Questlove’s garden is his collection of MP3s.
Well, it’s AIFFs now.
He talks about gardening in Creative Quest:
When I’ve had the opportunity to do that, or when I have met people who do that, they find it immensely gratifying. They notice things they wouldn’t ordinarily notice. Their senses sharpen. Their heart rate slows down. Many mornings, I try to do something equally Zen-like, and most of the time that means going into my MP3 catalog and pruning it. I notice song titles. I notice how things are organized. That starts me toward thinking about my own work in a structured creative context.
Later in the book, he talks about all those files missing all their metadata except a title: “Track 1”. He Shazam’s them so he can fill the data in.
First, Questlove must have a pretty incredible music library.
Second, this made me stop and realize how completely streaming services have taken over. If something isn’t streaming, I wait or I just don’t ever hear it.
An MP3 collection is like having a library of CDs 10 years ago. A library of cassette tapes 20 years ago. A library of vinyl 30 years ago.
If you had any of those it signaled that music was an important part of your life.
Music is clearly important for Questlove. His day starts with organizing his music.
So what’s your garden?
Get it out of your head—that’s one of the main points in David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I listened to it recently after more than 10 years since first reading it. And… I’ve actually started taking action on some of the things in it.
David Allen suggests making lists for everything:
They usually, though, only make a list about the specific area that’s bugging them. But if you made that kind of externalization and review a characteristic of your ongoing life-and work style, and you maintained it across all areas of your life (not just the most “urgent”), you’d be practicing the kind of mind like water management style I’m describing.
With that guidance, many many things go out of my head and right into Evernote. A single thought only a few words long? Don’t want to forget that! New note.
Instead of Questlove’s MP3s, I have notes in Evernote. (Which in some cases, where I want to talk to my future self, actually are MP3s.)
Search has become really good. I can find any single note that I need at any time just searching through Evernote.
But when I wanted to use a few notes for something, things were getting messy.
My garden was in disarray
Mind like water, notes like an insane, unkempt garden. So I’ve started pruning. I was trying a thing where I set an hour aside on the weekend to prune it.
A lot of stuff in Evernote is some outline for something I want to write. It’s hard to prune for that full hour because I’ll come across something I want to read or an outline I want to flesh out.
Marie Kondo talks about organizing photos in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
There is a good reason to leave photos for last. If you start sorting photos before you have honed your intuitive sense of what brings you joy, the whole process will spin out of control and come to a halt.
It’s hard to toss any photo then you eventually get distracted just looking at all of them.
I’m going to try doing just 10 minutes each day. Reviewing, tagging, titling.