Why is "Keeping it Simple" So Complicated?
by Live Better
We’ve all heard the maxim “K.I.S.S.” (Keep it simple, stupid), but we hardly take much time to think about how much easier things are when broken down into their most effective, most efficient building blocks.
What is the true difficulty with “overwhelm”? We’re trying to assess our challenges all at once. “But I’ve got so many things to do. I’ve got to make breakfast, get my workout in, get to work on time, leave to pick up the kids, get my laundry done, fly here, fly there, buy this, buy that, and then make it home in time to foam roll, meditate, brew up my evening tea, and stretch for my pm routine all before bed. And that’s just today; wait until you hear about what I have tomorrow!”
Frankly, no one cares. Why? Because we all have a ton going on. We’ve all got thousands of obligations, people depending on us, careers to build, dreams to chase, and places to be. Where does the time go? And where do some people find the time to “do it all?”
The truth is they don’t do it all at once. They keep it simple, systematically knock items off their to-do list, reduce stress through routine, and keep their health in a good position by producing repeatable habits they don’t have to think about every day but simply complete as if it were as obvious as putting your socks on.
"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
They are master prioritizers, and with better routines (less decision fatigue) can better adapt to mid-day stressors that arise. The better your mindset is at dealing with distraction and sudden emergencies at work/home, the better you’ll be able to handle that mounting stack of Post-it notes taped to your computer.
Okay, you say, where do I start? I think there are two effective approaches to this, and it takes self-experimentation to figure it out.
Approach #1: Create “easy” wins on your to-do list to build momentum by completing these “easy” tasks first thing in the morning. Like the notable instruction to make your bed as the first win of the day, so can be throwing your laundry in the machine or running to the bank to cash checks.
Personally, I like the physical act of crossing things off my to-do list. There is a finality to the task in my mental headspace when I physically put pen to paper. Doing so a few times in the same hour gives quite the dopamine hit. Once you’ve crossed those first few off the list, the caffeine from your coffee is fully engaged and you’re ready to tackle the first difficult or big challenge of the day.
Approach #2: Manage your task list during the times of the day you are most productive at that task. For instance, if you are productive in the morning, but more creative in the evening (as I am), knock the number and labor intensive tasks out and grind through them. For me, this is responding to email, training (working out), bookkeeping, and social media. In the evening, leave open-ended time to think creatively through those specific challenges.
Lots of people, however, are exactly the opposite. Some people wake up feeling very refreshed, hop out of the shower with a pen or keyboard already in hand jotting down notes and making moves.
The most important things to note are:
This is unique to every individual - test each approach.
Have enough mental and physical energy to complete each task as it comes up throughout the day
Guarantee that necessary tasks are completed through proper prioritization
(Additional note on #3: Maintaining your health to have a full tank will allow you completion of these tasks no matter what comes up. Prioritizing self-care allows you the energy to handle difficult challenges that arise (try meal prepping after a 15-hour day at work when you’re hungry…not a good idea. You’re going to lose against yourself in a Chipotle)
When we’re considering the simple approach to everything, consider what single task will produce the biggest benefit to be completed first? The simple approach might be putting off all small tasks for a day or two to focus on one BIG task for an entire day.
The cost of your time to switch tasks can come at an astronomical rate. For instance, I cannot respond to email halfway through writing this blog post. My brain works in a tidal wave; once I sit down, it’s on (and I need to stay seated). I can write for hours if I need to but the inertia I have to overcome just to sit and start is huge for me (this applies to creative tasks). I must block out evening time to complete it.
If you know your workout gives you the energy you need for a big day, complete it first. Be savage about prioritizing it before anything else that you do; if not, it will surely fall by the wayside. If you know having breakfast with your wife, husband, or kids will keep you happy (even through the roughest days at work), protect that time at all costs.
It is about keeping the list and the priority SIMPLE. You do not need to answer emails, check social media, workout, and take your first phone call all at once. We change the world putting one foot in front of the other, each and every day.
Keep it simple; start right now.
Simple, Consistent, Routine, Repeat (S.C.R.R.).