It is said that simplicity is the virtue of removing the extraneous to reveal the essence.
The beginning of August is National Simplify Your Life Week, and entrepreneurs and business professionals can use this period to streamline their work and home life. That's because simplicity is a test of whether you're clear about your priorities.
Our immediate environment is a reflection of our mindset - a neat and organized office reflects the discipline with which we approach our vocation. Clutter, on the other hand, betrays our sloppiness.
Clarity is an edge.
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Success can often be traced to excellence in a few key metrics. And Occam's Razor says the simplest answer is often correct.
We see this in the marketplace, which often rewards a straightforward approach to product or service rollouts. Consider how Apple wows its customers with the beautiful simplicity of the original iPod, leaving other mp3 makers dead in their tracks. And who would have thought a decade ago that Google's tiny search bar could monopolize the content world? Compare Google's homepage with that of Yahoo!'s.
It's no coincidence that Apple and Google are the top two most valuable companies in the world. They succeeded in the extreme simplification of user touchpoints where others touted sophistication.
Here's how to simplify so you can avoid the pitfalls of complexity.
1. Automate, and consolidate.
Make recurring transactions automatic, whether that involves 401(k) payroll deductions, bill payments, direct deposits or funding a retirement account. Technology can help with administrative tasks, so take advantage, and free up your time.
And consider consolidating investment accounts, card balances and other funds to eliminate certain redundancies. For example, Mint.com is a financial tool where you can track your bank accounts, investments, loans and credit scores all in one place and in real-time.
According to an August 2016 survey by Capital One, 41 percent of American respondents said a mobile app with access to all account information was their must-have card management tool.
2. Clean out the clutter.
Less is more.
In the same Capital One survey, creating a feasible budget (47 percent) topped the list of choices by respondents when asked what they would do to simplify their finances. If you're not careful, unnecessary expenses could eat up your limited budget. At the office (and at home), useless items are always being brought inside by various people and guests.
The constant influx requires you to periodically clean house so the junk doesn't pile up. Either trash it; donate it; or sell it.
3. Organize the paperwork.
Paperwork is just one of those things that you can't avoid. Not filing the right documents means you can lose some really important stuff - like IRS returns, pay stubs, official receipts, you name it. But on the bright side, technology allows you to scan documents so you can store them electronically.
According to the aforementioned survey, only 15 percent of Americans said their financial lives would be the easiest to simplify. Use apps and technologies that help you keep tabs.
For example, Capital One has introduced tools for their Quicksilver and Venture cardholders, such as Second Look, which help consumers identify mistaken transactions and avoid unexpected charges.
You can safeguard your sanity when there aren't any surprises.
4. Leverage the gig economy.
Outsource has been the buzzword over the past three decades, but the gig economy is driving costs further down. The number of freelancers is rising each year. By 2020, 40 percent of American workers will be independent contractors.
Many freelancers work from home and that reduces overhead - with savings passed on to clients. In a more competitive labor market, most freelancers compete for business by quoting lower and lower prices. Experts consider this phenomenon as a race to the bottom.
So consider outsourcing your non-core work and chores. There's plenty of independent contractors on Fiverr and Upwork who provide an array of services. You can find virtual assistants, web designers, marketers, video editors and other skilled professionals.
Adding stuff generally reduces the marginal utility of these extra items - making it prudent to stick to the essentials. Simplicity requires you to constantly focus on what's important, and it's the 20 percent that counts, not the 80 percent.