Will this _________ simplify my life? Go ahead, fill in that blank with anything. In this country, we live with an abundance of stuff. You can walk into any big box store and browse upwards of 150,000 different things. We have millions of apps available with one click and many of the good ones are free. Often with things that are free (especially with things that are free), you need to ask the question. Will this “free _____” simplify my life?
As someone who writes about living lean and working lean, I need to ask the simplicity question often. As an entrepreneur, I need to ask this question about any piece of software, new gadget, health plan the list goes on.
Sometimes the answer is yes, but you don’t really know that until you’ve already purchased it. I had no idea my iPhone would replace over 20 things until quite some time after I purchased it. So often you need to ask other people – How’s that __________working out for you?
“Perfection is achieved, not when there’s nothing more to add, but there’s nothing left to take away”
I repeat this quote, as I look at my cluttered basement. You can apply it to anything. Bruce Lee did when he was learning the perfect kick and the perfect punch. He said, “It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.”
Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive aspired to this when working on the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone. These devices were revolutionary, not based on what was added, but what was taken away, like excessive buttons, bells, whistles, and keyboards. They were asking the simplicity question over and over, not just about the device but about every element of its design.
Bloatware. Something as straightforward as creating a document or a spreadsheet is often ruined by bloatware like Word, Excel & Powerpoint. The bloat comes from developers trying to best the competition with features and add-ons. Simple wins. Check out Google docs before Google ruins it with feature creep.
Keeping up with the Joneses. Things that start out as something simple, something that just works, become bloated with too many features. For example, cars with talking digital dashboards trying to sync with your phone and laptop. Will that simplify your life or maybe help you end up in a ditch somewhere, because you weren’t looking at the road? At some point you will definitely end up at the dealer amazed at the cost of repairing your talking digital dashboard.
Examples of when to use the simplicity question:
That presentation you’re working on — Try getting rid of some bullet points. Give it a 50% haircut for starters. Use images instead of words.
Working on an app or a piece of software — Start making a list of features that can be removed.
Creating some copy for a website or writing a blog post — Try to remove every other word. See how much you can cut.
Traveling — Use a website like Kayak.com to sort available flights by total travel time. Always include time in the value equation.
Cleaning out closets and garages — Ask the question “Will keeping these things make my life simpler?” You probably already know the answer.
Buying a car — If the owners manual is the size of a textbook, that should be a warning sign. Always go for quality and simplicity over features, especially electronic ones.
Making a big purchase like a new home — Ask the question about your commute, the condition of the home, how much space you really need, the type of loan.
The utilitarian item — Look at quality first, features last. Is it something you’ll use every day? What will it replace?
Exercise — Complex, backbreaking routines often found in programs like P90X, Crossfit others. See what you can cut out and get your workout down to something you can complete in 20 minutes and enjoy. You’ll stick with it a lot longer if it’s simple.
Looking at shiny displays in the big-box store — Ask the question.
So try asking the simplicity question more often. Picture yourself as Bruce Lee executing a perfect kick as you eliminate stuff from your life.
Life can be simple again.