Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Simplicity

Simplicity

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

  • Steve Jobs

Definition

It is basically impossible to find one definition for simplicity. Most of the English dictionaries offer different definitions. We need to define it many ways. First, simplicity can mean something that has no complicated parts or complicated details. Second, the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do. Third, it can be defined: The quality or state of consisting as few parts as possible.

Everything should be as simple as possible, but no more simpler.

We are the most smartest living things in this planet and also the most complex ones. The world is so complicated that even the smartest experts have trouble in understanding their own discipline. Complexity has created enormous amounts of waste to our everyday life. To reduce the waste we have to simplify our lives. Simplifying should not go too far, because some of the complexity is necessary to be as effective as possible. Increasing complexity has a critical mass, in which the cost of added complexity exceeds the usefulness of extra complexity. Everybody needs to find this point in what they want to achieve.

Oversimplifying is not going to give us the results we want. We cannot be depended on one thing only, not in any part of our lives. Keeping things too simple, believing there is only one solution or factor that has an effect on any bigger thing is a major cause for many failures. We see lots of experts with excellent reputations believing in a single factor in big things like growing multibillion dollar businesses, for example, technological competitive advantage as an only source for growing Apple.

We should simplify with using simple rules and systems. We can add simple rules into our lives, like do not eat after 10 pm. There can be rules for anything in life. It is pretty easy to invent the rules, but it is harder to apply them all the time. Therefore, we need systems like habits, skills, or some decision making procedures, which make complex things simpler. Systems have normally less waste. We have to remember that systems are created from different parts. The amount of parts should always be minimal for the reason the system which is created and these parts should also be as simple as possible.

Multitasking: doing a shittier job, and being happier about it

We live in societies where the myth of doing many things at once is a sign of success. This is a wrong assumption and has no scientific base. Our brains can do only one task at a time. What really happens is that when we are ”multitasking” we are rapidly changing from one task to another. Every time we do it, there is a cost. We get less efficient every time we change our task to another. What really happens in our brains is that multitasking creates a dopamine addiction feedback loop. This loop rewards our brain for losing focus and keeps our brains looking for external stimulation. Because of this loop, we get empty rewards from getting hundreds of small tasks done. The opportunity for multitasking is enough to harm our cognitive performance. What really happens is that we get more satisfaction for a shittier job.

We have also some metabolical costs from multitasking. Changing tasks makes our brain to burn up ozygenated glucose which is the same fuel for keeping our focus on tasks. Fast and continual changing from one task to another causes the brain burn the glucose so fast that we feel disoriented and exhausted after a short while. We have used all the nutrients in our brain. Our cognitive and physical performances suffer from this. We use a lot less energy, when we are concentrating on one task at a time. All the changes in our tasks are also decisions. In multitasking, we don´t even recognize it. Decisions deplete our neural and physical resources too. Little decisions appear to use as much of our neural resources as the big decisions. We should arrange our environments in a way that our possibilities for distractions are as small as possible, especially, when we are doing the most important tasks of the day.

Information overload comes with too many parameters

There is always a maximum amount of information we can process within a period of time. Increasing the amount of information over this limit, we cannot function in the most efficient way. Our brains evolved in an environment, in which the amount of information was minimal compared to the world we live in.The capability of our brains is limited. The maximal amount of parameters, which can be either attributes of choice or the number of alternatives, is ten. After that limit, the quality of the decisions gets weaker. There is not so much difference after ten paramaters have been reached. It doesn´t really matter if there are over ten or even twenty different parameters or alternatives. There are many ways to reduce this number. For example, we can apply systems, in which the amount of alternatives have been reduced before, we even start making a decision.


All this is just a tip of an iceberg about the power of simplicity. It is hard to simplify your life and all the other related actions to an optimal level of simplicity. Everyone would do it, if it were simple, but it is easier to have too much simplicity or complexity. All the masters of their fields of expertise are able to get close to optimal level. Most of us cannot do it and we live our lives with lots of waste, whether it means about using your time or efforts. Reaching an optimal level of simplicity should be goal to all of us. It is a skill we should all try to learn.

Sources:

Poor Charlies Almanack, Peter D. Kaufmann, Charlie T. Munger
Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz
The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin
Insanely Simple, Ken Segall

-TT

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