Complexity is the enemy of execution – Get Things Done

I have been recently looking at my actions, what I get done in a day or a week, or what actions that I procrastinate on.

I want to do something and I set a date to it. And when it comes to doing it, I procrastinate.


I do this depending on the complexity of what needs to be done.

Depending on how fast can it be done.

Depending on how gradual the task is.

If the task is to build a website, then the complexity can be drastically reduced by saying, I am going to post one article and publish it.

There is an element of instant gratification in this process.

If the task is small enough and if I do it, say it takes an hour to do it, if I can see the results of what I have done after that one hour, for example, I have written an article and it is online, then the chances are I will go ahead and do it.

If I increase the graduality of the action or increase the steps, that is,  I do A and then B and then C, D and F and at the end of all that I get to see the whole thing, if it spans across many days, or even weeks, chances are I am not going to do the any of it at all. For example, I do the outline of the website, I install WordPress, then I create the pages, publish an article, install a theme, etc.

So it needs to simple, small and should give me a sense of satisfaction after doing, it. I can see the results, the small task itself provides some value. Otherwise, there is the hope that ‘one day’ there will be value and there is a sense of pushing through the fragmented task, there is no value in itself, but there is only valuable when it combined with its subsequent fragmented tasks. That leads to forcing myself. There is a sense of pointlessness when doing such a task, there is effort. I think, I just have to do this now, and repeat it, or do the subsequent ones and at the end of this week, I can see the whole thing.

Use the psychology of instant gratification to our benefit. Using such a strategy is effective here.

So in the above website example when it is simplified, I would just say, I am writing an article however crude that is, without any significant editing, it is online, or even I am publishing it as bullet points. It is simple, not many complicated steps – there is no gradual-ness.  The article is published and people can read it, there is actual value delivered.

Which ties it to the external validation that we get from others. But hey that is a discussion for another day.

So, reduce the number of steps. Instant gratification is key. It is effective.

The task should n’t take more than a couple of hours, max half a day. And at the end of you have something that you can be proud of.

Why do we make things complicated? What is at the root of the issue?

Because we can fantasize about complex things. I can get myself stuck in it, and in a weird way I have come to like it. Because I am not interested in solving anything per se. I like having problems. I  like to pretend to solve the problems, but not actually solving them if that makes sense. Fantasy gives a sense of progress, internally. Ideas and ideas. But never implementing them.

This is because, I wonder, that we don’t want to fail. We make something complicated, we won’t execute them, we want to plan, plan and plan. And then we don’t execute it, so we can tell ourselves, there is progress, but there is none. And if we don’t execute it, we won’t know whether we would fail at that. We don’t want to feel incompetent. We would rather, I would rather, think that I can do it and comfort myself that way than actually doing it and confronting the possibility that I may fail.

The fear of failure contributes to making things complicated.

So this is a big circle, feedback loop that we sustain out of fear.


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