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Have you ever noticed that the simple approach seems to work out best? My father always said to me, “Keep it simple and straightforward. You don’t have to use the biggest word you know to be clear. Don’t over think it. When you have the right word, the right flow, you will feel it.”

It’s Complicated

So why do we lose sight of simplicity? One word, fear. When we start to question ourselves, we start to obsess over “What If”. As soon as “What if” comes into play, we add words or steps to make our fear go away. Worse still, we land ourselves into a never-ending review cycle. Before we know it, we have reached COMPLICATED.

Jeroen Kraaijenbrink, author of No More Bananas: How to Keep your Cool in the Collective Madness, warns us that in today’s “complicated” world, we can neither respond to everything nor allow ourselves to stress out. Achieving simplicity requires a mindful step-by-step approach.

Leticia Mooney, founder and CEO of Brutal Pixie echoes this advice. In her 2015 post, she reduces the 10 laws of simplicity down to one – Subtract the obvious, Add the meaningful. [1] For Ms. Mooney, if it doesn’t serve your purpose or your audience, don’t do it.

Simplicity and Quality Reports.

If you strive for simplicity, you are more likely to reach the viewer. ”
― William Albert Allard

Recently, I have been delving into my father’s past as a war-time entertainer. To do this, I have been looking at the War Diaries of the Tin Hats 1st Canadian Concert Party as well as those of the units for which they performed. Understandably, the military units in World War II had many pressing concerns. They had little time to do their reports and neither did their readers. So how did they do this and what was the result?

These reports were structured very much like a bullet journal. There was no more than a line or two to sum up the important details of the day. For more stable units, there may have been a small paragraph. The writers didn’t worry too much about spelling and punctuation. The important thing was to quickly provide a report on their activities that could be easily digested and acted upon.

There were some conventions such as date, time, location, number of men involved, status of supplies and output. The rest was at the discretion of the writer. Taken together, these daily entries give a rich snapshot of life in these wartime units and what they achieved. After more than seventy years, these simple reports achieved their purpose and stood the test of time. All that is missing is the pictures.

Modern Simplicity

While writing this blog, I talked it through with my sixteen-year-old daughter. To my surprise, I learned that the @ generation can also teach us a thing or two about simple reports. Apparently, my daughter has been keeping a bullet journal for months! So what is a bullet journal? It is a simple and flexible format to combine productivity tools and actionable reflections. The bullet journal can incorporate aspects of learning journals and can be used to document Kanban exercises.

So what is so special about these types of journals? They use bullet points and visual cues to convey a simple message. Because the entries are all on one page, this method encourages mindfulness. Only what really matters goes into the journal. In addition, these journals need not take a lot of time to produce and can be adapted for individual and team use. They can also be stored and shared electronically. Simplicity is possible!

I’ll try this out. With some discipline and a heaping helping of mindfulness, perhaps I can keep it simple.

[1] The Laws of Simplicity, written by John Maeda.

Download: My Daily Journal