The blank slate

I've been thinking a bit about this month's Conventional Wisdom. What's the point of it? I mean, maybe if I've forgotten about something for long enough it should stay dead.

But the problem is, while I'm sure some things do just drop completely out of your memory, my experience is that they're not really forgotten; little bits of them hang around. The ghosts of discarded-but-not-quite-abandoned projects come back to haunt you when you're out for a walk, trying to sleep, or in the shower thinking about something else.

In that sense, then, better late than never is really an extension of statelessness; rather than having all your projects in some indeterminate state, the goal is to drive them to completion or destruction. Either you're doing them or not doing them, but maybe kinda doing them is an extra load on your working memory that you don't need.

To that end, I've started doing something substantially out of my comfort zone: closing windows. By way of explaining how much of a change this is, I usually have probably a hundred tabs and windows open spread across 10 virtual desktops. I do this not because I'm using all those windows, but because it's easier if I want to pick up where I left off on a project.

But that, too, is yet more state. Every Chrome window full of tabs I intend to read later is an extra burden I have to carry around. Every Sublime Text window full of notes I should probably file away is a drain, not just on my computer's memory but my own.

Worst of all, this has a very obvious effect on my focus. When I start working on something, I don't have to just find the windows that are relevant to that project, I also have to ignore all the ones that aren't. At the critical and vulnerable time between tasks, it's so easy to see some stray email or article I've been saving up and get distracted.

Anyway, no more. I've realised that rather than starting with lots of junk and subtracting my way to what I want, I should instead start with nothing and add to reach what I want. In other words, no old browser windows. In fact, no old windows of any kind. I want to sit at my computer and see an empty screen waiting for me to fill it with something useful. A blank slate.