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?

Prefer Systems over Goals

Goals are important and having the clarity of what you want helps but having solid systems in place is even more important in achieving those goals or getting you in the vicinity of the goal/s. Having systems will reduce the amount of decisions you have to make thus saving your will power for other aspects of your life. Systems can bring more discipline and can assist with consistent progress.

Thanks to Getty Images - carlp778
Thanks to Getty Images – carlp778

I was motivated by the concept of having goals vs systems by Scott Adams. Since then I have focused on having solid systems and continuously improving them. I love my systems and workflows but I keep a very agile approach. I still have goals but they are driven by systems that I use.

So what is a system? I define it as a series of steps to accomplish task/s used on a regular basis. The system can be your training schedule to perform exercise to increase body mass. The system is the GTD methodology that people follow to get work done and keep moving.

One can have a goal of saving $20,000 for an overseas trip but having a system in place to save money on a regular basis can get you the money you need for the trip and more. You can have a system in place where you decide to put 10% of your weekly wage into a saving account. You could also top it up by not drinking coffee at your local cafe but instead put that money into the bank account. Result of this? You will reach your goal sooner than expected and you don’t have to constantly chase your goal. You set, commit and arrive. A bonus of this system is that you already get into habit of saving 10% every month and can even reach other goals in the future. Oh, and we haven’t even considered the potential health benefits because of reduction of sugar intake!

As James Clear said, “..goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress”.

Accountability – Keep promises made to yourself

When we make promises to others, there is an expectation and pressure from the other parties and from us that they are kept. It is out in the open, and hence accountability comes into picture too.

Whereas when we make promises to ourselves, although in the moment there is an internal expectation and a desire to fulfil it, often times we cloud our mind with excuses for why we can’t keep up the promises. No one knows about it hence there is little shame or guilt in breaking the promise. Accountability can be less to none.

In school we are taught to keep promises made to others but hardly do we talk about importance of keeping the promises made to ourselves.  Keeping promises to yourself is as important if not more than keeping promises made to others. It will improve your self respect and self trust. It will make you more disciplined and more accountable. It will make you more focused.

Keeping promises to yourself will help you to be on the same page as you mind.

Some ways to make it easy for you to keep your promises are:

  • Only promise things to yourself that are extremely important
  • Write down your promise (this becomes your goal)
  • Be specific and design ways to measure the progress
  • Make it your number one priority
  • Start small – achieve it and promise some more
  • Reward yourself on achieving the promise

You Decide

You_Decide

A colleague shared this image today – many thanks to her (ok, ok i remade the image for quality sake). The message is simple yet a powerful one. No one but at the end we should decide on how we feel about anything going on in our life and our day. Keep on improving quality of your day and bit by bit you are going to move the mountains.

Be Yourself

IMG_0987

How many times do we read this? How many times to we hear “Be Yourself”? We may even have advised few people that they should be themselves and not pretend to live someone else’s life. But every now and then we may forget this message ourselves, especially when we are rushing through life and chasing “things” that may not necessarily add a long term value to us. Write this piece of advice for yourself, etch it in your mind and heart, put this as a background on your phone. Being yourself will make you happy, you will feel the freedom and feeling of liberation.

And yes, you can always keep on improving “Yourself”.

Value of Complain

Complaining might make you feel important, but that in itself does not add value to yourself or others.

So should we stop complaining? Yes, if we can but at the very least try to have a solution for a problem when you complain about something, someone or someplace. Complaining might be a birth right to most and a privilege to some. If you hold that privilege then make the most of it to bring about a positive change. Make your complains matter that will make a difference to someone.

Frugality

But Is Cheapness Good?
Is this obsession with saving dollars and cents really worth all the effort? The advocates of scrimping are unequivocal. Cheapness increases profitability, they say. It keeps companies slim. It puts cash in the bank for future growth. And it gives businesses an advantage over their spendthrift rivals.

 

Frugal

But if that’s bad news for would-be cheap artists on either coast, the final lesson from the cheap hunt is worse: If your company doesn’t work this way now, it probably never will. Older companies with ingrained bad habits will find it difficult, if not impossible, to slim down. Admire Fastenal if you will; not every business can emulate it.

So the advantage goes to the start-up. “It’s easier to do this up front than to try to dismantle an organization halfway through its maturity cycle,” says author Woolf. “When you ask an overweight man to run a four-minute mile, you’re asking an awful lot.”

The Cheapest CEO in America, Business Insurance Article | Inc.com.

Being frugal does not mean that you are being cheap. I always believe that a dollar saved is better in your pocket or account than the other party. There is no shame in negotiating if you can get a better deal, be it at street side shopping or at your workplace. Remember, if you don’t ask, you might not get it. At the worst you might get a big ‘NO’.

Being frugal is a mindset thing and it is easy to get into the mindset while you are comfortable with your circumstances. It certainly gets hard emotionally and psychologically  when you are forced to be frugal because of your circumstances. This is true even you are an individual, a small company or a big corporation.

How do you get started on being frugal? There is no one right or wrong answer and it will depend on you, what you want and where are in your life. Here are some points to get you thinking.