Picture from dno1967 on Flickr

As noted last week, I am digging into the big topic of how we can make our work lives simpler—where and when we can. Here is the simple version of my thinking this week.

1. I re-read Bill Jensen’s book called Simplicity and pulled out two key nuggets. While the concepts in the book were simple with simple language, guess what? The book weaved a lot of complexity into the solution (ha!). My two nuggets are a) Be clear about your strategy, goals and priorities and b) Listen to every incoming request or conversation for whether the item or task or discussion is truly relevant to your most important interests.

Being clear about the strategy, goals and priorities is a lot harder than we often think. Making sure they are not fundamentally conflicting is one checkpoint. For me, the biggest problem is my tendency to think big and want it all (eyes too big for my stomach). The sum total of big goals and initiatives sometimes weigh my personal and business system down rather than lifting it up.

On listening (and I’m going to work on this), we usually can triage our tasks and calendar far more than we do. View every incoming item with the importance lens and if it doesn’t meet your threshold—delete the email, cancel the meeting or don’t show up, and don’t have the conversation that doesn’t matter. This seemed a lot more about being clear and efficient than simple, but none-the-less important to weed out what you shouldn’t be doing or thinking about. While I give the same advice to clients, I think it is hard to execute and may even be ill-advised at times. But it is truly worth the critical consideration for which most of us don’t give enough thought.

Being clear and listening through that lens at least gets you to see the rest of your world and what complexity remains.

2. I am exploring some work that my colleague Jeff Cohen recommended in a comment on my post last week. One distinction Jeff talks about (hence the picture for this post) is between things that are complicated and those that are complex. For example, flying an airplane is complicated, and air traffic control is complex. Complex situations often have unintended consequences and are difficult to to create “sense.” Check it out here.

So, more food for thought. What does this make you see in your complex world?