In these complex days of sensory and information overload, I have become increasingly interested in how to simplify our work and life.
One way to simplify anything is to minimize choice (a la Barry Schwartz's Paradox of Choice). Designers often use decreasing variables and choices to save time and money, while helping improve the life of the user.
IKEA, for example, uses one screw as fastener for a whole collection, instead of 10 or 15. This simplifies engineering, manufacturing, supply chain and your ability to put their products together (which admittedly can sometimes be tricky). Amazon's one-click ordering simplifies the buying experience and makes it frictionless by minimizing steps in the process.
What about our life and work--what parts can we simplify to save time and energy? Here are 5 creative ways people have used constraints to improve their mental wellbeing.
Lucy Knops, a student of mine at the School of Visual Arts Products of Design Program, developed, "Nothing To Wear," one of my favorite simplicity projects. Knops minimized her wardrobe to one outfit, one color palette--a t-shirt, pants, shoes, socks, underwear--and wore it every day for 228 days, the duration of her graduate thesis. "We can add value to our lives through subtraction," says Knops.
Marcel Duchamp, sculptor who turned everyday objects into art, ate the same food for lunch everyday, spaghetti with butter. Silicon Valley takes this to the next level with Soylent, the ready-to-drink meal (I am not sure I am ready for it, but you can try).
Graham Greene, the novelist, wrote 500 words everyday, no more no less.
Twyla Tharp, the choreographer and dancer, developed a creative habit that she repeats everyday. She gets up at 5 a.m., jumps in a cab, and goes to her gym.
I wrote about both Greene and Tharp in 7 Habits of Very Creative People To Inspire Your Everyday Work.
Your phone usage
Tiffany Shlain, the filmmaker, has developed a technology sabbath, where she and her family unplugs every Saturday. They have been going tech free for now for 6 years. She notes, "It's all of the things you don't make the time to do when you have delicious screens in front of you."
Your time with family and friends
When my kids were small, I decided that my weekends would be theirs, 100 percent. I stopped working on weekends. This made for busier weekdays but simplified my weekends and made me be fully present for my kids.
I am interested in gathering more examples of less is more to inspire our readers. And to inspire my own life and work. I would love to hear from you.
Design the life you love!