Out With the Old

A few days ago I went on a rampage through my house.

Anything that was broken beyond repair went out the door. From an old laundry hamper that was barely held together with some strategically-placed duct tape, to a wicker dog bed that my Boston repeatedly mistakes for a giant chew toy, to a metal patio set that hasn’t fared well in Alberta’s climate… I was merciless in eliminating things from my home that had long outlived their usefulness.

Why the sudden whim to pitch and chuck? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a wasteful person by nature. I prefer investing money in fewer but better quality things. When I do find something in my home that I no longer have use for, I try to give it a second life by donating it to Goodwill, or at the very least trying to find a way to recycle or re-purpose it.

In fact, those tendencies probably explain why I keep things around longer than they remain useful or in working order—it’s that nagging inner voice that makes me feel a teensy bit guilty about throwing things away, and also has me convinced that finding something more functional will be a pain in the butt.

But sometimes you need to make a clean break. Whether you realize it or not, the things that we can’t stand looking at (but at the same time can’t seem to remove from our lives) take up space in our brains. Distracting trains of thought often include:

  • Kicking yourself for not having taken the initiative to replace the problematic thing by now
  • The monetary cost of replacing the thing (we often get very stuck here)
  • The potential inconvenience involved in finding a suitable replacement, and how it might just be easier to stick with what’s already there

The list goes on. However, there’s nothing more freeing than when you finally decide to let go.

By now you may be wondering what the direct relevance of this anecdote and its related musings are to digital marketing work. The relevance is actually two-fold.

First, you can take this at face value, and eliminate the physical objects from your life that at this point only take space. You’ll find that (miraculously) once they’re gone, it’s a lot easier to focus on the task hand, such as writing a blog post, tweaking the format of your enewsletter, pitching another blog for a guest spot, etc.

Second, you look at it as a metaphor for dealing with digital. All too often, we cling to tools and tactics that just don’t work anymore. We make rationalizations about why it’s best to just stick with what we’re doing, and develop productivity-killing coping mechanisms to make them work as best we can. Then we wonder why we don’t see better results, or why we face almost impassable mental resistance when we need to use said tool or tactic.

The remedy is simple. If something doesn’t work, then stop using it. This may seem a bit reductionist, but time and again our reasons for sticking with an old way don’t hold water outside of our own heads.

Explore new options of what can work for you, then eliminate the broken things and habits that don’t. Start small if you must, but keep going and always be ruthlessly decisive. No keeping the old thing around just in case—burn the boats so there’s no turning back.

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