3 Steps to Simplification

We live in a world that is complicated and complex.  It seems like everything that we think or do has multiple layers and decisions are incredibly hard to make because of the multiple implications and complexities involved.  However, is there a way to simplify?  Are we complicating things just because we can or is it because we enjoy the complex and complicated challenges? Are we complicating our lives unnecessarily? Is there a way to simplify our lives by simplifying the way we think and live?

Hence the question, How can we simplify in a world that is dominated with complexities and challenges?

How can we make things simpler so that we are not overwhelmed with what we need to do?  I believe that we all know the challenges with complexities, but what are the benefits of simplification? 

There are 3 key benefits of simplifications and they are focus, eliminating distractions and reducing the waste of resources and effort.

Let’s break each one down.

1.  Focus.  When you are able to cut through the complexities, you will be able to see what is at the heart of any challenge or problem that is to be solved.  This enables you to focus on the core issue and with that will help you to decide how you want to respond to the core issue. Focus allows you the opportunity to allocate the appropriate amount of time, energy and resources to overcome the challenge. Take the Covid-19 vaccine development and availability as an example.  One of the main reasons the various offerings of the vaccine is available in such a short span of time is the 100% focus that every government, pharmaceutical organization, scientist of various areas of specialties that was dedicated to solving the problem. The whole world was literally focused on finding a solution to the problem. That is the benefit of focus. It allows for the total dedication of resources to meet the challenges of the core problem.

2.  Eliminates distractions.  When you simplify, you are then able to eliminate distractions or cut through the noise.  Almost every problem, challenge or issue has a root cause and unless we are able to identify the root cause accurately, you will not be able to solve the problem satisfactory.  If we are distracted by the noise that surrounds a certain problem, the solutions that you come up with will only address the noise but never the root cause which in turn will create a cycle of issues because the root cause was never dealt with.  Think about any attempts that we have made around solving any challenges, especially if a challenge is repeated over time, you know instinctively that you have not addressed the root cause. If an issue comes up over and over again, it is a simple sign that we have not identified the root cause and have not dealt with it satisfactorily.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly challenges that are complex and complicated and no one solution is able to fix all the problems.  However, the more you are able to simplify and eliminate distractions, the greater the ability to get to the heart of the problem.

3.  Waste of resources and effort.  We certainly do not want to waste resources and effort, however that is exactly what we are doing if we are not able to simplify.  We waste our effort trying to do more than we should or allocate resources thinly believing that we need to do everything when in fact, we don’t.  The heart of the matter is that we need to be efficient and effective in what we put our resources into.  The simpler we are able to address an issue the more concentrated the effort and resource allocation will be.  For example, if you only had 100 hours to work on a project, you will need to ensure that you are able to scope and allocate the appropriate resources to get the job done in the allocated 100 hours.  The same applies if now you only have 10 hours to do a project.  We tend to believe that if we put in more resources, then we will be able to solve all the problems or achieved a certain outcome.  However, that is not true.  The reality is that we should not be wasting resources and if we all use the appropriate number of resources, we would be able to achieve what we want.

The Parkinsons’ Law basically states that work expands to fill the time that has been allocated.  For example, if I have allocated a day to create content, I will use the whole day to do that.  If I then allocated only 1 hour to create content, then I will certainly be able to create content in that allocated 1 hour.  The difference is how I have used the time allocated to complete the task that was assigned.  I think that we have experienced all this or have observed this in the workplace.  Have you noticed how much time we “waste” at the corridors chatting or completing “filler” work?  Work that is necessary but not essential.  Work that fills up time but does not necessarily delivers impact.

Let’s break down how we can start to simplify.  There are essentially 3 parts to simplification:

1.  Know the Blueprint.

2.  Know the foundation.

3.  Build on it brick by brick.

Let’s start.

Know the Blueprint.

You must start with knowing what it is that you want to build or accomplish.  Without clarity of what it is you are trying to do; you will not be able to simplify.  In fact, you will not be able to be productive.  You might be doing a lot of tasks, but you will soon wonder or discover that it was either a waste of time or meaningless.

If you are trying to figure out what is the blueprint, ask yourself these 3 simple questions:

  1. Why am I doing this?
  2. What do I want to accomplish?
  3. What does success look like for me?

Take the building or construction of a house as an example.  Why do I want to build this house?  What is this house for?  What would make this house a home for me?  Depending on the answers, the blueprint of the house would fit the type of house and the functions that you need your house to fulfill your needs. 

As with all blueprints, it needs to be written down and to be visible.  Write down what it is that you are trying to accomplish with a particular project or campaign.  Keep it visible to remind yourself of the why you are doing what you are doing.

Know the foundation.

Once you have your blueprint in place, you will need to identify the foundation or the corner pieces.  Know your cornerstone.  This step helps you to prioritise your time, resources and gives you a starting point.

Think about how a house is built.  There are many stages and parts that go into making the final product.  The house must be built upon its foundation first and not as an example with its roof.  The foundation of the house is what will keep the house upright and a solid foundation will ensure that it does not collapse.  The simplest and most basic stage is the foundation. 

In the same why, simplification starts with breaking down each task or element to its most basic form.  It is always more exciting to focus on the big or exciting task, however, it is the small and sometimes insignificant task that is most important.  For example, you might not consider the nail as a critical piece of house building.  But imagine what would happen if you did not have nails or you are using substandard materials?

Simplification starts with asking the basic questions that are foundational to what you are planning to do.

Build Upon It brick by brick.

Once you have identified the foundation, the cornerstone, then you are able to build upon it.  You will have the confidence that what you are building is what you want because you have a blueprint and a foundation that you can build upon. 

The final step of simplification is to then build upon the foundation by prioritizing the impact and importance.   A crucial aspect with simplification is to be able to identify the most critical and important task to focus on first.  Remove all the nice to haves, the wants and the icing on the cake.  Focus on the key elements that are necessary and critical.  Most of the time the simple critical elements are not the fun things to do but what can be considered the mundane and boring.  Simplification process will help you to filter down to the crucial pieces and that is what you start on first.  Just like building a house, it would be most exciting to plan for the interior decorations or the smart home systems, but all those would be meaningless if the house is not built on a solid foundation.  The niceties of the house is not going to hold the house up.

Let’s summarise: 

The ability to simplify will help you to focus on the crucial and critical, the foundational building blocks and enhances your productivity because you are now focusing your time on the critical with a clear view on what it is you want to accomplish in order to create impact and long-term sustainability.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I hope that you have learned at least one thing that you are able to apply into your everyday life.  Let’s be purposeful in our journey to live out the best version of you and of your life.  As always, please subscribe, follow and share this blog with your friends.  Take care and step into the everyday with purpose. 

You can also check out lisalamcoach podcast here.

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