Remember the defragmentation tools in older versions of Windows, especially the 95-98 editions. In those systems, when the disk was needed to store information, it would put it in somewhere in the middle like the picture below. After a while, the disk would get kind of messy that way. In fact, it would yield significant system slowdown.
The defragger (Yay!) would take all of those little bits and bytes and put them neatly in order. It would speed up the system and make me feel that all was right with the world.
My brain works exactly like this. When I get new information, like someone’s name or feedback about a product or hear a song or eat a good meal, I put the information sloppily somewhere in my brain. (Random Access Memory or RAM) It will stay there for a few days at best.
When I get downtime like watching television or right before I go to sleep or right after I wake up or even the shower, my brain starts to defrag. It carefully takes each memory and puts them in their proper place in my long term memory. (Hard Drive) This is critical for me. If I don’t have down-time, the short term memory storage runs out and I need to discard memories forever to make room for new memories. Additionally, my whole thinking process slows down because I have to juggle so much more information in my short term memory.
Usually, when my short term memory gets messy, my sleep schedule becomes erratic. It’s harder to get to sleep because my brain is trying feverishly to organize as much information as possible before sleep. It becomes harder and harder to think long term strategy or do creative problem solving.
A clean mind yields powerful, creative and visionary ideas. A messy mind yields myopic, low-quality thoughts. – Glen Lipka
When my mind is like this (like it is right now), it’s much harder to blog. My ideas get tossed aside to make room for something else. What I need to do is get some focused defrag time.
The reason my mind is like this now is that I have taken on additional responsibility at work and am trying to build out two teams. Hiring takes significant energy (if done properly). Right now, I am leading the Product Management and User Experience teams. (Tell me if you know someone in the Bay Area looking). This creates a vast amount of information that is presented to me each day. Staying later at work means spending less time defragging.
When people talk about Work-Life balance, I think about defrag time. Down time actually benefits work significantly. When you go on a vacation, you are becoming a more organized thinker; a better worker. If you are someone’s boss, think about how much time your employees have to process the information of the day. Make sure they have enough time to maximize effectiveness.
Sometimes, I have a nice end to a blog post…like a summary. And other times…