Kick procrastination and focus easier by “clearing to neutral”

by | Jun 5, 2013 | Focus

Takeaway: Whenever you finish an activity, clean it up to reduce the friction to starting it the next time.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 7s.


When you walk into the kitchen and see 50 dishes in the sink, you’re a lot less likely to cook. The same holds true when you come back to your computer and there are a ton of windows open, when you wake up and there are things to get ready before you head out for a run, or when you have to clear a pile of stuff off your desk before you start working.

Enter the idea of “clearing to neutral”. Clearing to neutral is a ritual where, “whenever you finish an activity, you [move] everything so [its] is in neutral position.”1 According to Thanh Pham, a writer on the great blog Asian Efficiency, when you return to an environment that is neutral, you are much less likely to put off what you want to accomplish. Returning an environment to neutral eliminates all of the friction you would have otherwise had to get started later.

Pham also lists a few other examples of returning to neutral:

  • Resolving issues with family, friends, and your partner
  • Setting everything up for the next morning after you finish your morning ritual
  • Getting enough sleep tonight be ready for tomorrow

The bottom line: if you find yourself procrastinating, it might not all be in your head – it might be that you don’t return your environment to “neutral” to be ready for the next time you need to get stuff done.

Dirty dishes photo by keepingtime_ca.

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Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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