Once upon a time I was a competitive swimmer and my coach loved yelling nuggets of wisdom at us, namely: “Don’t do more work than you have to.” Naturally, as an adolescent I thought this was hilarious. An adult that works for the school telling me to slack off? But slowly it dawned on me what he meant: he wanted us to focus on minimizing wasted effort. Why splash around when a practiced, efficient freestyle can get you there quicker?
I have found that through my recent fascination with how we learn and problem solve, the advice is even more applicable. It’s so easy to fixate and add complexity to a problem that we sometimes need a periodic reminder to step back, refocus on the actual issue (not its tangents) and, for your own sanity, don’t do more work than you have to.