Simple is beautiful: a fresh perspective on work life

In times when the world is still hoping to live a pandemic free life sooner than later, it would be wiser to do everything possible to simplify our lives. Be it businesses or jobs. It is not only about the cost factor but the business processes as well. Traditionally, any business that grows, pick up complexities that takes away its focus from the core. Some love to attach frills to it, make the non-core functions look more attractive for no reason. To put it simply, this can be achieved by staying focused on the larger picture, specific goals and cutting down all unnecessary activities. To clarify, this simplification has nothing to do with employee engagement and welfare. These are key issues in the given circumstances and must attract employers’ serious attention.

Even with the current pace of technological advancements, do you agree that in the existing rat race, we purposely invite complexities in life for no reason? Do we miss out the older days of our village life when we all used to lead a real simple life? Do we dream of having a simpler life back? While discussing all this, we need to understand that simplicity is a mindset. It’s an attitude. A culture of simplicity may not be as simple as it looks, but there are smarter ways to make it do-able. Here are some angles on simplicity that you may not have thought of yet.

1. Learn to Say “No”

One of my bosses used to tell me that I should learn to ‘Say No with a smile and explanation’. It sounds a bit contrary in our local ethical framework but it is important to assess one’s capacity to extend a helping hand to someone who needs you. But gradually, I could see where he’s coming from. When you start accepting work outside your job scope, people eventually assumed that they were part of your responsibilities. Apparently, that’s what happens to most of us.

Some of them may have used such tactics as a way to lessen their workload, while others may have done that unintentionally. Whatever is the case, it’s best to gauge our workload before we decide to assist in other work areas. Sure, some organizations appraise employees based on how much they are willing to do work outside their scope, but the key here is to balance between fulfilling our roles and going beyond. The priority should always be to complete our job well first.

2. Imperfection vs. Unprofessionalism

We all have heard this phrase several times in our personal and professional lives that: “Perfection is only attributed to the divine. Humans are born imperfect and we shouldn’t accept perfection from the human being”. That doesn’t mean that you are at liberty to deliver a substandard project and expect a compliment from the boss. If you happen to be a perfectionist, then you should learn to negotiate with your boss while accepting new projects or assignments. Don’t accept too many with closer deadlines.

It means that you don’t miss the forest for the trees, because you could’ve used that extra effort to finish and polish up those portions where you’re supposed to be ‘perfect’. Accepting imperfection for those parts that are less important doesn’t mean that you give up on your search for excellence; it just means you prioritize your efforts to where it matters more. When you are performing well on your work as a whole, the resultant satisfaction has a positive trickle-down effect on the rest of your life outside work.

3. Work Hard, Play Harder

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. What he meant was that if you love what you do, you would enjoy it so much that it wouldn’t be considered as work.

In presence of internet and cellphone technology, it is difficult to fully disconnect but make some rules. Switch off your mobile phone and resist checking your emails every fifteen minutes. Go out and enjoy yourself or attend to what is more important in your life.

4. Lead an empowered team

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of doing everything by yourself. This is a typical an old timer, micro-managerial definition. This happens to those who are insecure, under qualified, happy in their current role forever. If you want to go places, train and teach your direct reports. Learn to trust people, make them able, provide them means and hold them accountable for what they do.

There are certain tasks which we particularly enjoy doing and are better at. Then there is other stuff which is better left without our interventions. The latter are those which you should delegate to people around you. Focus on what you do best and you will do a better job organizing your work and hence, a more balanced work life.

5. Networking pays off

We all know that work takes up a sizeable time of our day, so, it will be beneficial to our well-being to spend time wisely. Get to know your colleagues working with you in the same organisation, may be in different locations or departments, even outside work and you’ll have a less hard time in the office. We need social support when the going gets tough. What’s more, this will make it easier to ask for help when you need it.

One thing to be careful about here is that we may unknowingly get involved in workplace politics. When you socialize with people more, you get to see what you may like or dislike about some of your co-workers. This is when you form or join cliques and stick with what your group believes in. Politics are inevitable in the workplace, but you can always minimize it by taking the effort to mingle with people from different groups.

The Takeaway

As Steve Jobs once said: “Simple has been one of my mantras. 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.”

Precisely, to get to the ultimate simplicity goal, we need to train our mind and body so that everything we do results in simplicity — be it at work or home. Try simplifying something at home: your wardrobe, a junk-filled cupboard, desk or garden shed. Whilst you’re doing this, watch your attachment being activated — that desire to hold on — and the accompanying justifications that are running through your head. Your tendency towards complexity at work is just another version of this response. If you can conquer these habits at home, you can do the same at work. And vice versa. Until simple becomes a way of being. Ask yourself: How do you keep it simple?

Learn how sometimes smaller things in our lives make huge impact and you can take some learnings on a personal and professional level by following me on LinkedIn and on our official website. Also follow us on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder, Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan. At Evolve HR, him and his team thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.

C-Level HR, Transformation Leader, Board Advisor, Writer, Business Coach & Organisational Consultant