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7 Steps to Simplification

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

-Albert Einstein

To simplify is a very complex process. Simplification implies a full understanding of the process/item that is to be simplified in efforts to create greater efficiencies and/or increase one’s quality of life. The following paragraphs outline 7 steps you can take to simplify your life to create more space for what matters most.

Gain a Full Understanding of What You Want to Simplify

As mentioned earlier, simplification is not easy and takes much work to accomplish correctly. Study what it is your are trying to simplify and you will find there are  numerous steps in a process that are unnecessary and even harmful to what you are trying to achieve. You must become fully immersed in all aspects of what you are trying  to accomplish to reduce the white noise to a whisper.

Ask: Is This (object/process) Mission Critical?

Asking the right questions is requisite to the simplification success. Simply asking if something is essential will shed light on aspects that might not be salient without such introspective questions. For example, if one is required to document who, what, and when an agreement was signed, yet said agreement is not enforceable, is it truly necessary for such documentation if it serves no material value?

Examine Your Objectives

Anything that does not directly correlate to what you are trying to accomplish must be removed. This means if your cell phone distracts you during your work, it must be taken out of the equation. If your email is set to push notifications thus rendering the device the owner of your attention (and basically your life), you must reverse this tendency to ensure nonessential distractions and tasks do not inhibit the way of simplifying your processes and consequently your life.

Look Where Others Do Not

The answer to finding greater simplicity is to look where others do not. For example, if the goal is to reduce the number of steps in a process to accomplish a goal, discern if the goal is worthy of your efforts in the first place. Often times, when one is trying to simplify one’s life, the easiest thing to do is to kill the vampire (the activities and commitments that suck time away from what truly matters). Therefore, instead of getting stuck in the day to day, ask yourself the question: “will this process/task add value to my life or other’s lives”? If the answer is no, cease the activity and find an activity that makes a positive contribution to what you are trying to accomplish.

Create Space to Think and be Still

The greatest tool to simplification is “thinking space”. The more space allowed for thinking the greater analysis of actions and mundane processes are brought to the light to ensure that such efforts are quality uses of one’s time. Simply running the rat race will not suffice to achieve simplicity. Thinking critically of what must be accomplished and thorough analysis of what you are trying to accomplish may  be realized through quiet reflection far removed from the everyday nuances that inundate your thought processes. The answer to simplification will arise when you least expect it.

Apply the Concept of First Principles

The essence of a first principle is one that cannot be deduced from any other. For example, “All mammals have hearts; bears have hearts; bears are mammals” the last claim is deduced from the first two claims. It is critical to reduce all problems to the most basic principles that are not able to be deduced from other claims, processes, or thoughts. Find the most basic principles that are necessary to create movement in the desired direction, no more, no less.

Consult the Fool

Consulting the fool is often times the quickest way to find opportunities for simplification. The fool is someone who knows nothing about what you are trying to accomplish, yet have the ability to look at a problem with a fresh set of eyes. The fool is often times the wisest when it comes to simplification. They will point out the obvious that experts who are in the weeds will miss as their cursory understanding lends their thoughts toward the unalloyed responses necessary for success.

The above seven steps will allow you to realize what truly matters while gaining a full understanding of the environment around you. Remember, simplification in and of it self is hard. Thus, there is great fruit and opportunity for those who seek to simplify processes, things, and lives. Simplification means understanding, mastery, and desire. Practice simplifying every day and realize how much space there is to further simplify and accomplish great feats.

-Justin A. Burger, MBA

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