Simplifying the Complex

I think ‘simplifying’ things is an art that needs to be mastered over time. Some people are naturally good at it while others have to put in deliberate practice to hone the skill (same as storytelling).

When we assess deal with things be it a personal matter or work related, we are using various faculties of our brain including emotions. Depending on our analysis, we may tag the matter as ‘complex’. It can be overwhelming when one has to decide on a matter perceived as complex. At this time analysis paralysis might kick in for few of us.

Some may find themselves stuck and are unable to make decisions. They find themselves tangled in the web of ‘complexity’ as they think of all the possible things that can go wrong, all the dependencies, all linkages ( both which can be controlled and are uncontrolled), possible reactions (mostly worst) from people impacted and how the whole thing will be a reflection on them.

Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that we should not do a detailed assessment of the matter before making a decision, but we need to ensure that we don’t overcomplicate matters in our own heads. We need to be able to decipher the complexity, identify matters that we can control and the direction in which we want to steer. We need to be able to articulate ‘complex’ in simple terms.

I like to use a simple framework of focus and simplify.

This short TED video explains some ways in which we can simplify complexity.

My top 5 go to things when dealing with ‘complexity’ are:

  • Am I asking the right question/s?
  • Write down the problem statement/Write down the desired results
  • Draw – It does not have to be pretty but enough so that you can explain it to someone else
  • Involve the right people – be it to get a perspective or in decision making
  • Set a deadline – to save from paralysis analysis

How do you deal with simplifying the complex?

What Won’t Make You More Productive

Working crazy hours and ‘hustling’ does not necessarily make you more productive. It certainly makes you busy (or look busy)but not productive. As a network engineer, I used to spend days on fiddling with the software settings, playing with the firewall software but that was not necessarily productive. I was learning stuff in the process but that was certainly not the best return on the time spent.

Reading tens and hundreds of articles on productivity or entrepreneurship will not produce the results you want. For that, you will actually have to do work that matters and that will make a difference. You will need to produce.

I believe that everyone has their own definition of what they call as ‘being productive’. Whatever your definition – ensure that you are producing things that matter to you and that is taking you towards your goals or objectives in life.

I recently came across Mark Manson’s article on “How to Be More Productive by Working Less“. It is a great short article that I would recommend people to read. It might just add an insight or two about productivity. It might assist you in managing your time better or assist you in managing your team environment better.

Here’s my summary:

  • Productivity is a deeply personal thing
  • Apart from some physical factory work and some office tasks, hardly any work is linear in function. It means that more time spent doing work does not necessarily mean that more is accomplished
  • Overworking can produce diminishing returns or negative returns
  • Identify leverage and deleverage points. What activity from your list can you pursue providing the best value for your time and efforts?
  • Take strategic time-offs. This will help to recharge your brain without loosing focus.

Top Tech Companies I Depend On In 2017 …..

Recently I read Farhad Manjoo’s article on nytimes.com about frightful five tech companies and his thought process on order of elimination . I realised that it has been few years since I have created a list of top 5 companies on whom I rely the most on a day-to-day basis.

So here’s my list of top 5 businesses where I have the most reliance for day-to-day services:

  1. Apple
    – iPhone
    – Macbook
    – iPad
    – Watch
    – iBooks
    – Apple TV
    – iCloud Services/Photos App
  2. Google (Alphabet)
    – Search
    – Youtube
    – Gmail
    – Google Drive
    – Google Photos
  3. Facebook
    – Facebook
    – Whatsapp
  4. Microsoft
    – Office 365
    – LinkedIn
    – Onedrive
  5. Netflix

Next, I wanted to go through the hypothetical scenario where I am being forced to eliminate these services from my life. I wanted to Identify the order in which I will eliminate them.

The first to go for me was Netflix. Not a surprise for me and I did not have to think too hard or wasn’t very emotional about it either. Surprisingly, Netflix is the second company in my list where I spend the most money on a yearly basis after Apple.

The next to go after Netflix was Facebook. I spend substantial time on both Facebook and Whatsapp connecting, socialising and learning. But thinking through it, as much as I will miss not having these services in my life, I can survive. I can go back to emailing and calling people and still being in touch! Also the amount of time I can get back through eliminating them was a no brainer.

Number three on my elimination list was Microsoft. Among productivity tools, my dependency on Office suite of products is very high (interesting that I am typing the draft of this post in OneNote too), followed by LinkedIn for professional networking. But again something I can live without if pushed for it.

The battle for the top spot became difficult. People who know me will know that I love my Apple devices but then without having access to the right services and applications, they will just be pretty awesome devices with little use. My reliance on Apple apps and services is minimal right now. I hardly use iWorks productivity suite. I don’t know what I will do without my iPhone, iPad and my Macbook Pro but hey the hardware itself does not keep me connected and productive.

The last one on my elimination list is Alphabet (Google) products. I have heavy reliance on all major Alphabet services such as mail, videos, storage and importantly search. If I had to give up using all other companies, I can downgrade myself to using Android (;) ;)) and use Google productivity suite, search using Google and entertain myself watching content on Youtube.

This thought experiment also lead me to think about importance of services eco system, but let’s leave that for another post.

What are the top 5 Organisations that you rely on the most and what would your elimination list look like?

Starting New Projects

With a New Year, a lot of us will be starting new projects (resolutions). Some will stick to starting one project, finish it and then move to the second. Lot more of us will start multiple projects at the same time. If you prefer to start one project at a time or multiple projects at a time, there is no right or wrong answer in my view. It’s a personal preference.

What’s more important is that for project/s (or a new year’s resolution), identify:

– Answer ‘why’ finishing the project is a “MUST” for you. If you can’t answer it, either scrape the project or find compelling ‘whys’
– A strong vision and how completing the project will benefit or make you happy
– What will you give up in order to work on the project [Remember we have limited time and attention]
– Doable chunks in which you can get started today
– Start TODAY and don’t wait.

Good luck.

Count on friends and not numbers

Now and then I hear and see people wowed by someone’s number of likes, followers on Twitter or number of Facebook friends. Differentiating between followers and real friends is important.

Your friends will be those that make you happy offline or online. One that stand by you in good and bad times and can sense the words behind the silence. Ten thousand likes on a post will make you happy in the moment and famous for 5 minutes, but real friends offer you a long-lasting companionship. Not all online followers are your friends or want to be one. They have their self-defined agendas most of the time.

This quote from Brené Brown is fitting.

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