Keep it simple and make progress

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* by Maureen Collins

We’re drowning in information and having the time to stop and think is a rare luxury. Many of our decisions, including some of the most important ones, are made on the fly without time for thought, or consideration as to their consequences.

We’ve all heard the classic phrase: “Keep it simple, stupid!” The K.I.S.S acronym has been around for decades, but is more relevant than ever today. If you take just a little time out to think, you’ll find there are some straightforward ways of simplifying your life and improving your business.

Fix your focus


Do you know what is most important in your business? Do you focus on it? This should be the 20% of clients that bring in 80% of your income; the 20% of complaints that take up 80% of the time; the 20% of your service offering that make you unique.laptop guy

Make sure you’ve identified your top 20% and then focus resources where they will have the most impact.

Even if everything seems urgent you need to identify priorities. If you make everything a priority, then you might as well have no priorities. Don’t even think about multi-tasking. Focus on important tasks, do them properly and move on.

Set up rules and routines

Too many rules can be restrictive. But every group, team, organisation – or family – needs agreed procedures, ground rules or routines to function smoothly. Good rules and routines make life simpler for everyone.

One of the characteristics of growth in a start-up business is the development of policies and procedures. They free up time that is being spent on repetitive decisions, and they ensure consistency of decisions. They allow the founder of the business to delegate with some confidence and they save employees from spending too much time second guessing what their leader would do.

When rules and procedures themselves are simple; and are understood and accepted by everyone in the group, work can be more streamlined and efficient.

Ensure buy-in

Most plans require input of some kind from other people. If you don’t have their support from the outset or if it is half-hearted, you will be frustrated by your lack of progress.

Take the time to check that everyone understands what has to be done and their role in the process.

Check people have the skills to get the job done. Agree on how work will be tracked and measured. At every step be sure that you ask as many questions as you give instructions. Use open questions:

  • How are we going to handle…?
  • What happens if…?
  • Is there a better way to…?

When you have commitment to plans it pre-empts chaos. It’s well worth slowing down the planning process to make sure you have it, before you start the journey.

Clear the clutter

I’ve been using one of Jamie Oliver’s best-selling cook books recently. It’s about making good food, fast. Every recipe starts with the same set of instructions: clear the kitchen, select and organise your utensils and ingredients, boil the kettle.

In other words prepare your workspace so you have everything to hand that you need to get the job done efficiently.

In the internet world the information you have is less important than how intelligently you use it. Being able to find it quickly is a good start. But it’s not intelligent to keep 900 mails in your Inbox; to have to rummage piles of paper on your desk, creating more chaos, when you need a file urgently; or to arrive late and stressed at a client because you couldn’t find your car keys.

When your life is physically cluttered, you become inefficient, irritated and frustrated. Then you infect other people with the same negative emotions.

Clear the clutter so you can get moving. There’s a good chance that if you stopped to organise a little better, life could indeed be simpler.

Decide what’s most important and how it should be done, get support, clear the decks and get going. Try it.

* Maureen Collins’s experience is in management and leadership training; team building, and handling change and transition. She is also the author of Straight Talk: Conversations at Work That Get Results. Visit her the Straight Talk website for more info.

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