Here are ten 'Golden Rules' that I think could help anyone become happier, healthier and more productive. 'Golden Rules' have always been an important part of The Simplicity System, but I wanted to come up with something that was a lot more focussed. I've recently selected ten effective rules for myself but I'm pretty sure that anyone could benefit from the ideas behind these.
In terms of productivity and personal development, I think this is a great way to condense teachings and practices into a single line that helps us recall the information when we need it.
The rules I've selected are listed below and more importantly, I've carefully explained the reasoning behind them. There are also some examples of how they can be applied and I'm sure that everyone can take away some valuable lessons from this.
Run your own race
This is an open-ended rule that can change the way we view some very important aspects of our lives. It can act as a wake-up call when we start to get frustrated and keep us on track when things start to go wrong. It's not just about being practical though, as it's a very effective way of thinking that can lead you to a happier and more fulfilling life.
So many people seem to get caught up in what other people are doing. They log onto Facebook and feel awful when they see what everyone else is bragging about and often feel a sense of injustice.
What they don't take into account though is that this is rarely a true reflection of people's lives, just the airbrushed highlights. They also fail to take into account that everyone has a unique journey. For some, success can be relatively easy given their backgrounds and circumstances but for others, simple things can be huge accomplishments.
Someone taking their first steps after a major illness or injury could actually require more courage and determination than someone regularly running a marathon.
It's also something we need to remember when we're working as well. It's easy to become distracted by what other people are doing or become very resentful if we perceive that a colleague is getting preferential treatment.
It's also easy to become disillusioned when we see some stunning work from a competitor, rather than using it as an opportunity to learn and be inspired.
I think this rule really needs to be considered when we're trying to improve ourselves. This is particular important when you're working out, as you really need to focus on your own goals and objectives and not get disillusioned when you see what other people are doing.
While it seems crazy to compare yourself to someone who's been training for years in the first few sessions, people do and it's often where things start to go wrong.
Overall, running your own race encourages you to take responsibility, focus on your own goals and more importantly, savour your genuine successes.
Work out what gets things done
I think the key to being more productive is learning how to identify the most important tasks. It sounds obvious, but how many people will just dive into a long to-do list and get bogged down.
I'm a great believer in the 80-20 rule, where it's often the case that around 20% of the tasks will account for around 80% of the workload. I've seen this in the real world so many times and just being aware of this balance makes a huge difference. You may also find that combining or streamlining several tasks can really reduce your workload.
Just the simple step of taking a moment to look for the opportunity can sometimes save you hours of hard work.
This is so important when we start new projects or want to learn new skills. Just deconstructing everything and identifying the core components that make something work can give us a significant advantage.
Knowing what tasks are likely to make the most impact and offer us the greatest return of investment also helps. In fact, putting this sort of value on your time can really encourage you to be ultra-efficient.
This isn't something that always comes naturally though so like most things, you need to work at it. Gaining a sound understanding of productivity systems and carefully planning your time should make a huge difference pretty quickly, and save you a lot of time and effort.
Focus on one thing
One of the most important things I learned while I was putting together The Simplicity System is that modern life isn't doing us much good. All the neurological studies I've come across clearly suggest that evolution just hasn't prepared us for multiple sources of information and the constant demand to do several things at the same time.
According to the science, no one can really multitask and if we try to do several things at once, we're unlikely to do any of them well.
I think it's really important to remember this in this age of digital devices. We're often looking at our phones while trying to follow the plot of a TV show when we should be relaxing, or responding to an email when we're talking to someone on the phone at work.
It rarely does us good and we often pay a price for it. We often get frustrated and stressed as well and it isn't a coincidence that we don't remember things when we need to.
I know it's hard, but just being aware of this can help you change your behaviour in small ways that can really make a difference.
Look for what doesn't make sense
I recently picked up this amazing idea from Tim Ferriss while listening to his podcast. It blew me away at the time and I was soon able to put it to practical use.
The simple reasoning is that the areas we don't understand are likely to provide the most opportunities.
In terms of business, this could be in a particular market, a customer base or in a procedure or workflow. Simply focussing on the things that don't make sense can either reveal problems that need to be addressed, knowledge and skills that need to be attained or an opportunity to improve or add something.
If this doesn't quite make sense to you, I can assure you that I've put this idea to good use. I recently undertook a huge analytical task for a local charity that required me to carefully study their digital statistics over the last year. It was a huge task, but focussing on the things that didn't make sense to me naturally encouraged me to ask some very important questions.
Exploring the areas I didn't understand, or seemed to go against popular trends, encouraged me to ask questions like 'why don't people click there' or 'why are they leaving here'. Asking these sort of questions really focussed my efforts and this narrative quickly gave me gain some valuable insights. This in turn lead to solutions and the identification of trends and patterns.
In short, when things went against my expectations there was usually a problem causing it to happen or something I would have never thought to take into account.
Both of these things offered clear opportunities and didn't close any doors.This was just the tip of the iceberg for me though, so I strongly suggest you try this.
Don't react, respond
This rule really encourages us to keep our emotions and our ego in check. It's unlikely that you'll ever truly achieve this, but just being aware of it can make a difference.
If you think about it, a lot of conflicts we have with other people are the result of reacting to something that's been said to us.
This can range from an angry reaction to rude or inconsiderate behaviour or a complete misinterpretation of an innocent comment. This is so easy to do, especially when other things are troubling us.
A great example of this is when we receive emails from colleagues at work. Simple instructions can turn into unfair critiques of our work and sarcasm and emotion often take the place of constructive and balanced advice. It's also easy to read these things into perfectly innocent communications if you're in the wrong frame of mind.
This rule can actually help the people on both sides of these messages.
If you ever find yourself unhappy with someone, try to be mindful of the situation and raise any issues directly and objectively. Do your best to resist the urge to 'score points' and discredit and enjoy the benefits of working together effectively.
If you receive a message like this, it's also important to give yourself some space to let off steam if it gets to you. You should also do your best to respond in a practical fashion, rather than an emotion one that's sure to fan the flames.
None of this means that you have to put up with bad behaviour though.
It's simply a matter of not letting things escalate and not lowering yourself to other people's level.
You'll probably still need to confront this sort of behaviour as well, but it's obviously best to take a more mindful and reasoned approach when you do. Just try to keep this in mind next time it happens and see for yourself what a difference it makes.
Keep it simple
I think it's always important to take this approach to your work. Whether it's a new project, a presentation or a simple email message, if you aim to make it as simple as possible you're likely to make it a lot more effective.
It's not about cutting corners, it's about making everything count.
It's also about building a simple foundation and then adding complexity as everything develops. In this age of information, it's also about capturing people's limited attention and encouraging them to stay focussed.
This all links in with the earlier rule about working out what gets thing done as well. If you focus on the basics, everything else will often fall into place around it.
So many people also seem to feel the need to overcomplicate things these days.
Whether it's to make themselves appear important or simply a lack of understanding, it can really create a lot of work for the people around them. You can lead by example though and still produce great work that's easy to understand.
If you need to see the benefits of this approach yourself, just take a look at the products Apple released while Steve Jobs was in charge.
Be aware of yourself
I think that most people are put off of personal development and self-improvement due to the hard work and determination that's often required to make meaningful changes.
People don't realise that just being aware of some basic biology and psychology can compleatly change the way they view themselves.
Taking time to objectively study your life and behaviour can also be invaluable. Many of us keep repeating the same mistakes and we're not even aware of them.
When you start to take this approach, life gets easier. If you suddenly start to feel down, it's likely to be related to your natural energy levels and you can often do something about it.
After studying all the areas that make up The Simplicity System, I realised that my mood and my thoughts would really deteriorate last thing at night. I would usually have trouble sleeping when this happened as well, as my mind would be replaying negative thoughts or I would be rehearsing things that might not happen.
Just a simple awareness of what was happened helped me put an end to it though.
A basic knowledge of mindfulness helped me distance myself from these thoughts and refocus so I could sleep. An understanding of biology also showed me that this had a lot to do with fatigue and what was going on in my body, so the thoughts themselves had a lot less power over me.
Finally, being aware of these things promoted me to change my evening routine to avoid the conditions that would aggravate all of this.
These were all simple steps that didn't require superhuman effort.
If you're ever in this type of situation or want to acquire this sort of knowledge for yourself, take a look at the rest of this site. Everything that has helped me is here to help you as well.
Work out who's in front of you
This isn't just about how we deal with customers at work, as we need to find the best approach to deal with everyone we come across if we can. We're all different, so what works with one person may not go down well with someone else.
Some people are offended if you don't refer to them as Sir or Madam, and others are a little uncomfortable if you do.
It's really about building experience and noticing what's going on around you. It's not just about knowing a few basic things about psychology, as just showing some respect and consideration can make a difference.
It never fails to amaze me when people contact me in a professional capacity and think they can sell me something I don't want or even mislead me with the same tired pitch they would use on everyone they speak to.
Although I have very little time for people who feel it's acceptable to manipulate people, there are often times when you need to persuade or influence them. This is where a basic knowledge of psychology and an awareness of what's in front of you can come in very handy.
It's also about being flexible, abandoning preconceptions and making the best impression you can.
Know when to walk away
I think it's safe to say that when people look back at their lives, there are probably times when they wished they had walked away from a negative situation a lot sooner than they actually did.
To be clear, this isn't about giving up when the going gets tough, it's about having the courage to make tough decisions when things are going wrong.
It's so easy to play it safe and hide in the perceived safety and security of what's familiar when things go wrong, or be afraid of facing the problem. We may also be so focussed on a goal or outcome that we lose all objectivity.
It's just like the TV show Dragons Den, where entrepreneurs are often clinging on tightly to flawed business ideas and refuse to accept expert advise.
This rule can also help us embrace change and react positively to failures. There are times when things simply go wrong and there's nothing you can do to change it. You may have even played a perfect hand as well but things happened that were beyond your control.
See the opportunity
After conducting all my research while creating The Simplicity System, one secret of success became very clear. Successful people usually adopt an extremely positive mindset and more importantly, they can reframe failure.
When things go wrong, spotting the opportunities that are presented and quickly adapting can make so much difference.
Even without issues, it's so important to keep an open mind and be ready to react when opportunity comes knocking. This is why I created the 'Be Ready' section of The Simplicity System to encourage people to think ahead and be prepared.
I honestly believe that pushing yourself to look for opportunities will start to lead you towards a more positive mindset.
It can also help you reframe your 'narrative'. These are the stories we put ourselves in and where we often subconsciously assign ourselves to the role of the victim. This obviously isn't a good thing and it's something we should all be aware of.
It's also easy to blame someone else or consider yourself unlucky when it's simply the case that you haven't reacted to an opportunity. It's simple, you miss all the shots you never take.
That's it, I hope this has helped you and you should have plenty to think about. If you don't agree with me though or think I've missed something out, you could always create some rules of your own.