Simplify With Mental Masking Tape

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.


Photo by Ivy Dawned

As part of my renovation of the closet into a writing nook, I have a painting project on my hands. I do not leave painting to my husband because he isn’t very thorough and doesn’t necessarily color within the lines. So I got out my painter’s masking tape and start blocking off the sections that don’t get painted.

As I was doing this, I was musing about masking tape, and expanding those concepts to simplicity (mental masking tape). Because, let’s face it, there isn’t much intellectual challenge about putting paint on walls.

Blocking Out Distractions

One of the functions of masking tape is to block the areas we don’t want to paint. In other words, in inspires us to focus on what we’re painting, so we don’t think about what we are not painting.

Simplicity also requires that we focus. Simplicity is not possible when our attention is fractured. If we can block out the things we no longer want to focus on, we direct our full attention to one place, and things become easier.

Application: focus on one thing at a time. If a distraction comes up, write it down, and keep going with your task.

Defining The Parameters

Masking tape defines the parameters of what I am painting. When I see the blue tape on the wall, I know not to go beyond there. It limits the area, and allows me to focus on what I am painting.

In simplicity, I find that defining a limited area brings more creativity. When I have fewer choices, I spend less time assessing all the various options. This simplifies anything I do.

Think about this in terms of a food menu. You enter a new restaurant you have never been in before, and you are handed a menu with 200 choices. How different would it be if you were handed a menu with 10 choices? You would be able to make your decision much faster with the 10 choices. Simpler means speed.

Application: instead of researching dozens of options, go for three. It will simplify your decision-making process (and take less time!)

Keeping Within the Lines

One of the big benefits of masking tape is to keep the paint off of things you don’t want it on. It allows me to be sloppy as I paint up against woodwork, because I know the paint will go on the tape, which can be removed, taking the paint with it.

This touches the concept of perfectionism for me. Perfectionism is the greatest enemy of simplicity, because when we focus on making things perfect, we enter the realm where our efforts net less and less return.

With masking tape in place, I don’t have to worry about being perfect. I do the best I can, and allow the masking tape to do its job.

Application: remember the concepts of “good enough” and the Pareto principle. After a certain point, you are not being as effective, and chances are the differences won’t be noticed.


Masking tape gave me a lot to think about. How about you? Share below.


Photo by Ivy Dawned

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