I’ve been reminded about the importance of clarity and simplicity by three books in the last week:
- Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug’s classic on web usability.
- Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath’s great (so far) guide to how to make ideas memorable and impactful.
- On Writing Well, William Zinsser’s brilliant and very funny book on… writing well.
They all share a key message for communicators of any kind: be clear about your purpose, and keep things as simple as possible.
These ideas can help us improve any work that we do, and the rest of our lives too. Omit not just needless words, but needless activity, needless calories, needless consumption. Simplify. Focus. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel, and how much more you get done.
But simplicity and focus (like abstinence and diligence) are only virtues if applied to the right things in the right way, so clarity is key:
- What do I want?
- What am I trying to achieve?
- Who is this for?
- What makes this good?
- What would make it better?
- Why do people buy this from us?
- What makes it worth it?
- What will make people come back?
- What is the contribution that only I can make?
A clear vision of what’s most important is the lens that makes it possible for us focus our energy, to decide what to do (what to think, even), and reduce clutter and friction enough that we have the time and the space to do it.
Clarity. Simplicity. Focus.
And now, it’s Friday night, and I have a clear vision of what it’s for: needless activity, needless calories, needless entertainment.
At the right times and in the right places, the needless is the one thing needful.