Simple is marvelous place that we really can inhabit. Yes, you too can get there.
The first step is for us to chose to stop going in the direction of complexity. Running that way faster or more efficiently just puts more distance between us and our destination: Simple-land!
Oftentimes, the only thing that it really takes to get from here to there is to give up the things that complicate our lives.
Yeah, so like most simple things, this way is easier said than done.
Nobody ever said simple was easy! Well, okay, maybe somebody did, but they were simply wrong — as I’ve learned from many years of personal experimentaiton and providing coaching and consulting on this very topic.
Here are some tips to make “simple” a little easier:
1. Forgo acquiring new tools
Tools cannot make life simpler. Processes make life simpler. Tools can make the processes easier, okay. But do they? Or do they just add more stuff and more work around that stuff and more things to break or remember later? The one thing tools will never fix is a bad process. So our first step to simple is to block the distraction of new tools while we focus on simplifying. No matter who tries to sell us things, we will politely decline and focus on our process first.
2. Try not to learn any new skills
You will likely fail at this — and that’s okay. The point is that simplification is subtraction. We should be taking things away, not adding new ones. Ironically, this even includes learning. If “Yeah, I should really learn how to ______” is in echoing in our minds, it’s a blinking neon clue that we’re not simplifying here. We’re doing something, but take a whiff of it. To me the fragerance is more “Eau de Avoidance” than that sweet smell of Simple.
3. Don’t organize, drop!
Structuring information inevitably involves making things a bit more complicated. Let’s notice, that’s the wrong direction. Instead, we can just filter out all the things that aren’t what we’re looking for and stop bothering with them. We have someplace to get to, and that place doesn’t care how we get to it. Whether an item is crossed off our to-do list because we worked at it and completed it, or because we just decided not to do it, it is still just as crossed off and we are still equally closer to our destination. So which is the easier path?
4. Pre-decide your limitations
Anything you do has a start time and an end time. To make life simple, let’s decide how long our duration will be before we begin. Then when the pre-determined end time arrives, we stop whatever we’re doing, then make a clear choice about what happens next. This allows our intuition to surface over the dull roar of the constant chatter of thoughts & judgements.
5. Stop and see what happens
This last one is not for the faint of heart, but I have found it to be extremely effective. We tend to think that if we stop doing something important, bad things will happen, right? Well, maybe — but maybe not.
So…how can we find out?
Well, for starters, we can try strategically NOT showing up to do stuff. Remember that this already happens when we fall ill, have family emergencies, or other such immediate reprioritizations. In those situations, life does still manage to go on without us. So we can also just declare an act of “Simple Disobedience” and see what downstream impacts this really has. What actually breaks? Did anyone even notice?
Oftentimes, nothing bad happens at all.
If it does, let’s just be prepared to swoop in and repair it quickly, apologize, and see if this avoids permanent damage. In my experience, it almost always does. This is good to remember when complexity becomes burdensome.
This article was originally posted elsewhere and became genesis for a book I wrote which is now available for FREE here on Medium and received over 13K views and a ton of claps & shares in the last six months. So if you liked this, go check out Just Do The Thing: A Guide.
Let’s enjoy our journey to The Land of Simple, which is not a mythical place. We can really get there! We just need to follow a map or a guide — and remember to stop when we arrive.
I’m Sam and I help make change more doable by writing, speaking, coaching, training, and most importantly by building community hell bent on learning and conscious self-improvement. For more info, visit DoableChange.com.