Make an effort to think in the direction of simplicity
“with simple thinking, we can maximise our focus with minimum distractions.”
Many things influence our lives and decisions we make. The primary influences being the perceptions and most of the times, the mistakes of perception leads to our complex thinking. we get used to the complex processes, procedures and matters in our day-to-day tasks which in turn add to our complicated thinking. We acquire habits, possessions, relationships, needs, etc., which are part of richness and enjoyment of life — but also are the reason of the complexity of our thinking.
We get continually bullied by opportunities which seem to be attractive and get pressurised by them thereby making our lives more complex. Sometimes fear of boredom leads you into a complexity of temptations and pressures of ‘have to do things.’ This makes our thinking a complex process driving us to busyness, approval of others, anxiety, performance and control.
Some of this complexity is created by us and some we accept and take on as part of our daily lives. Having things to take care of, people to deal with or processes to attend to, our thoughts create clutter giving rise to complicated ideas and create confusion and disappointments. We get caught up in the day-to-day complex tasks we have to get done and often run out of time to do the things that really matter and those that are essential.
We get so comfortable things being familiar and certain way that we don’t want to find simpler way of doing things. Simplicity in thinking is something that is deliberate and intentional and should be a choice you make. By adopting to a ‘simple perspective’ in your thinking, you can free yourself from all the distractions and you can maximise your focus on that which is essential, can eliminate complexities, create effective solutions and can reach your objectives or goals much faster.
Simplicity makes it easier to do things. But finding a simpler way is usually not that simple.
The perspective of ‘simple thinking’
Complex is something which is hard to understand, explain, or deal with and leads to inefficiency, wastage of time, attention and mental energy in unnecessary things. But there is always a much simpler way of doing things. The perspective of ‘simple thinking’ and doing is always possible and is very important to improve efficiency and to reduce stress, anxiety and frustration. By identifying areas, matters and procedures which seem unnecessary and replacing them with simple processes, you can learn to take action much faster.
“When we begin pursuing a more simple, intentional life, we obtain a new perspective.”
Perspective of ‘simple thinking’ is a value, a habit and an attitude of mind as much as it is a process. You accept something complex because you are not looking for simple solutions and your outputs also tend to be complex. Simplicity will not happen unless you are prepared to work hard and make a real effort to achieve it. The emphasis needs to be on simple perspective at every moment of your decision-making process.
‘Is there a simpler way to do this?’
‘Is this really necessary?’
‘Does this add to simplicity or complexity?’
By having the intention of making something simple, you can prioritise your actions towards simple processes.
Ways to achieve a ‘simple perspective’
Many of us consider thinking as a complex process because we have never made any attempt to make it simpler. We tie ourselves up in complex rules when in reality, most of our practical thinking takes place in ‘simple perspective’ and is mostly based on self-organising system of brain. So, We can design simple tools for thinking to improve productivity in number of ways and for a more focused effort.
You need not always depend on major changes to make things simple. You can Make slight changes in small things to simplify your efforts of doing difficult things.
Here are some small changes that can be made to achieve ‘simple perspective’ in your efforts of achieving your tasks.
One thing at a time
We are capable of thinking many things at the same time. But if you find matters getting too complex, then it is always better to pay attention to only one thing at a time. It does not mean that you cannot do more than one thing at a time — but you choose not to for the moment.
Express in words
Complexity is difficult to cope with while it remains out of consciousness and you will find it difficult to arrive at decisions. When something seems complex and difficult, verbalise why you are making that choice, the reasons behind your decision. This can simplify and clarify your decision-making process.
Complexity arises when you are trying to deal with more than one matter at same time. If there are two separate issues, separate them out and deal with each one on its own. Analyse and break it down to deal with it one at a time.
Take small steps
If the task is complex, it can be broken down into tiny steps. Certain tasks may seem impossibly complex on the whole, but if broken down to small steps, each step can be simple and doable. It is simpler to focus on the next step than to focus on the entire task.
Concepts are a broad and general way of simplifying things. They simplify the action into stages. Making use of concepts in thinking can simplify your efforts. Once the concept is formed, the details of the concept will still need to be worked out but they set the direction of the action.
Think in stages
Always have a clear objective in mind and figure out how to reach the objective.
• The direction to reach your objective.
• The concepts that can be used in order to move in that direction.
• The ideas that can be used to put those concepts into action.
Thinking in this kind of framework helps you arrive at possible action alternatives to achieve your complex tasks.
Do things slowly
If your mind is minimally occupied, as in doing things slowly, it will be more able to have new ideas. This also helps the mind to clarify or simplify things and requires discipline and concentration.
Things which were needed at one time may be no longer needed. Shedding approach simply involves throwing things out and putting nothing in their place. Sometimes things are ‘unnecessary’ or ‘redundant’. If these things add to clarity they should be retained, but if they add to the complexity of the situation, they should be shredded and thrown out.
Clarity and simplicity go together. What is the situation? What do we really need to do? What is going on? Questions of this sort can clarify and provide thorough understanding of the situation or process. The perspective of simple thinking comes from thorough understanding.
As a self-organising information system, our brain allows incoming information to organise itself into routine patterns. Once we identify with these patterns, we flow along with them without much effort. Setting up routines can simplify your perception and action.
Be determined to seek simplicity.
When things are highly complicated we do often wish for simple perspective. But when things are not complicated we rarely strive to make something simple. Always find simpler ways of doing things. Make the ‘simple perspective’ as part of your normal thinking process to free up time, reduce stress and to make better decisions.
Put yourself in ‘simple perspective’
• Be determined to make an active effort to make things more simple.
• Be motivated and creative to arrive at a possible simple, effective and practical solution to a problem.
• Have the willingness to simplify process instead of coping with complexity.
• Look for simple alternatives and be willing to invest time and effort in that search.
• Spell out in words what you are seeking to achieve. This creates a path to move in defined direction thereby avoiding unnecessary.
• Design the ideal simple process and then seek to work incrementally step by step.
• Consider all the things you are busy with right now and consider how few of these are really necessary.
• Take notice of your habits and cut back on clutter, distractions and focus on the essentials.
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
Respond to your Inner-Critic positively to take constructive action
There is an inner critic inside all of us who is constantly scrutinising and criticising our every action. Our inner Critic can be far more vicious than that we might hear from the outside. Our inside have intimate knowledge of us and can zero in on our weak points. This can be damaging to our self-esteem and self-image and holds us back from achieving what we want to. We end up beating ourselves up about not being and doing good enough.
Your Inner-Critic is developed by your constant self-talk. You might be told by this critic that you are not competent or intelligent enough, and the other things that you don’t like about yourself. Sometimes the guilt of what ifs caused by this critic can make it difficult to accomplish your goals and you can have tough time to let go of the never ending story of imperfections that are created by it.
Is Your Inner-Critic always damaging?
More often, your Inner-Critic is the baddest and biggest bully that keeps you from making progress and delays you from becoming the best version of yourself. But at the same time, this may not be true always. Your critical inner self can also be an effective motivator and a protector. Your Inner-Critic is judging you in order to protect you from hurt and pain. It helps you in being cautious, in perfecting something, in getting successful and intelligent.
Most of the times, It tries to fit you into a perfect ‘self’ by prescribing some rules and attacks you when you try to violate them. Even though it gets you acquainted with your imperfect self or with the things you don’t like about yourself, it need not make you less acceptable. Instead, by establishing a positive connection, you can come up with constructive self-criticism and can turn that into a taskmaster. This will get you to work hard or to be disciplined or to avoid being mediocre.
Know what your Inner-Critic is doing for you.
Your critical self is made of opinions that come from the environment you live in, parents, teachers, peers, media and from your own conclusions. It is a voice based on your so formed beliefs. To know whether your inner voice is helping you or lowering your self-worth, it is important to know which type it belongs to according to the following:
If your inner voice has high standards of behaviour and performance then it tries to get you to do things perfectly. On the downside, it might prevent you from creating anything for the fear of not being good enough and can make you work forever trying to perfect something.
This inner voice tries to point out mistakes and attacks you for some of your past action or behaviour that has been harmful to you or to others. Because of the violation of a deep-help value, it takes you on a guilt-trip.
This critic tries to control your behaviour that might not be good for you or might be risky. It tries to be harsh in certain situations where you slip up.
This kind of inner voice tries to make you feel worthless and undermines your self-confidence. It undermines your confidence of taking up to difficult tasks and keeps you away from taking risks so that you won’t fail.
This critic tries to state facts like — You are a loser, You will never amount to anything and so on and attacks on your fundamental self-worth. It shames you deeply thereby stopping you from taking action.
This critic tries to get you to fit a certain mould. It attacks you when you aren’t and praises you when you are thereby making you feel inadequate.
This gets you to work hard and to be disciplined in order to be successful. It can also lead to over-striving and workaholism.
By having a clear sense of what your Inner-Critic is, what it sounds like and how it is directing your behaviour, you can decide to either work with it or try and make necessary changes to make it into a constructive critic. You can do this by being aware of both its benefits and its consequences. Follow these steps to establish a positive connection with your Inner-Critic
Know your thought patterns
How you respond to your inner voice depends mostly on your thought patterns. Analyse your critical thoughts. Certain thought patterns may make you experience motivation and achievement. Others might be negative patterns acting as your enemies. Ask yourself the question: would you put up with a person saying negative things constantly about you? If you wouldn’t tolerate, then why put up with you own negative self. Identify the triggers and content of these negative patterns in order to break out of them.
Make a list of your self-critical statements
Writing down your self-critical statements heightens your awareness and allows you to take a closer look at their usefulness. Look at some of your statements that you wrote down and ask whether they are guilting or are they trying to protect you or improve you. Some of them can be negative beliefs you hold about yourself. How well these statements are serving their purpose? Come up with some alternatives or constructive statements to use next time when any of these pop into your head.
Challenge your Inner-Critic
Challenge your critical inner voice or statements to test their logic and authenticity. You will come to know how realistic their concerns are or if they are just unnecessary fears. Analyse how likely each of those things are true. Reframe some of these statements and get a correct perspective. Find the positive things about you — you as a person or your achievements and focus on these when your Inner-Critic tries to break you down. Next time you hear your critic, ‘turn it off’ by replacing negatives and shifting your attention to something more positive.
Work on your self-esteem
People with very low self-esteem have a more vicious and demoralising Inner-Critic. It makes them stop being challenging and since they can’t live up to their own critical voice, they lose trust in their abilities. If you base your confidence on the evaluation of your achievements and the validation or approval of others, your confidence keeps varying every day. Keep it irrespective of these factors. Seeking validation from others leads to negative and unproductive thinking. Don’t let others’ opinion take control of your thoughts. Be confident in your own abilities. Higher the levels of your self-esteem, the more productive will be your Inner-Critic and its critical analysis of you.
Sometimes when you fail to meet your standards, your Inner-Critic because of its protective nature focuses on your short comings, triggers discontentment and prompts you to become defensive and avoidant. When you try to silence your inner self-talk, you tend to intensify its judgement. Instead try to approve yourself by viewing your mistakes with understanding and patience. Express empathy towards the fears held by your Inner-Critic. This way, you are more likely to take responsibility for your part and can focus on mending the situation.
Adopt a positive attitude
Adopting a positive attitude towards your life will free you from your damaging critical and negative self. Your Inner-Critic corrupts your mind and gradually pollutes your behaviour, emotions and your attitude. By developing a positive attitude, you get freedom from your inner voice like ‘How can I achieve that?’, ‘I am incapable of doing that’, ‘No, I am not good enough for this’, ‘I am a failure’, ‘what if something goes wrong?’, and similar thoughts. Inner-Critic makes you succumb to your fears and prevents you from taking a step forward because it makes you feel incapable of doing something. By keeping a positive attitude, you need not surrender to them and you can make yourself strong enough to stand your ground. You become free and liberated and can see different possibilities.
Replace negative words with positive
What kind of words do you usually tell yourself? Are they helpful?, or do they make you feel burdened. When you say things like, ‘I cannot get anything done’, or ‘I am sure I will fail’ and so on can make your Inner-Critic more strong in making you believe that you cannot improve and are incapable of doing something. Therefore these words need to be eliminated. Replace them with positive and affirmative phrases. For instance, When you find yourself thinking ‘ I am not good enough for this job,’ you can tell yourself ‘I may not be the best at this job, but I will learn to improve.’
Stay clear of using phrases like I already know, I’m sure, as they make you burdened with the responsibility of doing something in a certain way as this leads to self-doubt and you might lose yourself to negative thinking. Don’t resign to the fact that you will never be able to do something just because your Inner-Critic is telling you so.
• Be conscious of your Inner-Critic.
• Make your Inner-Critic work for you and not against you.
• Don’t let your Inner-Critic’s ‘you-can’t’ suppress your ‘Can-do’ attitude.
• Remember that your Inner-Critic is just one part of you and not whole of you.
• Take your Inner-Critic seriously when it comes to correcting your faults and weaknesses.
• Practice positive self-talk. Cultivate a habit of using words like ‘can’, ‘will’ and ‘yet’.
All of us do our best to achieve our goals. It is not always easy, there are probably times where we think we could do more. Our Inner-Critic will always beat us up about not doing enough. But if we spend more time feeling guilty about it, the less time we will spend putting positive steps in place to achieve our goals. Do not let your Inner-Critic try convincing you to give up. Instead make a positive connection and work with it in order to reach your goals.
Your mindset determines your success. Grow your mindset to reach your full potential.
Mindsets are an important part of your personality and behaviour. Your ‘personality mindset’ comes into play in situations that involve your personal qualities — how dependable, cooperative, caring or socially skilled you are. People always think, act and fare differently from each other. These differences are mainly due to people’s backgrounds, experiences, training or ways of learning. The view thus adopted for yourself has a profound affect on the way you lead your life. This view becomes your mindset and can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.
The two mindsets
Believing that your qualities are fixed and thinking that you have certain kind of intelligence, certain personality and a moral character makes you a person of fixed mindset. For people with fixed mindset, human qualities are like they are carved in stone and intelligence or personality is something that is fixed or is a deep-seated trait.
Believing that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop and that human qualities are not fixed and you can always make an effort to improve yourself makes you a person of growth mindset. People with growth mindset do not waste time proving how great they are, but instead believe that the basic qualities can be cultivated through learning and they constantly better themselves with continuous effort.
Fixed mindset vs growth mindset
Most of us are trained in fixed mindset from an early age creating a mindset in which our one consuming goal is to look smart and prove ourselves in classrooms, careers, and in our relationships.
People with fixed mindset have a constant urge to prove themselves to others and they feel rejected with minor disappointments and setbacks. Do not confuse yourself fixed mindset with low self esteem. They are just as worthy and optimistic when they aren’t coping with failure. They strongly believe “If at first you don’t succeed, you probably don’t have the ability.” Or “ If Rome wasn’t built in a day, may be it wasn’t meant to be.”
Fixed mindset does not let you believe in putting effort or getting help, and makes you fear the challenges with its focus on permanent traits. People with this mindset tend to misestimate their performance and their ability. This turns them into non-learners and lose interest when things get too challenging. They have higher levels of depression and ruminate over minor problems and setbacks.
On the contrary, growth mindset lets you understand the power of persistence and the importance of taking risks. It lets you recognise the value of challenges and overcoming obstacles. People with growth mindset think they can work much harder and always resolve to do better. They strongly believe in “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Or “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
It is interesting to know that those with the growth mindset can identify their own strengths and weaknesses. This leads to the love of challenge, belief in effort, and resilience in the face of setbacks. With their focus on development, they take action to confront their problems and become more determined to take up the challenges.
By being aware of both mindsets, you can start thinking in new ways. All of us have elements of both — a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. People can also have different mindsets in different areas.
Your personality or intelligence is something you can develop. You can always make an effort to shift your mindset in order to take better action. Mindset is not a fixed quantity and can be changed or increased with practice, training, and above all you can improve your attention, memory, and your judgment. A simple shift in your mindset can transform you into the person you want to be and can accomplish the things you value.A mindset shift lets you-
love what you are doing.
Believing talents can be developed allows you to fulfil your potential. Growth mindset allows people to love what they are doing. Many successful people didn’t even plan to go to the top. They arrived there as a by-product of their enthusiasm and love for what they did. In the fixed mindset, you tend to base everything on outcome. It makes you think if you fail or if you are not the best—it is all been wasted. By changing your mindset, you begin to value and love what you are doing regardless of outcome.
Fixed mindset undermines the value of effort. It makes you think effort is for those who don’t have the ability or “Things come easily to people who are true geniuses” or “If you have to work at something, you must not be good at it.” We begin to prefer effortless success and become intolerant of mistakes, criticism or setbacks as we constantly crave for validation by others.
Whereas by changing you perspective to growth mindset, you begin to admire the effort, for no matter what your ability is. You can catch yourself when you are in the throes of the fixed mindset — like instead of getting discouraged when something requires lot of effort, challenge yourself and continue your effort. Know that many successful people did not have natural ability, but developed exceptional skills through their effort.
Growth mindset doesn’t let failure define you. Failure for growth mindset is something to be faced, dealt with, and learned from. It makes you concerned with improving as you are open to the accurate information about your current abilities. People with fixed mindset instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, they simply try to repair their self-esteem by assigning blame or making excuses. Growth mindset thinkers correct their deficiencies and learn from their mistakes in an effort to better themselves.
Here is how you can change your mindset:
• A fixed mindset can undo your learning habit. When we try to learn something new, may be a sport, dance or a new skill, many times it gets hard and we opt out either because you felt bored or tired. Next time this happens don’t let the fixed mindset take over. Do not assume you are always bad at it. Well, may be you are, but then may be you aren’t. Grow your mind set by putting in the effort in learning.
• It feels nice to surround yourself with people who make you feel faultless. It is always tempting to create a world in which we feel perfect. But you will never be able to grow. Try and seek constructive criticism.
• If you think something from your past, like being rejected or a test score or a callous action, measured you wrong, focus on that thing and feel all the emotions that go with it. Get into the growth mindset perspective. Understand your role in your growth and know that it doesn’t define your personality or intelligence.
• Next time you feel depressed or low, grow your perspective by thinking about learning, challenging and by confronting obstacles. Think about your effort as a positive and more constructive force.
• When people outdo you, instead of assuming that they were smarter or more talented, consider that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder and worked their way through obstacles. You can do that too if you grow your mindset.
Finally, most of us become the targets of negative stereotyping. Even when the negative label comes along, you can remain incharge by developing your growth mindset.
Fixed mindset stands in the way of development and change. The growth mindset is the starting point for change, but you need to decide for yourself where you need to put it n your efforts and where they would be most valuable.
Only when your minds are clear and your thoughts are organised can you achieve effective results.
Most people have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done or to be able to fulfil their commitments. People add to their stress levels by taking on more than they can handle. Various options and opportunities bring with them the pressures of decision making. These pressures make people frustrated about how to improve their situation. By learning productivity you can organise and prioritise better and you can get your time back so you can focus on making progress and helps you improve your situation.
Planning and scheduling your tasks helps you gain more focus. In the process, you can create a positive work atmosphere and lifestyle practices that foster clarity, control, creativity and relaxation.
Better organisational techniques like planning and preparing can enhance your productivity levels. Thinking in more effective ways to handle different work situations can make things happen sooner, better and more successfully.
There is no single technique or tool to perfect organisation and productivity. However, there are certain simple processes that we can all learn to use that will improve our ability to deal more proactively and constructively. These tools can help you focus your energies strategically to create better thinking habits and working environment which otherwise keeps most people from burning out due to stress.
It is possible for you to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively and be fully present in the moment.
Here are some simple practices which can motivate you to become more productive.
Figuring out ‘why’
Why do you want to be more productive? Why are you putting up with a situation in your workplace? Do you want to be better at your job or do you want to get more things done and do more with your time?
Until you have the answer to your ‘why’, there is no possible way to come up with appropriate actions.
By having an answer to your why has following benefits:
• You can define success.
• You can make hard choices and take decisions.
• You can gather possible resources.
• You can be motivated and can have better focus.
Many people forget why they are doing something and what exactly they are trying to achieve – and a simple question like, “ Why am I doing that?” Can get you back on track. Finding the answer to your ‘why’ opens up wider possibilities and expands your thinking.
Figure out your purpose
All of us want to be better at what we are doing. So the main goal should be to find your purpose. To know and to be clear about the purpose can enhance your focus. Because it is easy to get caught up and let your real and primary intentions slip. Your purpose becomes a reference point for your time and energy spent.
Once you have the purpose defined, you can align your resources and can make your decision-making easier. Often the only way to make hard choices is to come back to the purpose of what you are doing. Just taking two minutes and writing your primary reason for doing something makes things clearer and clarifies your focus.
Find your time leaks
Doing things that bring you progress, getting better at your work, investing in compound time to develop your skills, and picking up healthy habits make you productive. Find out where your time is leaking in the process. Think of your top priorities and determine those activities that help you achieve or take you closer to your goals. That is your meaningful work. The rest are meaningless activities that steal your time.
Focus on what matters to optimise your efforts and where to allocate your time more efficiently. Being aware of all the activities that bring you closer to your goal and being aware of the ones that stall your progress help you get your time back.
Create and stick to your to-do list
Organise your daily tasks in order to get things done. Don’t get carried away by writing too long to-do lists. Being busy is not the same as being productive. Overloading your lists is not an effective to-do list format. If you always start with the easiest or most convenient ideas, you will end up pushing the best ones down the list.
Make sure that your to-do list has a purpose and other meaningful activities. Define your tasks related to your goals and order them by importance. If you do not manage to finish them all, move unfinished tasks to your list for the next day. Rinse and repeat. If you carry some tasks on for too many days in a row without working on them, get rid of those tasks completely.
Declutter & Prioritise
Decluttering your routine lets you devote your time to meaningful work. Write down your distractions and find multiple solutions to reduce them. For each distraction, figure out as many solutions until you find the one that works.
Prioritise your tasks according to your goals and choose those that most benefit your purpose.
It will be difficult to cut down your priorities when you have more on your plate to do than you can comfortably handle. Prioritise on the basis of your long term and short term goals, accountabilities, values, areas of focus and current projects. Combine the things you want to do with things you should do.
Get your routine done
It is very easy to start a task you want to do. But what about those tasks you have absolutely no motivation to do? The ones you procrastinate far too long over and never get around to doing? Putting off important tasks can rob your hours of achievement and can become a chronic cycle.
Slacking off and doing unimportant tasks, putting off other tasks makes you habituated to the same process. Then, the loop continues to repeat. You are avoiding the task either because you are not organised or because you are prioritising low value work. To avoid procrastination, identify what you are putting off and do those tasks right away. If getting started is the hardest part, set a designated time slot to do the task.
The majority of us fail at building life-changing habits because we start strong and give up easily. You need to put effort into accomplishing your goal. Even he tiniest of efforts, when consistently done, brings good results.
Figure out which skill to work upon in order to reach your goal and the task you need to do everyday. Once you have zeroed in on the skill and activity, mark the days you will be working on it and focus on growing your progress on the same. Do not break the chain of progress so that you become consistent with your talent/ skill.
Use your gap time productively
Gap times occur between meaningful activities. Optimise your gap time so you can further develop the skill you need to make you productive. Gap times are small breaks in your schedule or at work, or when you are on long breaks from your work.
Be as strategic about your breaks as you are about your day in general. To use your gap times productively, think about small projects you can accomplish like learning something new, planning your week/day, cleaning up or even working on your other ideas.
Finally, Stay focused.
Think about the last time you felt highly productive. You probably had a sense of being in control without too much stress. You were probably highly focused on what you were doing and you felt you were making progress.
Next time around if you get far out of that state—and start to feel out of control, stressed out , unfocused and bored—get yourself back into your “productive state.” Hopefully the above methods can inspire you to become more productive and work towards attaining your goals.