There’s a principle in computer programming called KISS. It stands for “keep it simple, stupid.”
KISS is also a productivity principle. The more complicated a process is, the less productive it is.
“Complexity is the enemy of execution.” Tony Robbins
Creating and following complex processes give some people a false sense of hard work. Complex processes result in hard work but not in satisfactory results.
If you aren’t satisfied with your results in your private and professional life, take a look at your day-to-day execution.
How simple is your day-to-day execution?
I prefer the Ivy Lee Method for my day-to-day execution.
- Determine six tasks to be completed on a given day.
- Prioritize those tasks.
- Start with the most important task.
- Don’t move to the next task before a task is complete.
- At the end of the day, move the unfinished tasks to the list of the next day.
It’s a simple yet effective method. It helps you apply the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule. Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who realized that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. We can recognize the same ratio in various fields.
- 20% of the salespeople make 80% of the sales.
- 20% of the work produces 80% of the results.
- 20% of the workers make the 80% of the mistakes.
And the list goes on.
If you can determine the task that produces 80% of your results, you can schedule it as the first task to be completed on a given day.
When that task is complete, you will have produced 80% of the value of a working day within a few hours.
After that, you can continue with the remainder of your list in peace, knowing that your working day is more or less over. You can even take a free afternoon once in a while if you need some rest.
Do you have a daily routine?
To keep my working day simple, I follow a daily and weekly routine. I have a checklist of tasks to be completed every day and every Sunday. Those tasks serve my long-term goals. They are sorted according to priority and recorded in my Evernote.
I also have checklists for each month, quarter, and year.
Having a routine for each day, week, month, quarter, and year has two main benefits.
- I don’t need to think and decide about what to do next. I start working immediately on the most essential task.
- Forgetting a task is impossible.
If you don’t have a daily routine, I recommend you come up with one.
How Simple Is Your Daily Routine?
Take a look at the actions in your daily routine and answer the following questions.
- Which actions are essential?
- Which actions are nice-to-dos?
- Which actions produce the most value?
- Which actions produce only marginal value?
Once you answer those questions, it’s time to rearrange your daily routine. Schedule the essential and high-value tasks earlier in the day and nice-to-dos later in the day.
A year ago, I used to start the day with an hour of fitness workout. Back then, I wasn’t satisfied with my results. Working out is a nice-to-do for me. I moved it later in the day, just before dinner. Now, I’m more satisfied with my results.
When working on my blog, the first task I complete is to write and publish a blog post. That is at least 80% of the value I produce with my blog. Reading and responding to comments and emails and participating in social media come after that.
Let Go of the Inessential
If a task doesn’t add any significant value to your life or work, let it go. Don’t waste your precious time with it.
I realized that reading news, scrolling the Facebook feed, and checking my email multiple times a day don’t add any value to my life. I avoid those actions as much as possible. As a result, I have more time to produce real value and enjoy my life.
Back in the day, I’d invest in a variety of investment vehicles with a variety of hypotheses. That sounds complicated, and it is. As a result, I had to follow the price movements of each investment and check whether they satisfy my hypotheses.
At a certain moment, I realized that my investing practice was just a waste of time. It didn’t produce the results that justified the amount of time I invested in it.
Throughout the time, I wound down that portfolio. Now, I’m investing in only two instruments. I check two prices once a week and don’t think about it much, because I believe in the long-term profitability of both instruments.
Complicating our work and life gives us a false sense of hard work. It makes us feel smart. The reality is the complete opposite.
Complex procedures produce poor results. Inexperienced and foolish people complicate their work and life. Experienced and intelligent people simplify every aspect of their work and life.
The first step in simplifying your work and life is to come up with daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly routines.
When drafting your routines, take into account the Pareto Principle and prioritize the tasks that produce the most value.
When executing your daily routine, work on a single task at hand and don’t move to the next task before completing the current one. In other words, apply the Ivy Lee Method.
Once you establish a daily routine, scrutinize it and eliminate the inessential and low-value actions from your daily routine.
If you do all of that, you’ll end up with a lot of time and resources to enjoy your life.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.