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.