“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius

I had a Zoom video meeting scheduled on my calendar. These days, who doesn't, right? Shortly before start time, the person messaged me saying their computer had gone into an unexpected update, they couldn't access the Zoom link, and they would have to reschedule.

We needed to meet, and our calendars were challenging to coordinate. I started running through options in my head, and it dawned on me. Zoom was just a default, and video was not necessary for this meeting. I messaged back and suggested we could do it the "old-fashioned" way - he could just call me. In less time than we allotted for the meeting, we accomplished what we needed to and moved on with our day. Simple got it done.

Sometimes, we over-complicate things. We have blind spots, we don't see the obvious, and our default reaction limits our perceived options - like me with the Zoom video call. The fact I needed to think about it at all is proof of this. What did we do before Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Meet, and FaceTime? For goodness sake, we picked up the phone and talked to each other!

Recently, I had a sizable (and growing) stack of papers I was neglecting to process. It had reached the point that I wasn't entirely sure what was in there anymore. But I kept telling myself I didn't have time to deal with it. (Yes, I do it too!) I finally seized an opportunity to tackle the stack when I took my husband to a medical appointment. The visit would be at least an hour, and I would be in the waiting room during that time. I loaded the stack of papers into a zipper-topped tote bag along with three file folders.

Once my husband was taken back for his visit, I got to work. I'm fortunate to know (and teach) the simplest, most straightforward system for processing all kinds of information - The File-Act-Toss System™ from Productive Environment Institute. This system minimizes the overwhelm of decision-making by simplifying it down to only three choices:

File - if the information should be retained for future reference.
Act - if the ball is in your court to take action.
Toss - if the information is no longer needed.
I took the three folders from the tote bag and put them on my lap—one folder for each of my three possible choices - file, act, or toss. One at a time, I removed each piece of paper from my tote bag, decided which folder was appropriate, and placed it there. The information remained secure because I only removed one paper from the bag at a time, which then went directly into a folder. If I had to stand up quickly, I could easily slip the three folders back into the bag, zip it up, and be on the move. In less than 30 minutes, my initial sort was complete.

Upon returning home, the contents of the Toss folder went directly into the wastebasket, recycling, and shredding. I parsed out the contents of the Act folder to the appropriate Action file. And I quickly and easily filed the papers from the File folder into my Reference folders for future retrieval. What I told myself would take ages to do was completely done in less than one hour - 25 focused minutes in the waiting room and another 20 minutes at home.

While the setting in a medical waiting room may not have been ideal, I had the fundamental tools and a simple process. For something to work, it doesn't have to be complicated. The simpler you can make it, the better. Simple gets it done.

This article first appeared on the New Path Perspective blog by Kathy Muzik for New Path Productivity, LLC.

Author's Bio: 

Kathy Muzik is one of Productive Environment Institute's Certified Productive Environment Specialists™ (CPES™).

Our team is consist of Certified Productive Environment Specialists™ (CPES™) who teach business owners a 9-step system to go from overwhelmed to optimized. Step 1 is a free Assessment that can be found at www.ProductiveEnvironmentScore.com.