Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Seeking Simplicity, You Find Simplicity

Well, I have bounced through a couple of chaotic days – nothing major, just the usual bumpiness of the working world, short notice meetings, fast deadlines, strange requests – the stuff that makes companies work and drives workers insane. I often suspect that one of the things a highly successful organization can do very well is plan. Though, I think that might be a myth. I think back on some of the highly successful groups I’ve worked with over the years and it dawns on me that none of them were particularly good at planning. I do think one of the traits they all shared was that they didn’t lose a lot of time spinning, but kept a good focus. Over the years I’ve definitely seen entire organizations spinning out of control.

It all comes back to Simplicity I think. I’ve often said that the purpose of management is to “draw bright lines” for the workforce – lines that both show them the direction to take and delineate the edges of their responsibilities – both of which allow people to focus on what matters. A little over a year ago I went for near radical simplicity here in my office. I stripped it down to just what is needed an used on a daily basis. That was a good approach and it has definitely aided me here at work, helped me pull out of the aftermath of the high degree of stress I was under (with a little counseling of course), and helped to focus back on being highly productive.

I am still working, perhaps struggling, with simplicity in my home life. I’ve made huge strides, but I still have a way to go. I think of it as sanding wood, slowing working it with a finer and finer grade of sandpaper until it glistens. My office glistens. My home is still a work in progress. But, I feel like I have made very good process. This last weekend was a good example, at least for me.

I had a highly productive Sunday, where I got a lot done that needed to be done and that I wanted to do – and at the same time I managed to spent a lazy afternoon just being. (Well, being and watching episodes of HBO’s Rome on DVD, which I wanted to watch again since I read “Cleopatra: A Life”.) I think one of the contributing factors to being able to achieve that was overall sense of “lightness” that comes from having very simple living spaces. By clearing out the physical stuff that clutters, you also clear out the mental stuff that clutters – and both enable you to move through the world with less incidental turbulence.

Once you have that experience it inspires you to continue to seek that experience by clearing away more of the stuff, physical and mental, that clutters your life. In seeking simplicity, you find simplicity. It’s an interesting journey to be on.

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