Why Simplify?

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.


Photo by qthomasbower

One of the questions I get asked frequently when I am telling people about this blog is how productivity and simplicity fit together. “After all, productivity is getting things done, and simplicity is living like a monk, right?”

Simplicity Is Not Austerity

Let’s get the first misconception out of the way. Simplicity is not living without decoration, modern conveniences, relationships, or comfort.

Simplicity is boiling something down to the point where the extras that are not adding value are stripped away.

Simplicity Is Individual

Another misconception is that there is one definition of what simplicity looks like. There are many models of how various people have achieved simplicity; however, these models are only valid for the individuals. Each person’s life is different, and each person’s simplicity will be different.

For example, having timers on my watering hoses are simplifying for me, because they allow me to turn the water on without having to remember to turn it off. For my neighbor, a master gardener, watering timers are a complication because he prefers to deliver differing levels of water to his various gardens.

How Simplicity Feeds Into Productivity

I have said before that there is no one system that will work for everyone, and each person needs to craft a system based on what works for them.

This does not necessarily mean you have to create your own productivity system from scratch, though. For the majority of people, it will be simpler to start from someone else’s system and modify it work.

I personally use a mish-mash of techniques drawn from Getting Things Done, AutoFocus, The 7 Habits and others.

Stripping The Unnecessary

It also means in the process of adopting someone else’s system that you take out the unnecessary complications that will slow you down.

Some people may insist that their system has to be done on paper, and while you like the system, you cannot work on paper. So find a way to adapt the concepts to the way you work electronically. Or it may mean that you abandon parts altogether.

For example, the Next Action list from Getting Things Done became a nuisance; I was spending more time making lists than actually working. I dropped this entirely from my working habits and saw my productivity soar.

Simplifying Life To Get More Time

The other place we should look at simplifying is at our general life activities. We live in an age where we have so many choices, and like a kid in a candy store, we say yes to too much. By paring down what we say yes to, we can focus on the things that truly bring us joy and satisfaction.

For example, I jettisoned many outside activities a few years ago and found time to pursue the creative projects I had wanted to do for years.


Applying simplification techniques to your productivity system and life can lead to a much more sane way of living. Remember, a productive life doesn’t have to be complicated!


Photo by qthomasbower

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