The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways to Do Less and Accomplish More

The Simplicity Survival Handbook - 32 Ways To Do Less And Accomplish More

Summary of “The Simplicity Survival Handbook”: In life there is theory and practice, and there are things that “usually” work a certain way, that in actual practice work differently; discover how things really work in the professional world by exploring these 32 Ways To Do Less and Accomplish More and have a more productive and calmer life.

By Bill Jensen, 300 pages, 2003.

Book chronicle and summary of The Simplicity Survival Handbook:

In my recent critique of  Cut to The Chase, I asked myself about the relevance of collections of rules, given that most of the rules in these books are certainly interesting, but are of the “in one ear and out the other” variety and that this type of book has difficulties getting into the subject deeply. I wondered if the best way to use them was rather to put them on your desk, choose one rule a day, and try to apply it that day – you could also do one rule a week.

Well, apparently Bill Jensen asked himself that question before writing his book because this is designed to be put into practice after spending a minimal amount of time reading it. Firstly, the author begins by strongly recommending 3 rules to use his book in the simplest and most efficient manner possible.

It’s the first time that I have ever seen a book begin by advising you to absolutely not read all of it! 😉

What’s more this book has an unusually interesting and original format that uses highlighting for the contents (at the moment only  The Creative Habit and 45 Effective Ways for Hiring Smart can claim as much among the books in my challenge). Actually, every chapter begins with a “Less-O-Meter”, a “Doing Less Counter” which gauges the courage required, the difficulty of the task and the amount that applying this tip/method will yield on a scale of 1 to 10:  Less-O-Meters simplicity survival

The author did not guess at the values. He asked 260 people over the course of 6 months to evaluate, test and change everything in the book, then he asked them to rate each rule on the three criteria. The rating provided is the average of the ratings for all 260 people.

Moreover, the book uses pleasantly different fonts and font sizes, it is also filled with drawings – often funny – and explanatory diagrams of all kinds:

Inside the problem

And finally each rule is presented in the same format:

  1. The “Less-O-Meter”
  2. Why you should do less
  3. How to do less
  4. Optional : To get more out of it, often accounts and real-life situations of people who have lived this in a company setting.
  5. Optional: Want More ? , additional resources for those who want more.

The format is therefore brilliant, absolutely brilliant, there is no other word. Because of it, everyone can make their own “mini-book,” read what interests them and begin to apply it. But what’s inside? Let’s take a look:

1 : How to Ignore Most Corporate Communications

  • Courage: 4
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Yield: 4.5

You get too many messages from outside of your team and your department. Therefore you can’t pay attention to all the information about your company that you are supposed to know, there simply is not enough time.

To fix it:

  1. Find these two essential points in your messages:
    • Any actions that you must take
    • The deadlines for these actions, if they are within two or three weeks at a maximum.
  2. If the message contains neither actions nor short term dates, ignore it. Delete it.

2 : How to Delete 75% of Your Emails

  • Courage : 4
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Yield: 5

Emails and the myriad of other ways to stay connected with the world is both a blessing and a curse: if they bring the world to us, they bring the whole world to us, including jokers, slackers, scammers, people who are the most unorganized, confused, boring, etc. You must then develop discipline when it comes to closing your virtual door.

To do this:

  1. Let’s say this together:
    • Hello,
    • My name is [your name], and I am an information-aholic.
    • My first step towards being cured is admitting it.Good, you are on the right path! 😉
  2. Becoming good at sorting information quickly is difficult and takes years. While you are waiting:
    • Look at each piece of unread email. Are the subject and the sender both telling you: I must read this email?
    • IF the answer is no, delete it without reading it.At this point your inbox should be 50% emptied.
  3. Search the remaining email for two basic things:
    • Actions that you must take.
    • Deadlines for the actions, if they are within two or three weeks maximum.If email does not contain these points, delete it. By this point your inbox should be 75% emptied.
  4. Examine the remaining messages using the CLEAR model. The information contained in the message should give or be:
    • Connected to your projects and your current work.
    • The List of ensuing actions: Things you should do after reading this email.
    • Expectations (anticipated results): What success looks like
    • Ability: How things will be done, the list of tools and available support
    • Return: WIIFM “What’s In It For Me?”If it’s not, delete the message. After this step, your inbox should be 90% empty. This step is difficult and requires a lot of discipline. You might be content at number 3. A 75% empty inbox is not at all bad!
  5. Install an antispam filter… Now!

3 : How To Quickly Prepare for Any Communication

  • Courage : 2
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Yield: 8

Your standard day operates under the authority – and even the tyranny – of urgency. You only have a few seconds – on good days, a few minutes – to organize your thoughts, write your email and make it clear, you must therefore take the shortest route between what is in your head and what others will see or understand.

For that reason, always remember these three words and the questions associated with them:

  1. Know: “What is the thing I want people to know, understand, learn, or ask themselves about?”
  2. Feel: “How do I want people to feel about what I have done?”
  3. Do: “What do I want people to do as a direct result of my communication?”

Time necessary for all these steps: in the beginning 1 to 10 minutes, with practice, less than 45 seconds.

4 : How to Leave Shorter Voicemails for Betters Results

  • Courage : 1
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Yield: 4

99.999% of voicemail messages should not be longer than 30 seconds, ideally, 20 seconds. The key is to know how to use this time. This is how it is done by those whose messages are listened to, replied to, and actions triggered.

To do this:

  1. Always start with the idea that no-one will answer the phone and you will automatically be sent to voicemail.
  2. Always remember these three words:
    • Know: “Hello Frank. Here is what I need you to know: [the purpose for the message]. You don’t have to say it that way, but get to the message quickly. Don’t state more than two important points in the message.
    • Feel: your tone of voice will have an impact on whether the message is answered. Try 1) a voice full of energy, 2) full of joy (smile when you talk) and 3) a frustrated or bland voice explaining your problem, firmly but politely.
    • Do: “Frank, here is what I need you to do: [action]”
  3. Leave your telephone number. Speak at the speed that people write, not at the speed people talk.

5 : How to Write Shorter Emails for Better Results

  • Courage : 1
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Yield: 7

Voice messages are constrained by time, emails by space. You must capture someone’s attention, connect with them, and help them to act, all that in 7×12 cm or 3 x 5 ins (height x width). Otherwise, you will become part of their 75% of deleted messages.

To do this:

  1. Everything worth doing MUST be kept to 7×12 cm. Why 7×12 cm? Because that is the size most commonly used by people for their email window. Also, staying disciplined with regard to this size accommodates the space constraints for Blackberries and cell phones.
  2. You are writing a billboard. Not a letter. Write to be read easily: not more than 75 to 110 words within the 7×12, that’s about 8 or 12 sentences. The shorter the better.
  3. Always use the CLEAR model (see point number 2).
  4. Use common sense. Obviously there are many exceptions to these rules. The point of the advice is not to give you a magic formula but to keep you disciplined.

6 : How to Do Less and Still Deliver an Awesome Presentation

  • Courage : 5
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Yield: 7

Powerpoint – or equivalent software is – 1) one of man’s worst inventions because its the biggest source in the world of uninteresting information in companies, 2) a great presentation tool that is as good as you are and 3) points 1 and 2 at the same time.

To get the best out of it, prepare your work with Know, Feel, Do (see point number 3), then:

  1. Change the basic point that everyone wants to KNOW into a QUESTION. Change the question into an interactive exercise with the audience. By doing this, you will have less work, both in preparing the presentation, and in getting a better reaction from your audience, who will be happy to avoid a long, meaningless speech and get straight to the point.
  2. Did you understand the radical idea behind step 1? Never present. Always stimulate conversation. Actually, your real success is measured by the changes that you incite in conversations.
  3. If you vous must use Powerpoint: use more video clips and animated graphics than text ,and:
    • Create a one page summary.
    • Use a ration of 1:3 to determine the number of slides. If your slides include mostly text, numbers and charts, you should present a maximum of one slide very three minutes.
    • Insist on the fact that everyone takes notes. Ideally before beginning, not after.

7 : How to Go Fewer Meetings and Get More Out of Them

  • Courage : 6
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Yield: 7

Meetings are probably on your list of the five least productive things that you do at work. Trivia: your grandchildren’s grandchildren will say the same thing. This problem won’t go away.

To fix it:

  1. Remember a number: 1440. It should be the source of every choice you make with respect to every meeting that you attend. It’s the number of minutes in a day.
  2. If you are like everybody else, you must change the filter that you use when chosing which meetings to attend. Most of us go to the meetings we are supposed to go to. But if you are “nice” and go to all the meetings you are invited to attend, you will never be able to do anything whatever. Ask three questions before deciding if you are going to a meeting:
    • What benefit will I get from attending this meeting? (Your Return On Investment)
    • What value will I bring to this meeting? (Increase the ROI for your team, your company or your customers)
    • “If I were hit by a bus today, would this meeting still be held?” This is the BIG question. Variation: “If I worked several hundred kilometers away, would this meeting still be held?”
  3. Now that you have a new filter: Use it. Every day.
  4. Use your common sense. There are some meetings that you must attend. And of course, you must be careful if you use this tricks with your superiors. Pay careful attention to the Paradox of Exceptions: making too many exceptions will bring you the same results.
  5. When you go to a meeting, use the CLEAR model.

8 : How to Do Less and Still Run a Great Meeting

  • Courage : 5
  • Difficulty: 6
  • Yield: 7

Forget the best practices that have been drummed into you. There are just too many details to master. Instead, use a simple rule: Become an Example. Run the kind of meeting that you would like to be invited to by making it efficient and getting straight to the point.

To do this:

  1. Decide what the meeting will be about and who should go. There are only three types of meeting:
    1. Brainstorming : To develop new ideas and new approaches.
    2. To Connect people and ideas: To create motivation and cohesion.
    3. To make decisions, plan next steps.
    4. Share Information: This kind of meeting should be completely banished. Today there are more efficient ways to share information, so anyone who suggests a meeting of this sort should be tarred and feathered and dropped in boiling water.
  2. Now, forget everything that we have just said about the 3 types of meetings. This type of classification is good in an ideal world, wonderful on paper and in theory. In reality, most meetings – including the best planned ones – are a vague mixture of the three types. But it’s okay. The main reason for knowing the difference between the generic types of meetings is to help you choose who should come (or who should be on the phone or online).
  3. Define what a successful meeting means:
    • Successfully conducted: What do you want to see and hear during this meeting that will indicate that you have succeeded?
    • Successful result: What is the purpose of this meeting? Has it been achieved? Did conversations change after this meeting?
  4. Communicate immediately upon starting the meeting what will indicate that the meeting was successfully conducted and the results that you expect in 2 or three concise and precise points.
  5. The most important step: show your passion.

9 : How to Give Executives Less Information and Keep’Em Happy

  • Courage : 7
  • Difficulty: 7
  • Yield: 8

Unless your full time job is to keep your bosses informed, you need shortcuts to give them what they need as quickly as possible!

To do this, in a presentation:

  1. Organize your presentation to tell a story. Focus first on the title, which should always be something like:
    • “Boss, things are under control/not under control.”
    • “Boss, whether things are good or bad, you are safe with me.”
  2. Be prepared to do it an about one third of the time allotted. Senior leaders are often interrupted and pressed for time. If they have given you one hour, prepare about 20 minutes of productive, uninterrupted presentation.
  3. Reduce everything to a single page.
  4. Focus on the last 90 days. And the next 90 days. Everything beyond this limit is not relevant.
  5. If you need something from them: be clear, direct, concise with regard to what you want.

Bossphobia: There is a reason why the Courage and Difficulty indicators are higher from the start: after studying, between 10 and 15% of people experience a moderate fear at the idea of dealing with their Boss. This percentage is probably much higher when it comes to telling your supervisors things in fewer pages. If you are affected by this fear, make a note of it. And even though this rule is not a magic bullet against Bossphobia, it will be a big help in eradicating it.

10 : How to Say “No” to Anyone in Any Situation

  • Courage : 8
  • Difficulty: 8
  • Yield: 9

Either you are good at the art of saying “no,” or you are a perpetual victim of other people’s to-do lists. It’s just that simple.

To learn how to say no:

  1. Trust your instincts, not your head. Listen to the little voice, sometimes instilled deep inside you from years of Pavlovian decision-making, and ask yourself: “What do I WANT to do? or NOT do? What is best FOR ME?”
  2. Now that you are clear about what you want to do, choose an approach:
    • Direct: Say “No,” “No, thank you” or “Too busy. I pass.” Use this with those with whom you either have a close working relationship or none at all: friends, close partners, or people that you hardly know and that you do not have to interact with regularly. That represents about 25% of opportunities to say no.
    • Indirect: Say “Help me understand…”, “Let’s talk about that a bit…”, ask questions. Use this with your managers, and coworkers with whom you work every day. That represents about 75% of opportunities to say no.
  3. Communicate the Direct No as quickly as possible, with the minimum possible amount of reflection or hesitation.
  4. Treat the Indirect No as an opportunity to change the relationship, to build mutual respect.

11 : How to Use One Question to Do Less and Deflect More

  • Courage : 5
  • Difficulty: 6.5
  • Yield: 9

Why? It’s a good question, simple and concise, and it allows you to dig, go deeper, reject, redirect things that people give you and identify what actions they inappropriately give you from their to-do list – but which should be given to other helpful and attentive coworkers.

To get there:

  1. Ask “Why?” three to five times before agreeing to do something. Obviously if you ask your Boss this, he will sometimes reply: “I don’t know. Just do it!” Try to use variations to disguise the “Why?” such as:
    • Huh?
    • Silence (which implies Why?)
    • Tell me more
    • Repeat the last few words in the last sentence, while looking like you are thinking. It’s a powerful NLP trick that works in 95% of cases and which says still more to the other person (This point is not in the book). For example:
      • I need you to write this report and send it to the Alpha team.
      • The Alpha team…
      • Yes, they need it for their presentation.
      • Their presentation…
      • Yes, they are doing a presentation tomorrow to their leadership.
      • Ah! But… Why?
      • They want to show their directors our impressive results!
      • That’s nice! I will be happy to help you. In fact, that reminds me, Mark did a similar presentation last week. We could ask him for his Powerpoint and modify it for what the Alpha team needs.
  2. For all your tasks, ask yourself: Why?  three to five times to find out the truth behind everything you do whether it has been assigned to you or whether you assign it to yourself.

12 : How to Deal with Bosses Who Just “Don’t Get It”

  • Courage : 8
  • Difficulty: 8
  • Yield: 10

If your Boss just doesn’t get it, he or she will never get it. So don’t waste your time, your energy and your passion beating your head against a wall and trying to change that mule-head. Instead, affirm your beliefs, and take the next step in the right direction for your career.

  • Before you do that, define what “get it” means, and be sure that he really is not getting it. If there is a chance that he does get it, try rule number 17 instead.

To manage your Boss if he doesn’t get it:

  1. Smile and Acquiesce. Works best in companies that do not have a good system for measuring performance, or who are changing significantly.
    • Say: “Of course, Boss. Whatever you want.”
    • Think: “I am just going to continue doing what I think best.”
  2. Skirt around the issue. Go to see your Boss’s Boss. Works best in companies that focus on merit rather than politics.
  3. Let your resignation do the talking. Give your boss six months to get it or to overcome the problem, if you don’t get past it in that amount of time, you never will. Leave.

13 : How to Never Again Need a Time Management Course

  • Courage : 8
  • Difficulty: 8
  • Yield: 10

Can you list the five things that you spend the most time on? Do you know that none of them can be resolved with better analysis, by juggling, by them giving priorities and other things that have no meaning? And that four of the five be handled with these words:

No… Whoah… Why?

Studies show that the 5 biggest things why we waste time on are:

  1. Meetings
  2. Managing communications with others
  3. Communicating with others
  4. Your Boss who micro-manages you and underestimates you
  5. Work tools and processes designed for the success of your company, not you

To fix this:

  • Say “No” more often (rule 10)
  • Question more often (rule 11)
  • Say “Dead time” more often (rule 12)
  • Just do it (rule 13)

14 : How to Figure Out if Your New Employer Will Work You Harder, Not Smarter.

  • Courage : 7
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Yield: 9

Wouldn’t it be nice if – before you do your new job, instead of months afterwards – you realized whether this company will help you get your job done or put roadblocks in your way? It is not a case of whether it would be nice to do a quick assessment – you must do it!

To do this:

  1. You have just had your first or second interview. They like you! (of course). Now, ask to come to their company for a day at their company.
  2. If:
    • The recruiter refuses or is bothered by your request: Alarm! Warning! Working in this company is undoubtedly not going to be very easy…
    • Their reply is: “Of course, when?” Okay, you are off on the right foot. Go to step 3.
  3. Ask if you can sit in and observe two or three of the following activities during the day that you will be at the company:
    • A brainstorming meeting with your (future?) team
    • A daily, weekly or monthly team meeting where tasks are given out
    • An executive level presentation to middle managers
    • A meeting to talk about customer sales
    • Resolving customer problems (face to face, by phone or online)
    • etc.
  4. Make notes of your observations.
  5. Validate your observations. Have a cup of coffee with the people who will be part of your activities, and ask them questions.
  6. Make a decision.

15 : How to Get the Orientation You Deserve

  • Courage : 7
  • Difficulty: 7
  • Yield: 9

Most job advertisements focus on the needs of the company, not yours. Three out of four new employees are unhappy with their assignments. Don’t expect your employer to understand.

For this:

  1. Before accepting a job offer, ask what the policy is for new employees. If you don’t get these three things, ask about them:
    • Working from Home
    • 20 Names
    • A three month two-way feedback review
  2. Ask for work to take home and study between accepting the job and your start date. Ask questions with regard to the job, like:
    • Goals and performance for the last three months of your department
    • The three biggest projects in the last three months by your department
    • The company’s current strategic plan
    • The most recent cost reduction initiative
    • The most recent innovation initiative
    • Etc.Then, ask to speak to your manager on the first day so that you can go over with him what you have learned at home.
  3. Ask for the names of 20 people that you should talk to during your first month on the job. These people can be either inside or outside the company. Meet with them and ask each of them: “what should I talk about next?” When you meet your manager on the first day negotiate with him to spend time with these twenty people during the first month. If he refuses, you have perhaps joined a bad company! Before telling yourself that, go to Plan B: Arrange to meet these people by eating out with them, either before or after work.
  4. During your first day meeting with your manager, ask for a three month two-way feedback review after three months to see if you are both satisfied.

16 : How to Clarify Your Goals and Objectives More Quickly

  • Courage : 4
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Yield: 9

You already know that weak, vague goals are one of the biggest things at work to manage in terms of complexity and endless suffering. But do you know how to stop the accumulation of new work so that it will all become clear?

To do this:

  1. As soon as your Boss sets a new goal for you, ask: “Help me understand how this will change what I am doing?” Most managers will clarify goals from the company or department point of view, not from the employee’s point of view.
    • If the response is not always clear, ask “Why?” up to five more times.
  2. Then ask:
    • Do you have any suggestions for my first steps?
    • What is the best way to start?
    • If it is still not clear to you, ask “Why?” up to five more times.
  3. Then ask:
    • What will success look like?
    • What should I look out for to be sure that I am making progress, and that I have targeted the right goal?
    • If it is not always clear to you, ask “Why?” up to five more times
  4. Then ask:
    • What tools will be available to help me?
    • In this case don’t ask “Why?” if the reply is not satisfactory, because that makes the manager, the company, or both look unorganized. All additional discussion on the subject will only frustrate you more.
  5. Last question: Ask the WIIFM: “What’s in it for me – or us?”

17 : How to Pile With Managers Who Pile It On : More More More, Now!

  • Courage : 6
  • Difficulty: 6.5
  • Yield: 9

Managers who don’t manage priorities or focus your work abdicate the responsibility that they have towards you. But associating with your manage will reduce your workload. Complaining won’t take care of it.

For this:

1. Before going to talk to your Boss or your manager: create your job. Figure out exactly what work is superfluous, starting with how many goals are excessive, and where you think your efforts should be more concentrated.

2. When you meet with your manager, understand the pressures that he or she might be under. A little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down if it is somewhat bitter.

3. Ask: “Can we determine what the three most important things are that I should focus my priorities on in the next few [days, weeks, months]?

Continue to shorten the timelines rather than get into a conflict over the long list of things that your manager needs to do. Say: “Boss, thank for you helping me to see that there are only 347 things to do this month. Now, can we discuss what needs to be done by this Friday?… Only 47 thinks! Cool! Now, what are the three things that I should attend to first?”

18 : How to Deal with Teammates Who (Unknowingly) Pile It On

  • Courage : 4
  • Difficulty: 5.5
  • Yield: 9

Your best friends and teammates don’t want to give you additional things to do. Really! But right after unfocused managers, your biggest source of additional work comes from well intentioned colleagues.

To avoid this:

  1. Trust your instinct, not your head.1. Clarify the upcoming to-do list for the team. Concentrate on the short term – the do-dos for the next few days or next few weeks. Focus on these two things:
    • Clarify how the team’s to-do list is tied to general success. Use rules 5 and 11 for this.
    • Clarify how this to-do list for the team is going to help you pass the project to someone else. Use rules 3 and 5 for this.
  2. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone that you that are in the middle of reporting or deviating from things. You are about to be applauded for helping everyone get focused.
  3. Enjoy! Celebrate! You have just succeeded in taking an important step in your career.

19 : How to Track Your Success : Are You Really Doing Less ?

  • Courage : 4.5
  • Difficulty: 5.5
  • Yield: 10

How will you know that you are doing less and accomplishing more? That’s an important question! Too many people spend too little time thinking about what success looks like.

To do this:

  1. Let’s say that you have tried several of the rules in this book. And you are feeling good, really good! Do you know why? We will try to see why in step 2. For now, ask yourself which of the 10 changes listed below you recognize in yourself?
      1. “I feel less overworked, less stressed. More energetic. With better control over day to day activities”
      2. “I’m making better choices and assigning better priorities.”
      3. “I am thinking of myself more. I understand better what I should and shouldn’t do.”
      4. “I’ve taught others how to respect my precious time.”
      5. “I finally feel that I can be sincere in what I say and do. I’ve stopped playing games.”
      6. “I finally understand what is propaganda, what the scams are, and what is the “flavor of the month”. That has freed me up considerably!”
      7. “I can now make forecasts to my boss as well as my colleagues.”
      8. “The people I manage are telling me that I am more focused and appreciate their work more.”
      9. “I feel like I can say “no” more often and stick to it.”
      10. “I am helping others more than before.”
  2. Ask yourself: “So What ?” Now you must decide what to do with these good feelings. Use them to think deeply about how you define success, and what is most important for you.
  3. Do you need to take one more step to help yourself in this objective? Here are the three main reasons why you should want to do less:
    1. Work is important but it’s not my whole life. I want to focus on everything that life has to offer.
    2. I want to make a difference. The work I do matters.
    3. I want to be the best me possible

20 : How to Customize Training Programs : Getting What You Need

  • Courage : 4.5
  • Difficulty: 5.5
  • Yield: 9

Most external training programs are designed around the needs of your organization – not necessarily your needs. And even the best thought out training plans can be adapted to better meet your needs.

To do this:

  1. Ask yourself: “Why should I worry about it?” All training should pass through your own filter. Create your own filter by:
    • Reading the program and the training objectives
    • Questionning your manager or the person who wants you to do the training, and asking them how the training relates to your needs
    • Questionning the trainer
  2. It’s time to decide. Does the training pass your test or not? There are three possible responses:1. “Yes, this training is really important for me. Go to step 4.2. “No! This will be a complete waste of time.” In this case do everything in your power not to take it.3. “I must take it. They are pressuring me.” Go to step 3 before going to step 4.
  3. When it comes to your life, you are the Grand Poobah. No senior executive worth his salt agrees to spend 100% of his time in training. Do what they do: invoke your Poobah rights. Call the instructor. Ask him to send you an executive summary of the training. There is always a “Grand Poobah” version of the training. It’s guaranteed, because that’s the version they use to approve the budget. Never agree to the complete version of the training. People who used this strategy reduced their time in unwanted training between 33 and 75%.
  4. For better (“this training is really important for me”) or worse (“I must take it”), you are about to take the training. Before beginning, write out these three sentences:
      • “What I absolutely must learn in this training is…”
      • “This is how I will evaluate how I feel about the training…”
      • “The only thing that I must be able to do after taking the training is…”

    Then use Know, Feel and Do to be proactive in the training class and ask questions of the instructor, discuss and find out what you need to know.

  5. Recognize that most training evaluations are superficial and only ask rudimentary questions. Ask yourself these three questions which almost never appear:
      1. Did this training “connect the dots” for me?
      2. Did this training push me outside of my comfort zone and make me think?
      3. Will I be able to successfully implement what I have learned within 30 days?

In the end, remember that proactive learners personalize every training opportunity to better suit their needs, and not just those of their company. And I will add that books are an excellent way to find training that suits you and that you can practice at your own rhythm 😉 .

21 : How to Continuously Improve your Do-Less Skills

  • Courage : 5
  • Difficulty: 7
  • Yield: 9

You have tried some tricks to do less and they work. Cool! But what are you going to do to constantly improve. Another major milestone in your career will be achieved when you set yourself the assignment of propelling your skills to the next level of doing less.

To do this:

  1. Seek assignments that will take your skills of scanning, summarizing and clarifying to a new level. This might be projects such as:
    • Summarizing the results of a six month project in a presentation of fifteen minutes.
    • Writing a report for a long and complicated research project.
    • Interviewing customers or employees on prickly or controversial subjects or giving a presentation to the directors.
    • Etc.
  2. Seek assignments that will take your skills of making an argument to a new level. This might be projects such as:
    • Representing the employee or customer voice in a company meeting. Be relentless in your ability to express the point of view of the employee or customer.
    • Ask your team: How would you like to modify tools, processes and information that is sent to you by the company?
    • Etc.
  3. Seek assignments that will take your communication skills to a new level. This might be projects such as:
    • Reworking a senior executive’s presentation to employees, to be sure that the language and examples used are from the employee’s point of view
    • Reworking tools for working online, intranets and others, portals and project management applications from the point of view of the user, so that they can quickly access the information they need
    • Use the CLEAR model (see rule number 2)
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 again and again

22 : How to Deal with the Stupidity of Performance Appraisals

  • Courage : 4.5
  • Difficulty: 5.5
  • Yield: 9.5

In many companies, performance evaluation is like a casino: the house wins the most and more often than you. These evaluations are stupid in themselves, but most of the time they are poorly designed.

To manage them better:

  1. Understand how and why the game is played. In spite of everything they tell you, the real objectives of the company in a performance evaluation are to maximize control, minimize costs, furnish legal documentation to protect the company if you are ever a bad person, in every case NOT to give you important feedback for yourself. Other objectives of the company include:
    • Identify the approximately 10% of winners who should be promoted to positions of leadership.
    • Identify the approximately 15% of losers who should be let go.
    • Manage and control compensation costs of those who cost the company the most – the remaining 75%.
    • Control the fact that everyone is focused on objectives provided by management.
  2. If you are evaluated, ignore all the bla bla that your manager says to your face (he has just read the script that the company gives out), and concentrate on these three things:

1. Ask your manager, at least every month, if not every week: “How am I doing?” Don’t expect non-replies such as “Good”, and ask specific questions with respect to current projects. That will let you know before the evaluation how you are thought of and let you change things before its too late.

2. Ask your manager every month: “Is it always these three things that are the most important?” Actually the main pitfall of these evaluations is that they are static while the work changes.

Therefore, trust your instinct and your own ethical compass when it comes to working on what really counts. All the rest is just noise.

23 : How to Get Better Budgets with a Lot Less Effort

  • Courage : 7.5
  • Difficulty: 7.5
  • Yield: 10

Almost everything that they have told you about how budgets are created is nonsense. Stop beating yourself up to justify/quantify/rationalize/cut or increase your figures, because the dice are loaded (against you).

To do this:

  1. Do not focus on the money. It’s the last thing you should talk about! Concentrate instead on what gives management a headache and keeps them awake at night. Here are some examples of this type of situation:
    • Losing control of the situation, or being surprised… Communally linked by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
    • A scandal has just hit a competitor with full force. Could that happen here?
    • How can I get my employees to do more, and keep theirs costs down?
  2. Package your financial needs to correspond perfectly to the very personal worries of management. For example say “This project is in danger unless we add two more people for just six weeks,” or “our management performance practices are leaving the door open to scandal.”
  3. Your first meeting on the subject of budget should not last more than 15 minutes.
  4. To finish your speech: Don’t ask for money! Ask for another meeting. If the second meeting is held you will have a success rate of 80 or 90% to get the budget you are asking for.

24 : How to Be a Trusted Advisor to Senior Execs

  • Courage : 9
  • Difficulty: 9
  • Yield: 9.5

You can wait years before developing your skills and acquiring the wisdom of a master. Or… you can take a peek at what goes on behind closed doors.This information comes from 15 vice-presidents with at least 10 years experience in coaching, flattery and responding to the needs of management teams in 250 of the largest American corporations who, together, have created this list of 10 things to know in order to do a little consulting with the Grand Poobahs:

  • The stated problem is never the problem.
  • The facts can set you free. Facts can lead to uncomfortable discussions. Be like the Swiss: detach yourself from the emotions and the politics, and feed management with the facts presented and their impact on the world.
  • Try to be proactive. Be opportunistic. Be the first to bring ideas and options to the table.
  • Try to be a “pair of hands.” Help management with daily tasks and priorities, and be in the loop in message traffic from managers in the organization. That will let you enter behind closed doors.
  • Constant and regular work on these priorities keeps you behind the doors.
  • Never start out with the idea that whatever management has just given their agreement to is complete and final. Be sure to verify constantly with them.
  • Take the high road. Always! Especially if there are political problems or misunderstandings in the management team, always tell the truth, present bad news, at whatever cost. Come out of it being able to look at yourself in the mirror.
  • Make sure you know who makes the decision.
  • Management members are astute, intelligent and should not be under estimated. But their directions often need to be clarified.
  • Events command men, men don’t command events…

25 : How to Mesure Respect in a World of MoreBetterFaster

  • Courage : 6.5
  • Difficulty: 6.5
  • Yield: 9.5

Regardless of economic context, timeless questions such as respect will always be important. Respect includes the idea of your workflow as well as your responsibilities. Is your company doing everything it can to help you work more intelligently and faster? Or has it integrated controls and inefficiencies into your daily work load?

To Find Out:

  1. Fill out the six questions on the questionnaire SimpleWork index (you will have to register for free to access the PDF). Do this before you read the following.
  2. Now take a deep breath and answer: What was your first thought when you read the questionnaire? Often these are reactions such as:
    • I am depressed.
    • Wow ! My eyes have been opened. I have never thought of it like that.
    • My boss doesn’t understand anything about these things.
  3. Calculate your score. If you answered “Strongly agree” or “Agree”, it’s a positive answer, and if you answered “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree”, it’s a negative answer.
    • Four or more positive answers: Congratulations! You are in a good place to work.
    • Four or more negative answers: They probably don’t care about you. Not only do your leaders not do what they can to help you, but it is quite possible that they are passing on to you the results of their inefficiency, and adding that to your work load.
  4. At present, for each assignment, every job interview and every performance evaluation ask questions to find out at what point your company is doing its best – or not, to help you do your job.
  5. Begin by sharing this questionnaire, and everyone’s answers, on every possible forum. With colleagues, managers, everyone. Raising new questions about productivity can change the way it is measured in the company.

26 : How to Decide : Stay or Go ? How Much is Too Much ?

  • Courage: for you to determine
  • Difficulty: for you to determine
  • Yield: for you to determine

Now, it is time to figure out what it will cost you to make this decision, and to create your own Less-O-Meter.

  • No-one can do it for you.
  • Eventually, set a date so that you can keep the appointments you make with yourself.
  • Remember it’s your life and your happiness.
  • Are you using your 1440 minutes wisely and respecting them?
  • Will your company give you a lot of resistance if you try to implement these rules?

Part 3 :

What should leaders do to create a simpler company, a place where it is easier to work? Here are 7 areas that you should not neglect, each lists 10 pieces of advice, some of which are classic behaviors and others are trends emerging in the 21st century.

There are no Less-O-Meters in this section.

27 : How to Fix Leadership Development

Most managers are like everyone else; they want to do a good job and make a difference. And like everyone else, they need help to stay focused, clean up the mess, manage complexity, and remain competitive in a Better Faster world.

To be a leader that does less and accomplishes more:


  1. Develop your whole self: emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, creatively and even more.
  2. Constantly improve your listening skills.
  3. Constantly improve your communication skills.
  4. Develop improved skills for your own self direction.
  5. Practice leadership based on principles.

Emerging Trends

  1. Constantly question and discuss this issue: “What is the responsibility of a leader with regard to the precious life of those he manages?”
  2. Reinvent your leadership university.
  3. Be hands on, regularly.
  4. Reinvent how you schedule your appointments.
  5. Look for two mentors: one half your age, the other twice your age.

28 : How to Fix Your Worktools

Tools help us manage the increased complexity of our work. But most tools and processes are designed to make things simpler for the company, not necessarily for individuals. But if we want everyone to be productive BetterFaster, companies must learn how to orient themselves towards the users – by starting out with the needs of the people doing the work.


  1. Build excellent productivity tools for the company
  2. Build excellent personal work tools and nice work spaces
  3. And build excellent tools for connectivity, collaboration and learning.

Emerging Trends: Continuously measure, track, and improve tools and processes based on:

  1. Clarity
  2. Navigation
  3. Satisfying basic needs
  4. User-Friendliness
  5. Speed
  6. Time needed
  7. Create a culture centered around personal productivity.

29 : How to Turn Transparency Into an Advantage

Transparency – giving external parties, like shareholders and customers, better access to figures and decisions made within the company – has set off several scandals in the professional world. But the real power of transparency is inside the company; giving more people access to customer data, to performance data, to the decision making process and much, much more.

Leaders are therefore faced with a choice: is a world without secrets a threat or an opportunity?

For a more transparent company:


  1. Communicate
  2. Communicate
  3. And Communicate

Emerging Trends

  1. Create informational story boards. This will allow you to share basic company facts with everyone necessary.
  2. Loosen your controls so that natural trends can be expressed, and then study the trends and models.
  3. Reinvent Management and Performance.
  4. Reinvent Training and Development.
  5. How the financial department thinks about human capital.
  6. Follow the success of your increasing transparency by studying up to what point your employees trust your system to help them succeed.
  7. Measure how much these systems reinforce the values, principles and ideals of the organization.

30 : How to Fix Performance Management

Even though human behavior is one of the most complicated things on our planet, most companies try to manage it in a simple manner – by using the carrot and stick to try and make it so that what people do is what they want them to do. There has to be a better way. A more robust way, that coincides with the very human need that people have to manage themselves.


  1. Have clear objectives.
  2. Be certain that managers and employees are in agreement among themselves in order to reach their objectives.
  3. Train managers to reach goals through continuous dialog, assessments and employee evaluations.

Emerging Trends

  1. Improve how people have interesting conversations.
  2. Enrich and expand your efforts for coaching and mentoring.
  3. Be the engine of cultural change among the senior executive team.
  4. Innovate.
  5. Rest assured that all performance management tools have two paths, not only leading to employee performance, but also to the performance of the tools at their disposal to help them.
  6. Tie training and development to improving performance management.
  7. Communicate, communicate, communicate…

31 : How to Fix Training and Development

Training can take place without learning and without profound development, but at excessive cost to both the company and the individual. Nowadays, this is what happens most of the time.

To find cheaper and more powerful ways to help people learn more, more quickly:


  1. Learning is fundamentally social. Furthermore, the more you train people, the more they teach others – without incurring overhead for the company.
  2. Learning is an integral part of communities, groups and teams.
  3. Learning is a participatory act.
  4. Knowledge is part of learning, but it is a different part. Knowledge depends on the job.
  5. The job cannot be disassociated from its scope. If you lock your employees in a straightjacket that prevents them from trying – and failing – they will learn much more slowly.
  6. Failure to participate implies failure to learn.
  7. People are of course learning all their life long – as long as they are not bored.

Emerging Trends

  1. Tie improved management performance to improved training and improved development.
  2. We live in an attention economy. Deal with it. Now. You only have a few seconds, not hours or days. And that’s going to get worse and worse. Focus on the 20% of training which will give 80% of the value.
  3. Manage the attention economy paradox; Create space and time to think, discuss, challenge, inquire, question, stimulate and create connections.

The book ends with 30 abbreviated pages summarizing the basic principles of the book, a true 20% of content giving 80% of the value inside the book itself! It also offers Less-O-Meters to photocopy or scan for our personal use.

Book Critique of The Simplicity Survival Handbook:

As I said at the beginning of this summary, the format of the book is amazing. Full of lists of clear bullets detailing every method/trick point by point, amusing and helpful drawings and pictures, and a layout designed to let you get right to the point without wasting time. This book is a model for all rule books, and even other books, in as much as it is a concrete application of what it teaches and allows you make your own book tailored exactly to your needs.

It therefore avoids the biggest pitfall of rule collections which are of the “in one ear and out the other” type, since it recommends that you focus on the 4 or 5 rules/methods that seem most necessary to you and gives you a detailed guide to put it into practice.

It also avoids another pitfall of rule books by going in depth into the subjects it mentions – the 300 pages are well filled, the length of this summary is the proof 😉 – and Bill Jensen lists a number of his points as being the results of probes, surveys and scientific studies that serve to underline the credibility and the relevance of the content.

As far as the content, it is replete with experience and relevance on almost every page; the whole work really gives the impression of truth – the book describes things as they really are and not how they are described in theory, and many ideas are quite simply brilliant, even if they often need a great deal of courage to implement.

Full of humor and frankness

Furthermore the book is full of humor and frankness, (franchise) and the author doesn’t hesitate to be direct at times in making his points 😉

As far as defects, I will say that the book is above all well designed for people who work in large corporation, and that’s fine, but honestly, everybody – from employees to entrepreneurs, working in a very small company to a large Fortune 100 corporation – will find something of value because it brilliantly fulfills its promise: to provide methods, rules and tricks for doing less and accomplishing more.

I therefore recommend it. Even if only three or four rules appealed to you in this summary, buy it, understand the rules in depth and implement them. For $17.95 you will have one of the best business books of the century and you will get a lot more out of it than the training classes for which you will pay a hundred times more.

Strong Points:

  • Amazing format, with numerous humorous and helpful drawings
  • Designed not to be read in its entirety: choose the parts that interest you the most
  • Detailed and intelligent content
  • How-tos in the form of bulleted lists that are easy to understand
  • Substantiated with probes, surveys and scientific studies

Weak Point :

  • Above all designed for people who work in large corporations

My rating: image image imageimageimageimageimageimageimage

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