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How to Delete Your Way to Productivity

Adam Dachis, Gawker Media

How to Delete Your Way to Productivity

Getting things done often has more to do with removing barriers than actually accomplishing a task on your list. Whether you have too much email, too many creative blocks, or a myriad of distractions, it's time to metaphorically (and sometimes literally) press the delete key and make your work surmountable.

Delete Your Email

It's hard to love the idea of deleting your emails. If you have many unanswered, you have to look each one in the eye and say "you're not important enough to me to even read." No email wants to hear that, and the sender certainly doesn't want to know how you feel. But unless you feel like email is so important to your life that you have to answer it all-or at least read it all-you need to regularly send parts of your inbox off to die without much of a thought.

This is sad and harsh, but every time you don't do this you're telling yourself that spending time on email is more important than everything else I could be doing. Perhaps you have a big project to finish, or even an important call to make to your mother. What's more important to you? Five emails you know will waste an hour of your time or any of those things? If you believe the emails aren't more important, and there aren't major ramifications for ignoring them, you better hit the delete key and use your time more effectively. After all, when you show people that email is not an efficient way of communicating with you, they'll stop trying. Email's broken, so stop giving it so much of your time and just press delete.

Delete Your Distractions

We're consumed by distractions all day long for a variety of reasons. Notifications pop up constantly and we've got lots of new ways to procrastinate thanks to the internet. If you want to get things done you have to make the hard choice of deleting many-not all-of these distractions. It's much easier to ignore them if you can't get to them or know they exist.

For starters, prune your notifications. Most of us have to leave some on for work purposes, but we don't need every update on Twitter, Facebook, and the like. You don't need to know if your grandma liked your latest Instagram photo or grab every semi-relevant Groupon that goes on sale. If you want to focus, turn this crap off. You can always set a specific time to check on these things when they won't sidetrack your productivity. Do that and delete your many, many notifications.

As for sites that distract solely by existing, delete their bookmarks. Regularly delete them out of your browsing history and cache so you actually have to take the time to type out the URL on a regular basis. (Your browser can also automate this task by clearing this data for you every night, which isn't a bad move for privacy purposes anyway.) If deletion isn't enough, block yourself. Use parental controls built into your computer to get the job done or get a separate app if you prefer. If you find it wastes your time, get rid of it. You should have some fun, but you should get things done first.

Delete Your Creativity and Productivity Blocks

You really only need to remember one thing: just start. Beginning is everything. You creativity and productivity blocks exist because you don't trust yourself enough to just create. Words don't hit the page because you care about what they are too much to let them. You edit in your head, and then you end up with very little or nothing. When you're trying to solve a problem or come up with an idea, the same thing applies. You have to stop filtering things out. Just get your ideas and your effort out of your head and into the world. Once you do, you can edit it later.

You have to delete these blocks to get anything done without a ton of frustration. It may seem easier said than done, but you really just have to let your thoughts happen and put them out there. Write, draw, discuss, or use any method that helps you get ideas out of your head. If you try to edit, delete the notion before it takes root. If you can clear a path for your thoughts to get out, they will.

Delete Through Delegation

You can't delete everything in your life. If you get rid of all the stuff that you really don't need and have a clear focus but just not enough time in the day, figure out what you can delegate. You don't have to burden yourself with everything. Some things you must do on your own, but not all of it. Whenever you have a task where you can delegate it to someone else-be that a friend, family member, or someone who works with or for you-do it. Let other people help you. It's okay to ask for it if you do it in moderation. It'll take the burden off of you significantly and you can remove many barriers from your life.

Delegation doesn't work like magic. You have to ask politely. You have to ask people who will actually want to help you because you help them from time to time. You also will have to figure out who is good at what. You'll learn that from practice when delegating tasks, so the best way to get better is to try.


It's always easier to accumulate things. It's much harder to let go. Taking things away always seems like a loss when, in reality, we're gaining something much more valuable: our time and our freedom. If you're overwhelmed, overburdened, and struggling to get things done, don't be afraid to press delete.

Photo by Sathaporn (Shutterstock).

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