive from the outside, but it's the only way to know what is essential. And then once you know that something is essential it takes focus and discipline over a lot time to pursue that essential thing and remove all elements that take you away from it.

Right now in my own creative process, the most essential thing is figuring out how to consistently start my creative work at 4am. With the virus that's keeping us all at home it has become more difficult for me to find space in the day for deep work. I think moving my creative time to 4am-9am would unlock a lot of new potential. I think it's the one thing that would have the greatest impact on my life right now. I find it super difficult to do though!


I think a lot about tools and spaces, but not enough about reducing constraints. When I think about constraints, I often think about them from the perspective of how they are holding me up, not necessarily as something I can focus on to improve my output. I'm curious what would happen if I focus daily energy on removing constraints to output instead of producing more output.

I spent a bit more time removing non-essential items from my room tonight. This time I focused on the night table beside my bed. I was thinking about the purpose of my room. If it had only one purpose, what is it? The answer for me is sleep. Outside of the bathroom and the closet, the primary purpose of this room is for me to sleep. Everything on the night table should facilitate that activity. Through that perspective, I had to remove everything from the night table. It's entirely bare now and I wonder why I need it at all. I imagined what I might put on it that could help me sleep but I'm only imagining those things because the table is there (lol). It's helpful to be clear about this room's purpose. Sometimes, I'll walk away from my desk and use my MacBook Pro on my bed. I change locations to think. But I don't want to do that any more. I want the purpose of this room to be hyper clear and focused. All it's for to me is sleep. Over time, I'll try and improve it for that purpose.

Today I was thinking about what is and is not essential with my current work on Futureland (FL). My focus was split between product design and onboarding. The latter is something that really needs to be improved right now. To explore this theme of 'essentialism', I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see what happens if I focus only on one thing at time with my work on Futureland. Even if that creates a lot of open time and boredom. What happens if I restrict myself to working on only one problem set a time? Not for 25 mins or an hour but for a week or a month (or more). This forces me to figure out what the most important thing is to do and perhaps increases the chances that I can actually solve the problem set since it will get all of my focus. Maybe this is a mode I'm only in at certain points, I don't know.

So I'm running the experiment. I am focusing on improving FL's onboarding and nothing else for 1-2 weeks (perhaps a month is more optimal - let's see). This isn't the easiest decision for me because it meant pausing my Interfaces journal where I have been designing some kind of interface for 387 consecutive days. But I'm curious enough about this to run the experiment.

I finally had a chance this morning to unpack my bags from the trip away last week. As I was putting things away in the closet, I started to think about the clothes that I don't need. My wardrobe is pretty compact. I started experimenting with a uniform about 5 years ago and I haven't looked back since. I wear black Reigning Champ shirts with black pants every day and I have been for years. I have a few high quality sweaters for when it gets colder. But I could probably strip those down or replace some of them. I think there's 4 items in total (in terms of sweaters).

I had a lot of unnecessary socks that needed to be purged. Some that I never wear, some that have holes (lol). I'm not sure why I kept these around but it's a part of my wardrobe that I never processed as much as the other components. It's a weird thing to say but I haven't found a pair of socks that last for me. Maybe it's my feet, maybe it's the way I walk but I find I go through them fast. They usually always develop holes on the heel. Even with things like socks, I really enjoy finding ones that last and then never really thinking about them again.

Kind of funny to create another journal to determine what is essential but I find creating a space for me to continually come back to a theme is really transformative use of FL. There's a lot to go into here, but essentially I have been practicing the skill of repeating things for essentially 3 years now. More recently I get this kind of glimpse into an insight, it's hard for me to describe but I find a lot of Zen literature captures it well. For now I call this insight, "the day as one continual motion". It's something that I think about a lot. How do I go through my life doing one thing at a time. Not doing something while looking at my phone. Or doing something and then darting over to another thing. How do I just do one thing at a time and then how do I seamlessly transitioning from one thing to the next.

In deep week 1, I isolated myself in an environment that was stripped of almost all of the things that are around me every day. The big things and the little things. Clothes I don't need. A useless wire. Things I don't use. Things I don't like. Both physically and digitally. Now coming back into my day-to-day environment I see all of these things more vividly. I remember what it was like to be free of them and I wonder how I can become to adjust my day-to-day environment to more closely match what I experienced during my first deep week. If repeating things is a skill, I wonder about the skill of finding and preserving things that are essential. I wonder how this would influence the things that I make.

internetvin Essential