Every time I am given a seat above the wings on an airplane I am amazed by the instructions written on them: « Don’t walk outside this area ».
The written instructions get even shorter on the jet engine itself: « no step » and « no grab » can be seen there.
Having absolutely no desire to go clambering around on the wings myself – mostly due to being entitled a seat INSIDE the plane – I do not need these instructions. They merely serve my amusement.
But how about these mechanics around the world maintaining our planes and who might or might not be fluent in English?
Einstein said you should make everything as simple as possible, but not any simpler. And I guess that is what can be read on these wings. Any fewer words and we wouldn’t understand. Any more words and we would potentially eliminate the people who don’t speak English well enough to understand.
The link to GTD® is right here (in case you were wondering).
As a GTD practitioner, we learn to formulate our Next Actions and Projects in a way that enables us to actually see our very first Next Action and have a clear image of what the finished Project (our ‘desired outcome’) will look like. As simply as possible, and as coherently as possible – so that we know right away what it is all about when we scan through our lists.
As a bare minimum, we need a verb that provides an action against what it is that we have to do (call, write, print, clean), along with enough additional information so that it doesn’t require any further thinking a second time around – such as, ‘why do we have to call Bob again?’
The absolute minimum is required so that we do not have to re-clarify why we need to do something. Anything more, however, would take up my oh-so precious time.
Putting the file you have to take to the office by the front door is explanation enough to remind you to take it when you leave for work the next morning. Nothing more required. And nothing less.
Parking the book you’d like to read on your nightstand is enough information to send you the signal that you’d like to engage in some reading before going to bed. No need for any further reminders.
Interestingly enough, there is also a maximum amount of words we shouldn’t be exceeding. Just like in the example of making the English as simple as possible for non-English speakers on airplane wings by boiling it down to “No step”. When we are getting too flowery with our Next Actions by adding in a lot of descriptive information (Action Support material), we cannot as easily grasp in one cursory glance what the Next Action actually is, and might end up spending too much time trying to decipher our own prose.
Seeing the “No step” outside my window, I was reminded about an acronym I learned when I was young: KISS (and no, it doesn’t mean we go around kissing fellow GTD-ers!). Keep It Stupidly Simple! If you do not have to engage your brain in re-thinking what is written on your lists, it means you have managed to keep the perfect balance between the bare minimum and the absolute maximum. You kept it stupidly simple and should go ahead and kiss yourself for it.
As a bonus, here is a virtual one from me 💋