How to Simplify Complexities

 Written by Horng Yuan | Photo by John Barkiple on Unsplash

Complexities are bound to happen in life. You will face tough choices and decisions in life and work. Many of them can have major influence or impact on your future. When not handled well, complexities can sap your energy and make you ineffective and inefficient. You end up feeling negative and frustrated; you feel your hard work and effort are not producing the results you desire.

How do you go about complexities?

Lisa Bodell shares in her book Why Simple Wins about simplification; it is a key to solving complexities. You can cultivate the skill of simplification, and aim to simplify something complex so it becomes minimal, understandable, repeatable, and accessible. Many times, we have unintentionally put on a mind-set of complexity; we have valued more and not less, addition and not subtraction. Note that addition and having more may not necessary be good and helpful to you. Therefore, you should treat simplicity as a critical component in your life and work.

The Unconscious Mind

Now, do you know that you can simplify and solve complex dilemmas with less effort by simply allowing your unconscious mind do more?

There is power in the unconscious mind. The neuroscientific research by David Creswell demonstrated that the brain regions responsible for decision-making continues to unconsciously process decision information even when the conscious brain is engaged with a totally unrelated task for just two minutes. It means you are unconsciously considering your options while your attention goes elsewhere; unknown to you, your brain is still working on the decision problem while you are distracted by another task. This actually leads to higher quality decisions.

Understanding the unconscious enables you to take a break from your complexity, or “sleep on it” for some time. Your unconscious mind has vast resources. So, relax, take it easy, and do not push yourself too hard, lest you experience adverse effects emotionally and physically. As you schedule for a short break or brief distraction even for just a few minutes, you are making headway and improving your decision-making.

Brief Distractions

The following are some examples where brief distractions can simplify complexities and help you solve your problems.

1. Trouble completing a presentation or report

Switch between your chores at work. Take time off from your presentation or report by doing other chores such as filing and keying in data. You will return to your presentation or report refreshed and more ideas may come to you.


2. Feeling discouraged from job applications

It is normal to feel such way after getting negative response one after another. Reinvigorate your job search by first taking a break from sending out more applications. Have some fun, such as watching a movie or comedy, or chatting with a good friend. Very likely you will get more done after that.


3. Feeling anxious in making investment

You are looking to increase your net worth and you need to make wise and rational investment decisions. But you are anxious about choosing which property to purchase, or which vehicle to own. Your vision is now clouded. Do something that can calm you down, such as exercising, taking a walk in the park, or gardening. Clearer decision will come to you soon.

4. Strain in your relationships

Relationships matter. Simplify complexities in your relationships by working on and dropping old patterns or habits that hold you back from relating well with others. For instance, when it looks like you are at the onset of an argument with your partner, remember a pleasant moment with him or her, so to distract you from saying something you will regret later.

5. Straying from your healthy lifestyle

You struggle to stick with a consistent exercise regime and healthy diet due to the constant changing rhythm and demand of life. Think and figure out how and why you have strayed from your exercise and diet even though you desire to live healthy and lose weight. You may find out the answers while you are cleaning the house or washing the dishes.


6. Parenting your children

It is not easy to ask your kids to clean up the mess they created in their rooms. Instead of another round of constant nagging, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. It allows you space to come up with an alternative plan that may get the kids to obey and even do a better job.

7. Lack of creativity

Play games. There are games that are beneficial and stimulating. Games like word search puzzles and Sodoku can calm you down and help you practise listening to your unconscious. You can also opt for simple video games that are easy to access and can be played quickly; they help you relax, promote good mood, and ward off anxiety. But a word of caution: do not get addicted to whatever game you are playing!


8. Being stuck and unproductive in the rat race

Plan and have a vacation. You can do this with your family or friends. List out your options, choose your strongest preference, and work it out. Consider this practical advice by Rick Warren, “To avoid burnout, divert daily (whatever relaxes), withdraw weekly (a Sabbath), and abandon annually (disconnect completely)”. You will come back stronger and better.


Simplify complexities in your life by allowing your unconscious to work for you. Brief distractions are essential and effective in strengthening your problem-solving and decision-making. You will make better decisions and live a more productive and meaningful life.