High achievers in any pursuit are synonymous with getting things done. Being effective. While there are many elements to being effective I recently stumbled across something that got me thinking. It read “effective people are simple”. It got me pondering how the most effective people I know tend to have a simple approach to doing things. So it may not sound right to call effective people simple we can certainly derive that effective people work simply.


A good starting is to define effective. Effectiveness is defined by Dr Stephen Covey in the 7 habits of highly effective people as getting things done. I like this definition because it puts it in words we can all understand and relate to. You have 10 tasks on your to-do list and you complete 10. That’s effective. That’s done. Effectiveness is synonymous with success and I believe that’s fair as success is simply getting things done consistently.


Simple may not be as easy to define as effective. Which is extremely ironic. Simple can mean easy to understand, easy to execute or basic without additions or complications. To illustrate the point as I understood it I like defining simple as basic, without additions or extras. For every single task or goal, there are expressions of it that can be complicated or involve more than is necessary. I suppose we can use the example of a morning cup of coffee. If your task was to get someone a morning coffee we can see multiple expressions of this same task depending on what’s available. Coffee, milk and two sugars is a morning coffee. As is a skinny latte with honey and cream. A cappuccino with cream no sugar and a muffin is also a morning coffee. Just for the record the right thing to do is ask how the person likes their coffee. That said, all these options include the morning coffee but not all are simple.

Working simply

In the above coffee example, the coffee with milk and two sugars was of course the simple version. Assuming anything with coffee was acceptable then that would’ve been acceptable. The skinny latte and the cappuccino with a muffin would also have been acceptable but they would likely have introduced additional complications in their performance. One would have needed a specialised machine, spent more time or more money-making these things happen. The muffin may have required visiting another shop, perhaps a bakery. Assuming that all things with coffee were acceptable these extras may have seemed a waste.

Life of course doesn’t always work with the categories of acceptable versus not acceptable but it’s usually a matter of degree and extent. So some things will be valued more than others depending on the situation. I’m not discouraging the latte and muffin lovers out there. The point here is that some situations require the acceptable, nothing more nothing less.

Completion matters most

Our primary goal should always be to get the task completed. In many cases, there is no reward for going the extra mile. Let me rephrase that. In many cases, there is no reward for going what we think is the extra mile. What may seem like extra effort to you may not matter to the end-users and recipients of your work. I’d like to use a personal example to illustrate the nuance involved here. If you go through many of my articles you will notice that I love to use graphs to display data. I also tend to use colour in my graphs because it helps people assimilate the data better.  I could do the articles without charts or the charts without colours but that would diminish the usefulness to the user. However, if it took me so long to produce the charts that the news is no longer new or was so resource heavy that the cost outweighed the benefit then it may be better to leave them out. The graph wouldn’t matter in an incomplete and therefore unseen article. The added quality only matters in a complete task or item.

Simplicity leads to completion

Keeping things simple gives you a better chance of getting the task done. In business, we deal with sometimes fine margins. If you say wanted to launch a product you’re likely not the only one thinking of that product in the market. An extra month or two spent in product development could be the difference between having the first-mover advantage, second-mover advantage or no advantage at all. This is where concepts like the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) have come in. Giving the business an acceptable product they can come to the market with and start reaching people, making money, gaining feedback and understanding customer behaviour.

Simple is effective because simple gets things done.