Utilizing Gibsonian affordances to make life simpler and easier
What if we’re all built for great? What if we’re all talented right from the start, but just have different obstacles to jump through in order to realize that greatness? What if we could remove all of those obstacles right now?
First let’s talk about some measures we can take to better our lives, but require a certain privilege to be implemented:
- Studying on the weekends. (time privilege)
- Taking a second or part-time job. (time+energy privilege)
- Upskilling with vocational training on the weekends. (time+money+energy)
- Sacrificing leisure time on weekdays to study after work. (time+energy)
- Delegating childcare to a relative or creche so you can work/study or practice a hobby on the weekends. (money/social privilege)
- Hiring a house help. (money privilege)
Alas! There’s only so much one can do to climb up the ladder and claim whatever they want for themselves: Extra time, money, assets, fame, power, or anything else for that matter. Especially considering, we all don’t have the same 24 hours.
But there’s one thing that each one of us can do right now, today to manage our lives more efficiently, remove superficial obstacles, and facilitate stress-free living. It’s called organization.
In ‘The Organized Mind’, Daniel Levitin reminds readers of how they interact with organized systems on an almost daily basis, be it at the grocery store, at work, at a shopping mall, at a departmental store, and how the very same organizational strategies can be implemented at home and in their lives.
He claims that we can all utilize the power of mental categorization to greatly reduce stress, simplify our lives and maintain our sanity. We should be utilizing precious cognitive energy only towards the things that matter. We’ve all got a set daily processing limit for our brains. So why waste it on cat photos and teenage pranks on Youtube?
If it were only that simple. Relax! You can keep watching your favourite instant karma videos and funny cats on Youtube. It’s only when you start consuming content impulsively and unconsciously that it becomes a problem.
We’re all bombarded with information on a daily basis, and there’s only so much that the brain can hold on to, without letting the rest fall off by the wayside. It’s solely for this reason that we all must keep a tab on our mindless *insert impulsive habit here* habits and reign in our compulsive alter egos, so that we don’t get fatigued doing the things that matter.
One way of doing this, as mentioned above, is by utilizing the power of mental categorization. Levitin says this can be achieved by “putting together conceptually similar objects and functionally associated objects, while maintaining cognitively flexible categories”.
“One solution is to put systems in place at home that will tame the mess- an infrastructure for keeping track of things, sorting them, placing them in locations where they will be found and not lost.”
We don’t have to overburden our already racked brains by tasking them to do such mundane tasks as organizing bills, storing items, finding new batteries, searching for keys, hunting around the house for a pair of scissors, and finding a set of clothes to wear for the day, or even searching for gym attire everyday. We can learn to categorize.
“The task of organizations systems is to provide maximum information with the least cognitive effort.”
We can make our lives less mentally draining, effortless, and meaningful when time isn’t wasted doing administrative tasks; when things are rightly stored in the designated areas, when work has been delegated appropriately, when we let go of people who no longer mean as much to us, as are lists for tasks that need to be done maintained properly and updated regularly.
As I was browsing Medium this morning, I found another writer who incorporates automation to make her life simpler. In ‘The Tim Ferris Lifestyle is a Blatant Lie’, Priyanka Mashelkar talks about how quite a lot of our regular tasks can be automated. This is followed up with an example: She sets up auto-pay on all her credit card bills. Then, she goes a step further and sets up the credit card bill to auto-debit from her bank account. Thus saving her the hassle of worrying about bills and due dates in the long run.
“Setting up an auto-pay on all my bills from my credit card, and then setting up the credit card bill to auto-debit from my bank account, has basically meant that I never have to bother about bills and due dates ever. I might not have saved more than a couple of hours a month, but the mental labour saved is priceless.”
Read that last line again: “I might not have saved more than a couple of hours a month, but the mental labour saved is priceless.” Isn’t this exactly the kind of mental offloading that Levitin enthuses us about?
Going a bit deeper into the book, he advances another idea: that memory need not only be externalized to things. They can also be done to people. This includes relieving ourselves of chores which our partners or house mates might be proficient in, with each tackling issues in their area of expertise.
Now, let’s look at few measures (by Levitin) you can take that require no privilege whatsoever to be implemented:
- Follow the rule of designated place.
- Duplication as a way of organization. This can be done by purchasing duplicates of things you frequently use and placing them in different locations. This saves you a lot of time rummaging the entire house for it. Follow the rule of designated place for each item.
- Avoid the hassle of constantly searching for your reading glasses by getting a neck cord or tether. When it is not on your person, it must again follow the rule of designated place.
- Create useful categories at home with broad names. Rather than going down to a micro level, Levitin suggests storing things under broad categories, and categorization should be limited to 4 types of things at most.
- Whether for the kitchen or for the wardrobe, rarely used items must be kept in a separate spare closet/drawer so that you can organize your daily use items more efficiently.
- Lastly, all the categories should correspond with your life stage, and must be meaningful to you. Don’t blindly copy the categories from an industrial setup.
These are just some of the practical points on organization that I’ve picked out from Levitins book. As conclusive and remedial as they might seem, don’t let that stop you from getting your own personal copy of the book and reading about everything else that he has to offer on the subject.
He delves deeper into so many other aspects of the life organization such as age-related cognitive decline, probabilistic thinking, risk elimination, organizational leadership, cognitive illusions, planning for failure, including a four-step method to quick decision making, and lastly, implementing all of these methods in raising kids.
So it’s definitely worth a read!
Another writer James Clear, the author of ‘Atomic habits’ attacks this problem of clutter from a different but similar angle. He explains how effortless it would be to make healthy and productive choices if we deliberately designed our environments in all areas of life:
“Imagine if your world — your home, your office, your gym, all of it — was crafted in a way that made the good behaviors easier and the bad behaviors harder. How often would you make healthy and productive choices if they were simply your default response to your environment? And how much easier would that be than trying to motivate yourself all of the time?”
While Levitin asks us to make these changes in our personal lives, Clear calls for these changes to be made at an organizational level. Why not we implement these systems wherever they are most needed and can be realistically implemented?
So now that you’ve successfully implemented Levitins prescribed systems into your life, what do you plan on doing with all that extra time? ;-)