Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Complex versus Simple

Three stones on the shoreline

Sometime in the autumn of 2005, my wife bought some educational software for our daughter. It looked interesting, and quite comprehensive. Unfortunately, it was anything but straightforward. Each task or lesson had a lengthy preamble attached to it, setting up the task with a convoluted story. And there wasn’t any way to skip the preamble.

My wife got very frustrated with the software. My daughter … well, she got bored, wandered off and picked up a book to read.

While this was going on, I installed some educational software on one of my Linux-powered laptops — specifically, GCompris and Tux Typing. Within minutes, my daughter was using (and I hope learning from) the software. All without the annoying narration and setup. The Linux software that I installed was simple; some would say boring. But it worked.

That taught me a valuable lesson: often, the simple choice is better than the complex choice. Especially when it comes to tools — whether they’re productivity and organization tools, writing tools, or tools for learning.

Simple offers a number of advantages over complex. There’s less overhead, both cognitive and digital. There’s less to distract you. Simple is faster. It’s often more effective.

Simple lets you get the job done. Quickly, easily, and with the minimum of headaches. Simple keeps you focused on what you’re doing.

Simple just works. And it lets you work. And learn. And play.

Sure, there are people who need a more complex option. Most of us, though, can get by without that complexity. In most cases, I’d say we can do more than get by.

Don’t default to the complex in anything. Consider a simpler option, a simpler path. For most of what you do, simple is more than good enough.

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