Productivity and Optimization

Minimalism

Such a difficult topic to master. How to make things simple by requiring the bare minimum but never missing something. This is surely panacea. The path to this mysterious place is not to be taken lightly, as to attain this, is quite the endeavor. Ask not what you need to get there, but what can you do without?

How often do we overcomplicate ourselves just to have all bases covered. We need to be prepared for every outcome of every possible scenario. Most of us know this is damn near impossible and therefore should not be what we strive for. The focus should be on that which we can achieve.

What we need to attain minimalism is to reduce the requirements to that which is most critical, and not a single thing more. But then again, what is critical to what situation? Therein lies the ability to assess situations dynamically. Minimalism itself is not fixed, but very much alive and changing.

Minimalism is not about having few items, or living in a small home and owning two changes of clothing. Minimalism is about reducing the amount of choices and finding many one-size fits all practices and applying them, profusely.

Before we discuss the aspects needed to take a minimalist approach, we need to understand the benefits. People who think and live minimally can reach a level of peak performance sustainably simultaneously maintaining a minimal level of stress. There is a unique beauty to it and it can be applied to various scenarios. When talking about minimalism, I am referring to daily life, work life, work and personal projects, processes and approaches to dealing with situations, design and creativity, and even the way you dress. In fact, minimalism is a lifestyle and applies to every aspect of humanity.

The laws of entropy strive to generate chaos while moving energy to the lowest possible state. Think of minimalism as reaching that low state without the chaos.

There are a few important aspects to this:

  • Contrast (clear definitions)
  • Elegance (clever design)
  • Diversity (multi-faceted)
  • Quality (long-lasting)

Contrast

A clearly defined idea and plan of attack is paramount to the minimalist approach. to enable user friendliness and navigability. Structure and order is the basis for the contrast aspect. An end-goal in mind with defined milestones are trademarks of proper execution. Contrast is built on understanding the requirements from the beginning as much as possible to provide stability through the process and efficacy is a result of correct decisions and definitions from the get go. Keep your designs and instructions as simple as possible, so anyone can follow them and you can reproduce them on demand. Simplicity is key. Try to picture how others would follow the current approach and if the model could be applied to multiple personalities. If a variety of individuals all interpret the way you designed it, then this proves clarity.

Clarity means you were able to remove extraneous components from an already convoluted mind. An unraveling of the mind is the mapping to truth; the truth only you know deep down at the subconscious level.

Elegance

Achieving a state of minimalism requires indexing of some sort, meaning the ability to find the required tools quickly. This part defines the efficiency since an elegant design will enable creativity in a way to combine multiple requirements into fewer ones without sacrificing efficacy. Do not be afraid to explore and make bold moves. What may seem like something that doesn't work can end up surprising you in the end. Stick to your gut and remember elegance is an iterative process so make the necessary changes until you have found the right fit for the application.

Diversity

There is lots of debate here as to whether diversity truly has an impact on a specific process. Diversity usually means looking at a specific problem from different angles and when defined this way, definitively contributes to the discovery of new channels or approaches. Take for example our ability to see the stars. We are able to see the stars through visible light, but we are somewhat limited on those we see because there are many factors blocking our view. There is incoming light from our star (the sun), and the visibility is based on weather conditions, locations and even position of the planet. Now take that visible light spectrum and expand it further allowing you to see everything that is infrared, and then add the UV range. The result is a diverse spectrum because suddenly things become recognizable that weren’t before because they're hidden to the naked eye. Your eye is no longer naked though, it is fitted with enhancements that expand its visibility.

This applies to work projects, companies, personal projects or even medical visits. Ever want to get a second opinion? Well there you are thinking diversely.

How does this all apply to minimalism though, and isn’t minimalism the opposite, wanting to reduce the choices and opinions and iterations for a decision. Well yes, but changing an approach or trying multiple ones may seem like more work in the beginning, but is optimized in the future attempts.

Minimalism is about starting a process with the Infrared glasses already on and having a mindset prepared to quickly swift and filter-out through possibilities. This over time becomes a lifestyle choice.

For a period in his life, Steve Jobs used to wear the same clothing all the time, simply helping him reduce the amount of decisions he had to make in a day to focus on the important ones. I am not saying get rid of your all your clothing and buy a bunch of similar outfits, but think about areas in your life that require lots of time and energy, and seek to optimize them as much as possible. Find a system that works well with minimum effort, and stick to it.

Quality

A minimalist approach to life is very dependent on quality because change and variability need to be reduced. Everything you do should have a short transient state and reach steady-state as quickly as possible. This obviously depends very much on external factors, some of which are difficult or near impossible to avoid. However quick attainment of steady-state and overall quality manufacturing of your physical tools or methods, will create an impermeable sheath protecting you from noise, disturbances, nuisances and improve predictability from otherwise unforeseeable circumstances. Here are some more concrete examples of how to do that:

  • Choose quality products in your life even when you have to pay extra. For example go for the stainless steal or glass option instead of plastic.
  • Choose someone in your life who supports the idea of minimalism and the less is more approach but understands the value of durability. This will spread to your relationship without much effort and will provide the desired stability needed for longevity.
  • Do not dismiss new alternatives quickly, but take your time to plan them properly before implementing. The old adage is true, do not fix a broken system, but instead ask, is the system running exactly how I want it? If it is not, then it is probably broken.
  • Your bed and mattress take-up 1/3 of your life. Splurge a little on getting a nice bed, pillows and sheets. The added value of sleep is often underestimated and will contribute to creativity, performance, reliability and efficacy of any problem requiring solving. Life is complex and to minimize everything is most certainly more time-consuming than time-saving.

So begin by asking yourself a few simple things and build yourself a tool box.

  • What is it I want to achieve and how can I measure achieving what I wanted?
  • How do I get there?
    • This Implies scoping out a roadmap to success
  • What are the tools I need, even if just for phase one?
  • How many of those do I already have, and which of those do I need?
  • Is there anyone who may have those tools or skillsets that could help me.

Once built, constrain yourself to the box once and apply it to your clearly defined roadmap towards any goal.

Productivity

Why do we constantly seek to be productive?

What exactly is the reason for our eternal internal battle with being productive at every damn moment of every day? Why do some people just feel bad about relaxing or taking a break? The simple answer is we know life is too short. Not every individual realizes this early enough. And not everyone who realizes this early takes it upon themselves to use every minute to making contributions if possible. Instead, they take selfish decisions that only bring them happiness. To clarify, people make decisions that only involve making their owns lives richer, like buy themselves a nice car or take a nice trip somewhere. Those wishing to make contributions for the greater good of humanity make decisions that could affect everyone, or at least someone other than themselves. But hey, my goal here is not to get philosophical or speak about morality, but to help you in your quest to be more productive.

Understanding

The fact that you want to be productive as possible during your life is a perfectly normal sentiment for human beings. In particular, if you are somewhat of an OCD Engineer like me. Not a day can go by in your life without a sense of achievement or at least progress towards your goals. You know even in this exact moment, as I am writing this, my goal is to produce consumable content for individuals who are curious about learning from other people's methods and thoughts, much like anyone who has ever read a book. In essence, when you read other people's work, you are essentially tapping into another mind, maybe as or more brilliant than yours, so that you may ask yourself questions that you normally would not ask yourself.

Ever hear of Johari's Window? This is a simple concept but something that has really taught me to understand the simplicity of human perspective both internally and externally.

The Johari Windows is an introspective analysis about external observations. Picture a window with 4 components each changing in size. As one grows, the others adjusts accordingly, the sum of them always equal to unity.

On the abcissa, a split of what you know about yourself and what you don’t know about yourself.

On the ordinate, a split of how you see yourself, the other how others see you.

As you learn more about yourself, your strengths, capabilities, the size of your unknown space will decrease, and as you let people get to know you better, the more this space will decrease as well.

There are still many things you do not know about yourself and the more you people you meet, the larger this space will become, until they reveal it to you.

This is where one main principle of Productivity kicks into gear.

Feedback

When people reveal to you certain perspectives or opinions, then these shift from the the unknown area to your known area and you have made the known box even bigger.

Feedback with concrete examples has the biggest effect because it utilizes something you know you did and how you did it, and makes you analyze your process from a new perspective.

The larger your canvas of known and yourself, the easier it becomes to adjust your method and optimize your performance on any topic. This is because not every method works for everyone, but you attempt to use a method to cover as many perspectives as possible. One should seek to find the method that works for him, but also one that incorporates the perspectives of others. With an ample known box both interior and exterion, their perspectives already reside in your box.

One can choose to accept feedback and change, or acknowledge it but not change. Both paths are correct, since you do not always have to do what others want, but you understand at least how things are seen from their point of view.

To begin your path to productivity, begin by accepting that your desire to constantly be active or being productive is a normal sentiment, but may not be the same for everyone. Your desire for output and results is something you should charish, but do not get upset when others do not follow suit. Secondly, accept that others may view things differently than you did and that there are things you do know about yourself that others do, and that there are things that others may not know about you, that even you do not know about yourself. These can be revealed as people provide you with feedback or ask you questions you would not ask normally ask yourself, all the time increasing the amount you know about yourself and others know about you.

Productivity can only peak when this area is the largest of the 4 sections.