All systems break down given too much information. Once the to-do list is to big (because you’ve spent too much time imagining the project, versus working on it), or you’ve got a notebook stuffed with notes and clippings that will take forever to organize, or your Scrivener project is filled with odd random bits, the system is broken.
It’s fun to fill up a system, to file things away, to stick them somewhere. But eventually the chickens come home to roost, and going through the box, the lists, the notes, the file structure is something of a horror.
I’ve been reminded of this as I work on my latest book project, Christ the Tragedy of God. I’ve got ten years’ worth of notes, clippings, and oddities, but I wish I hadn’t saved so much. I wish I hadn’t used great software to save these things, because now I have to comb through them, wondering what I was thinking at the time. The urge to burn it all and start over is deep, but I’m too fearful to lose what gems might be lurking in these vast, random notes.
It’s an academic hoarding problem that only KonMari can fix – we have to always be aware of how tucking things away leads to eventual chaos. Merlin Mann warns about this with your calendar and to-do manager. Don’t put everything there; instead, just put the things you are really, truly, and honestly going to do. Don’t have a “someday” file, because you will most likely never get to those items. It’s this weirdly human thing we do, where we are so very aspirational in our goals like exercise, dieting, calendars, or commitments. So much of our self-awareness is the person we want to be, rather than the person we are, or the person we can reasonably be. A happier life is one that can complete tasks and projects, that is deeply aware of aspirational desires and finds ways to honestly curb them.
Let your no be a no, and your yes be a yes (Matthew 5:37).