Stop Making It So Hard (It Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated To Be Effective)

Do you wish you ran a minimalist business? Looking for minimalism tips for your business? It starts with simply acknowledging that complicated isn't intrinsically better, more effective, or more legitimate than simple. Click through to read more.

I can already tell I’ve disappointed the woman interviewing me. There’s a dissatisfied pause from her end of Skype. She sort of sighs and says “So that’s it? You use post its?”

I recognize this response because I hear it 2-3 times a week.

“So you just use the timer on your phone?”
“You just use a normal notebook?”
“You just make a double batch and then freeze the extra?”

I’ve heard this so often I was honestly starting to develop a complex. Am I a Luddite? Does everyone else know something I don’t? Am I doing life and business ‘wrong’ if all I use is a notebook and Google calendar?

You know what this looks like. It looks like using 7,456 apps, plugins, and platforms to manage your online life. It looks like 17 different kitchen gadgets that serve 17 different purposes.

Yes, sometimes counting our macros, joining a bootcamp, and measuring our BMIs is the answer. But could we just buy a bunch of pre-washed salad greens and take walks on our lunch breaks?

Sure, maybe we really do need to join and learn to invest. Or maybe we could just stop buying stuff we don’t need and look at our bank accounts and credit card statements once a week.

Yup, we could put off launching our businesses till we have headshots, three service offerings, two opt-ins, and The Perfect Website. Or we could email our friends and say “Hey, I’m trying my hand at X and I’d love to do it for you – for cheap/free – to fill up my portfolio and get feedback/testimonials. Waddya think?” <- How I got my start as a copywriter.
When we believe complicated solutions are the best ones, we’re taking ourselves off the hook. Click To Tweet We’re removing personal responsibility from the equation. How lucky for us! We can put off sending that vulnerable pitch email because we need to spend three weeks learning this new software! How convenient! 

How to make things less complicated

Ask yourself ‘What would this look like if it were easy?”

Would it look like sending five personalized emails instead of 200 template emails? Would it look like spending 20 minutes researching how to make it easier instead of powering through with the complicated, taped-together method you use now? Would it look like finally admitting to yourself that maybe this relationship/activity/service isn’t working and it isn’t worth the hassle?

Notice where you’re getting these “Everything Must Be Complicated!!!” ideas from and consider muting accordingly

Is your best friend obsessed with her 17-part beauty ritual and 13 different kitchen gadgets? Are you following people on Instagram who walk you through their 21-part launch sequence? Does your co-worker sweaaaaar by a workout routine that requires two different gym memberships and three different meal delivery services?

If those things work for them – awesome! Lovely! But if you feel overwhelmed every time your friend starts talking about making her own tofu, it’s okay to (lovingly) tune her out.

Or follow people who take the less-complicated route

One of my favorite Internet Humans is Paul Jarvis. In a sea of online marketers who seem to be chasing seven-figure dreams and 12-person teams, Paul is happy to do the work himself and keep his work lean and specific.

Paul’s not the only less-complicated human on the internet. The Minimalist Baker  creates recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, use one bowl, and take under 30 minutes. If you google ‘body weight workout’ you’ll find 3 million+ results for exercises you can do with NO EQUIPMENT.

Sometimes the answer is downloading a plugin or an app or signing up for a new service. Sometimes we really do need another product, service, platform, do-dad. A complicated solution is not intrinsically better or more legitimate than the simple one. Click To Tweet
But frequently, we don’t. We need to be honest with ourselves about what we want and the work we need to do to get it. The solution is probably inside our heads, not in another purchase or plugin.

Are you inclined to over-complicate things? If you’ve made things easier in your life or business tell us how in the comments so we can benefit from your knowledge!

P.S. My minimalist makeup bag + How to stop equating success with self-worth.

photo by Sarah Dorweiler // cc


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  1. Jess

    Recently I realized that my breakfast has been un-complicated for about a decade, because I eat the same thing (almost) every single morning. So I started doing that with lunch, too – every weekday I have a salad and a smoothie. That way:
    1) I know what to buy at the store – salad stuff and smoothie stuff.
    2) I don’t stand in the kitchen for 15 minutes trying to figure out what to make, getting so hungry that I give in and make a Totino’s party pizza because it’s easy and filling.
    3) I make sure to get a good ol’ surving of fruits and veggies every working day.
    4) I don’t get bored because salads & smoothies have enough options to keep my interest & vary my vitamin intake.

    It has helped a lot! I hate wasting time on stuff like making/eating lunch so this saves me a lot of time and frustration every day.

    PS. If you like fast-and-easy healthy recipes, I love Before reading that blog I thought I hated veggies but then I realized I just needed to pan-sear/roast them and now I loooove them. Before I started the salads + smoothies thing I was doing pretty well if I remembered to stick to her protein + veggie meal concept, and all her recipes use 5 ingredients (or fewer), so they’re easy to make.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooooh! Dually noted!

    • Sandra, Italy

      Great lunch suggestion and I’ll toddle over to right now! ?

  2. Paul Jarvis

    Thanks Sarah! We can part of the mutual admiration society, because you’re one of my fav internet humans too.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      heart heart heart!!!

  3. Anonymous

    This is all very good stuff. 🙂 And for me “simplicity at it’s finest”, is the best. 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh, thanks so much!

  4. Anonymous

    It’s Calvonti FaSol (i forgot to include my name) Loll

  5. Miriam Sheerin

    I loved reading this article. I signed up for both trello and asana and was beginning to feel guilty for not taking the time to learn how to use either one yet – I happen to like pen and paper and I find that the bullet journal works just fine for me so ya for luddites 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      #ludditesFTW 😉

  6. Katie Simon

    This is so timely for me! I keep feeling pressured to hire a VA/expand my product offerings ASAP/create a perfect personal website, when really, I can use simpler marketing tools (no VA), build up my current business/client list (no immediate, stressful product expansion), and put together a simple personal website over the weekend (which I did last Saturday!).

    I also recently spent a day assessing all of my income streams and identifying which ones make me happiest, currently pay the most when broken down to an hourly rate, and have the highest potential to up that hourly rate in the near- and medium- term future. I actually realized that focusing on the simplest income streams will be most effective and make me the happiest. Now I get to quit worrying about all the things I “should” be doing with my business(es)!

    Thanks for this reminder!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      What a great way to navigate your business, Katie!

  7. Patty West

    Great article — thank you! I started Good Karmal in 2002 and we’ve grown steadily every year thanks to great press and awesome word-of-mouth. Coming off a high-pressure career in the entertainment industry, I’ve kept a close eye on work-life balance. Because of that, we’ve opted to sell only online direct to customers, rather than wholesale to stores. We could have much higher revenues, but at a lower profit margin and with less control over the customer experience.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! It can really feel like you’re ‘doing it wrong’ when you choose to stay small. Good for you for doing what’s right for you!

  8. Critter

    HALLELUJAH. THANK YOU. You are my hero!!!! 😀

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      <3 <3

  9. Ali

    Love this. There’s definitely a place for tools/apps to help get things done but I’ve seen it go overboard too often. I’m still trying to figure out why so many people keep trying to convince me to get WhatsApp.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Same! Whhhhhy the obsession?!

  10. Ashley

    “What would it look like if this were easy?” Applies to my wedding too, omg. ?❤️??

  11. Niro

    Love this article! Very true. I started a blog in Dec. not knowing a thing about I found some leaders on the net teaching the ins and outs. Yes, it helped some but I found myself being sucked into that vortex of how to launch, how to email etc. geez! It became too much. So I just cut the strings and do as I like. I’m much happier now – no templates etc!

  12. Katy Pollard

    Ahhh so true! One of my long-standing sayings to my other half is ‘how can we make this simple?!’ Thanks for the tip about Paul Jarvis too – he sounds like my sort of business owner. I’m off to look him up now..

  13. Samantha Lee

    Ok, just the title of this post itself is made for me and EVERYTHING I NEED RIGHT NOW. Currently at work so saving this to reference this weekend because I am sure it is full of gold (and my life feels like an anxiety ridden mess right now). Thanks girl, and happy Friday! 🙂

  14. Amanda

    I whole-heartedly agree. And, I’ve been noticing lately that sometimes people search for solutions to a problem that does not exist! What if there were no problem? Then the search for a solution would disappear and what would people do with that time? They’d have to fill it with something! And in the US, that something better look like WORK. No wonder so many live in a default of anxiety.

  15. Cee

    Thanks for this – it’s exactly the kick up the backside I needed. I’ve been having this fight with myself a lot recently. I’m balancing study and work and the temptation to find high-tech solutions for everything, or start tracking everything mathematically is so tempting.

    I’ve been putting off blogging because I don’t have 100 polished ideas with perfect, pinnable images to accompany them. I’ve been disenchanted with my bullet journal because I keep seeing BEAUTIFUL spreads that must take hours to make.

    Thanks for this reminder: I’m going to go publish a post I’ve had to queued for ages, and carry on with my bullet journal in the same functional, usable style that suits me!

  16. Katharine

    Thank you for this! I cannot count the number of times someone has seen me writing down my weekly to-do list in my (paper!) planner and immediately tried to tell me all the different apps that can check things off for me and arrange my schedule and sync with my calendar and pull information from my email…

    It’s exhausting. And they never seem to believe me when I explain that I like checking things off a list by hand, I can just check my calendar at the beginning of the week, and apps never keep me from checking my email anyway, so why bother?

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