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

Don't Default to the Complex Solution

A complex tangle of wires

Problems are like people: no two are the same. And you don’t deal with everyone in the same way.

But many people, when faced with a problem, default to the complex solution. The solution that requires a lot of steps, a lot of planning, a lot of overhead.

There are problems that require a more complex and involved solution. That said, not every problem does. Often, the problem you’re facing only needs a simple and straightforward approach to wrap it up.

What do I mean by that? Let me explain with two stories.

The Computer and My Parents

Take, for example, my parents. They’re not the most technologically literate pair around. My mother has an annoying habit of saving her emails to her hard drive (then complaining she can’t find them!). My father … well, let’s not go there.

Over the last couple of years, they’ve managed wipe out a pair of computers and a Kindle Fire tablet. The computers were crippled by malware and viruses, and the fact that my father would routinely cut the power to the computers while they were shutting down (and, in some cases, updating).

Using an updating firewalls and anti virus software is a bit beyond my parents. And, I’m convinced that a desktop computer is more than they need. I’ve suggested they get a Chromebook or a Chromebase, which does what they need without all the other frills. No one’s taken me up on that suggestion yet, but I’m still hoping.

The Tale of a Website

A while back, my wife was working with a small community group involved in organic permaculture. The group wanted to create a website that would help them share their ideas with others. My wife asked me for advice on how to create that site. Off the top of my head, I suggested using WordPress or Jekyll (a tool for creating and maintaining static websites).

My wife reminded me that the people who would be maintaining the site aren’t technically savvy. They know how to use computers and have some basic knowledge of HTML. Their needs were simple, and the site wouldn’t be updated all that frequently. That site would need to be easy to maintain even by people who weren’t familiar with the guts of it.

So my wife and I created the skeleton of the website using an HTML template we created. The template is full of comments, explaning what each section of the page does or what should go there.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples like that, whether related to technology or not.

The key is not to default to the complex solution. Consider the simple approach. Consider a solution that’s quick to implement, but which will also last. If that doesn’t work, then consider something more complex. In many cases, though, the simple approach will be more than enough.

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