Simplicity

Every time I read about a new tool that promises to solve an existing problem, I start thinking about the problem itself. Every time I do, I come to the conclusion that the problem shouldn’t exist in the first place.

We have robust filtering systems in email services to deal with unwanted emails. We build huge sets of automated rules, we buy new applications to help us deal with the enormous amount of email we receive every day, we have systems in place to help us deal with the never-ending stream of incoming notifications. But why is this?

Wouldn’t it be better to teach our colleagues and team members how to communicate without a barrage of messages than to build yet another semi-automated low-code tool?

We are used to most familiar solutions and services and rarely think about alternatives. We are so used to these services that we accept some things as obvious. But they’re not. If we try a different email provider, a smaller, more ethical one, we will see a miracle. There is no need for a complicated set of automated filters to deal with spam, because there is almost no spam. If we keep our email address for ourselves and the people we want to communicate with – we won’t see thousands of marketing emails. The biggest services are trying to deal with the problem they have created.

Sometimes we create a problem. There’s a common belief that we need to automate as much as we can, to save time, to free up energy, to focus on what’s really important to us. That’s a good thing! But maybe, just maybe, if we have to automate something, could we try to just stop doing it?

However, it may turn out that the activity we are trying to automate is an activity we do not need to do, and we do it out of habit or because someone told us to?

Sometimes there’s no problem at all. We gather a lot of notes, reminders, websites, links, passwords, we generate a lot of data and we store them infinitely. We think how to backup them and how to organize and browse them. We look for another tool to do so, and we find it. Because there really is a software for everything. Or a service. These days most often a software as a service.

But maybe we don’t need all that data and we could use that space, time and energy to think about our challenges and try to solve them, or maybe we could use the time we spend cataloguing our data to do nothing and find our inner peace?

There is really no need to store the Internet in our systems. Do our databases, which contain all the data we have collected over the years, help us to solve real problems, or maybe, just maybe, do they create other problems?

We look for an another tool that could save us from the never-ending timelines and notification bombardment from social media services and apps, while the easiest solution is to delete accounts. We look for another service we could doom scroll instead of the old one destroyed by some billionaire, while the easiest solution is to pick up a book and read it.

There’s a magic in making things as simple as possible, but not simpler. There’s a magic in simplicity, but simplicity isn’t magic. Simplicity is a matter of choice. Simplicity doesn’t mean finding a new tool that will do something instead of us, it does mean removing things that don’t bring any value for us.

Every new tool promises to solve a real problem, and in most cases it is true. It does solve a problem. But frighteningly often it is a problem that the previous tool created. And the new tool will solve the problem, and create another one. Which could be solved by another tool. It’s a dead end.

The question isn’t which tool we should use and why, the real question is why does the problem exist at all? Somehow people have put a human on the moon without automated e-mail filters, team shared task lists with flexible views and SaaS calendar app for only 10$ a month. And we have achieved even more with even less. Somehow today we can’t make groceries without a shared list.

Do we really need so many tools to manage our life? Maybe we do, our lives are more complicated than lives of people fifty years ago. But maybe we could potentially try to simplify our lives instead of introducing another system that makes our lives even more complicated.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s better to stop building systems to manage the problems, and start removing the things that are the problems?