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Published on November 14, 2017

Why Simple Wins in This Complicated World

Why Simple Wins in This Complicated World

There are two kinds of people in the world: simplifiers, and complicators.

Complicators, they seem blind or fearful of simple solutions. Everything they do, they do it in the most difficult and complex manner. From a distance, this looks like they thrive on challenges.

Simplifiers, on the other hand, are the opposite. They avoid complications of any kind. They can be mistaken for people who only do the minimum amount of work needed to get by.

The difference between these two kinds of people becomes obvious when they are required to write an essay or report. Even if they are writing about the exact same thing, the complicator will write far more than the simplifier. From a distance it will look like the complicator wrote the better piece, after all, its longer, and possibly more detailed.

    However, it needs to be asked, does more automatically mean better?

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    More + Complex = Better?

    It’s human nature to want more, we find interest in the difficult and complex. When we get more of something, we feel it is strangely worthwhile.

    Our technological progress focuses a lot on more. For decades a phone was something used to call people. Now our phones are web browsers, cameras, gaming devices… When we see something that has many different uses and functions, we assume it is better than similar items.

    For example, would you buy a pencil that is great for drawing and writing, and comes with no other features, or a pencil that comes with lots of other features?

      Most of us would go with the second option, even though in many ways its the inferior.

      Complexity Is Appealing but Not Practical

      Complexity might make something seem more attractive, but the complications may actually subtract from something rather than add. It doesn’t help to make something effective. But complexity is easy, simple can be difficult to achieve.

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      Edsger W. Dijkstra, one of the founding fathers of modern computer programming said,

      “Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.”

      Great pieces of work only emerge when you take things away from it. For example, the Declaration of Independence was heavily edited by Benjamin Franklin before he officially released it.

      The first line originally read: “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable…” 

      This is close to it, but there is something lacking. So Benjamin Franklin got rid of the last three words and replaced them with two.

      Soon it read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident”

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        The difference is immediate and striking in its precision.

        Simplicity Gets More Things Done

        If you begin to see the beauty and efficiency in simplicity, you’ll be clearer about the purpose of something and find problems less overwhelming.

        Think about that multi-feature pencil again, do we really need that many functions out of a pencil? No. What we truly need is a pencil that makes writing and drawing easy. It’s that simple.

          Simplifiers always look into seemingly complex problems, interpret them, break them into smaller parts and re-organize them.They are aware of unnecessary input of their work which may complicate anything. Their goal is to simplify a problem in order to be clear about the root cause of it and solve them in the simplest way, which saves cost and effort.

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          When you start to make things simple, you can improve your productivity and get closer to success. It all boils down to trimming away unnecessary weight and baggage from your life which slows you down.

          Make It Simple, but Significant

          So ask yourself: are you a simplifier or a complicator? If you think that you lean towards being a complicator, don’t worry, it’s not something permanent. It can be useful to go from a complicator to a simplifier. All you need to do is follow two core rules:

          1. A Clear Intention

          This might be obvious, but before you set out to do something, you should be 100% certain about exactly what it is you want to do. If there is any uncertainty, your lack of understanding will be manifested in useless extras and complications.

          2. Kill your Darlings

          The name of this comes from the great writer (and master simplifier) William Falkner. It boils down to this.

          If you’re working on something, and you do something great (perhaps write a fantastic sentence) in a project, and it doesn’t work with the rest, then you must get rid of it. Essentially, it doesn’t matter how you feel about something, if it doesn’t work with the core idea, you must get rid of it. Getting rid of bad stuff is easy, but it takes a pro to see great stuff and remove it for the greater good.

          Use this simple trick to decide what to keep and what to ditch: Must Have, Should Have, Good to Have. If it’s a must-have item, keep it; a should-have one, trim it; a good-to-have one only, consider deleting it.

          Simplification can massively increase your productivity, but this takes practice. If you want to learn more about simplifying, I recommend this article: How Being A Minimalist At Work Can Make You More Successful

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          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on September 17, 2018

          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

          Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

          Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

          All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

          Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

          How bad really is multitasking?

          It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

          Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

          This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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          We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

          So what to do about it?

          Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

          Now, forget about how to multitask!

          Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

          1. Get enough rest

          When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

          This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

          When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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          2. Plan your day

          When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

          When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

          Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

          3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

          I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

          I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

          Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

          4. When at your desk, do work

          We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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          Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

          5. Learn to say no

          Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

          Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

          By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

          6. Turn off notifications on your computer

          For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

          Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

          7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

          Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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          You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

          The bottom line

          Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

          Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

          Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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