Monday, February 13, 2017

How About a K.I.S.S for Valentine’s Day?

Leonardo da Vinci, the 15th century renaissance genius once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” What he really meant was “Keep It Simple Stupid” (K.I.S.S.). Based on your reaction to last week’s post, Super Bowl Ads and Vince Lombardi Motto Confirm Need for Simplicity, we thought it might be worth drilling further into how we can manage the overwhelming complexity in our lives.

Sydney Finkelstein, a management professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School
of Business did a great piece for BBC  two years ago this week--Why Is Simplicity So Complicated?—and it’s still relevant today. The majority of you (71%) told us in our unscientific InstaPoll that your work life is more complex than it was five years ago. In fact, nearly three in five of you (57%) felt your work life is significantly more complex than it was five years ago.

Whether inside or outside the workplace, Finkelstein said most people today feel that they’re always busy, always on, “always trying to keep up with an endless array of challenges and tasks hurtling their way.”  He added that even when people know what they need to do, the sheer volume of tasks filling up “countless sticky notes, smartphone memos, and good old-fashioned ‘to do’ lists adds up to one big serving of complexity.’”

Sound familiar?

Many have lamented the cruel irony of technology—something that’s meant to make everyday life simpler and efficient—actually makes it more complex. As Finkelstein noted: “How simple can it be when we have profuse password prompts and inboxes brimming with 500 new emails per day? Why do I need to sign into an app or website using Facebook or Twitter? And the pile-on of technological simplifiers that complicate things goes on and on — just how many passwords do you have to remember to sign into everything you need for daily life and work?”

Is life becoming too complex or are we just getting lazy?
 Take our Web InstaPoll and see how you stack up to your peers.

Solution: Complexity-free zones

We recently collaborated with our client, Independence Advisors, on an e-book about the many parallels between flyfishing and investing. What’s flyfishing got to do with investing?  Turns out plenty as Independence founder, Chas Boinske is happy to explain. A lifelong passionate angler, Boinske has found that being patient, using a small number of reliable tools, minimizing your choices and keeping costs down works quite well on the river and in the investment world. For more on this topic, read Chas’s recent post based on the e-book Simplicity Can Pay Big Dividends in Fishing and Investing.

Psychologists refer to the “power of mindfulness,” which roughly translates into living in the moment and not cluttering your brain with too many other things. Many who meditate, run, swim or do yoga can get a taste of that state of mind. Embracing simplicity in everyday life isn’t easy, but there are things we can do to create more complexity-free zones.
Here are some of Finkelstein’s recommendations about how to do so:
1. Start by looking for the simple solution to things, at least as a first step. This can be almost laughably easy. What’s the first thing you should do when your computer, printer or modem freezes, asks Finkelstein? Unplug! Chances are that simple will maneuver will do more for you then perusing FAQs, waiting for tech support or calling customer service.
2. Don’t constantly check your email.  Finkelstein suggests carving out a fixed time period every day— start with 20 minutes and move up to two hours, or longer — when you’re just NOT connected. This might not be feasible for everyone, but 20 minutes is a manageable start for most. For more, see our recent post, Time for a Technology Time-Out?
3. React less. Many managers spend their days fighting fires, reacting to what is happening, rather than controlling events. Finkelstein argues that you can get better at this by building a 15-minute “reflection break” into as many of your days as possible. This is time in which you simply THINK rather than do. It’s not so much daydreaming as it is thinking about what you should do better, differently, or not at all. Take the time to be more proactive, rather than reactive. “The greater sense of control that comes with reflection will pay for itself many times over in the form of reduced stress,” says Finkelstein.
4. Use your resources and delegate. Imagine you could magically create a team of people who can contribute rather than having to do everything yourself. Newsflash: If you’re a manager, you’ve probably got people reporting to you already. While it’s not simple to be a manager, Finkelstein said the principles of delegation are simple enough. “Set clear goals. Empower people to take charge. Hold them accountable. Coach them. You’ll know you’re getting this reasonably right when you feel confident enough to take your reflection breaks every day,” added Finkelstein.

So what’s the common thread between Finkelstein’s and Boinske’s advice? They create time. And when you have more time you have greater control and less stress. “Simplicity is one of those rare states where the old adage that less is more actually holds true,” observed Finkelstein.
As renowned folk singer Pete Seeger famously quipped, “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” On this Valentine’s Day, keep the value of simplicity and clarity in mind if you really want to impress that someone special in your life. When you use your brain as well as your heart, you’ll look like a genius rather than a fool. You might even get a K.I.S.S.


TAGS: Leonardo da Vinci, Sydney Finkelstein, Chas Boinske, Independence Advisors, managing complexity, stress reduction

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