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Why Make it Simple?

February 11, 2011
KEYWORDS innovations
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The workplace can be a very challenging environment on any given day, says contributing columnist Jeff Dearduff. That’s why workers should become highly organized with methods and tools that make the workday feel more comfortable.




Do you ever start your day by causing something to become very complicated when it didn’t need to be? It could be anything from how you go about your morning routine before leaving the house to adjusting the route you take on your drive into work to greeting co-workers when you walk into the office, shop or plant. It’s almost like we wake up some days and say to ourselves, “why make it simple?” The great thing is that if you make any one of these things complicated, it makes everything else around you more complicated.

Life is difficult enough-why add to its inherent challenges?

The workplace can be a very challenging environment on any given day. Adding our own complications is like mixing a dough with too much salt; it will still somewhat machine, proof and bake and is actually food-safe and edible, but it leaves a really bad taste in your mouth.

How do we recognize when we are actually making something more difficult or complicated than it needs to be? This in itself is difficult to answer because our minds are trained to follow through on habits, even bad ones, that some of us don’t even know we are creating. We just get used to scrambling. We are creatures of habit.

In the workplace, we are faced with many routine and mundane tasks, exciting and challenging research projects and critical decision points every day. What can we do to improve our thoughts, actions and results as we mull through what is supposed to be another ho-hum day? The answer for me is to become highly organized with methods and tools that make the workday feel more comfortable than it really is.

We are in the electronic age, and there are systems available that can help organize our workload, time schedules and even relationships. Starting with calendars. Whether you’re a PC or Mac fan, your computer has some sort of calendar program. So many people that I know do not utilize this feature. Keeping track of your work life in an electronic calendar format can organize your priority list, keep your appointments, give you notices and point out conflicts where you might have over-committed yourself. Many of these calendar programs will beam right to your mobile phone, so when you make a change in your computer, that change is also recorded in your pocket. When you remember to use this tool, you will not have to remember as much, thus making things simple.

Another method is to simplify your to-do lists. Again, these can be found in many computer programs, but they can also be managed in a more manual process. The bottom line is that when you remember to write something down, you identify your commitment to that something and set your own deadline so you won’t have to remember all of that data in your brain. So many people think they have memories like steel traps, but in reality, they are rusty. Our brains are not working like they use to because we are distracted and often times overworked. Because of the electronic capabilities, our dependency has caused us to forget even our parents’ phone number, since we haven’t actually dialed it since the invention of the contact list in the cell phone. So write it down; make it simple.

If you have an iPhone or one of those Droidy things, there are tools on these devices that when utilized, can make your life simpler. Let’s say you’re out for a walk on a quiet evening with someone special, thinking about work (because we do), and you have a thought, but nothing to write it down on, try the voice memo. Nobody goes out of the house without their phone, no matter what they’re doing. Learn to use this voice memo feature to record those one/off thoughts. Then you can reach back the next time you are near your calendar or to-do list and document it. This works well for dates you remember or things you need to do. This can also be a huge help in remembering those great inventions that you think about at odd times of the day and night. Also, listening to your own voice is really weird and you might have some fun with it. You can even email your voice message to someone else.

Finally, the other function on our phones that’s beneficial is the camera. When you’re working on something that you will need to put back together, or investigating a machine or system problem, or have that component that you can’t quite describe, take a picture and use it in your next steps. You might be saying, why mention this; everybody uses the camera? The fact that everybody has a camera doesn’t mean they receive the full benefits out of it. Sometimes people just don’t think about it. I have found a way to simplify meeting notes in that when I use a white board in a discussion, I take a picture of the notes, sketches and thoughts on the board and then email the pictures to the group. As a result, no one needs to capture the notes on paper. This saves everybody time and provides everyone with consistent, thorough information.

These are a few of my favorite things that make my work life simple. Why make it complicated?


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