The Simple Life: 5 New Year Resolutions to Make

Umi/Aki Java Calendar 1997 digital media | CD-ROM by John Maeda. Source: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Recently I came across a TED talk by John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and formerly of MIT’s Media Lab.  The subject was finding simplicity – the simple life – in a complicated digital age.   As a communications professional, the idea of simplicity is both timely and applicable, and it adds needed perspective to all of our professional lives.

Here are 5 ways to get back to basics in 2012.

  1. Get quiet.  This recent NY Times opinion piece “The Joy of Quiet” says: “The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.”  So for some period of time each, day, put down your smartphone and tablet and turn off the TV.  Use the time to re-focus and to reconnect with current projects, clients, friends and family.  Listen to your own thoughts and not the constant stream of content feeds; perhaps then you’ll see the bigger picture. 
  2. Let go of ego.  Before posting anything on the social media networks, ask yourself what it will add to your followers and “friends.”  If it is not imperative that it be posted, think again.  In the long run, your opinions will be more valued for consistency of thought then sheer consistency.  Letting go of ego also means reconnecting and fully optimizing your team.  Lean on them, and learn from them.
  3. Learn something.  In his TED presentation, Maeda jokes about the “For Dummies” or “Complete Idiot’s Guide” manuals, which he calls a “business model around being stupid.”  Buck mainstream and resolve to learn one new thing a day – something that interests you.  It might not be directly relevant but you will walk away smarter and have more to offer than yesterday.  Start with team brainstorming sessions.  We have all done them, we all know they work and make us collectively smarter/sharper, so why don’t we make more time for this? Which brings us to #4.
  4. Take time. Your time, that is.  No one ever gets through a project and says that they wished they rushed more.  In part, I believe we’ve lost that “don’t send anything unless it’s perfect” mentality in our haste to deliver.  Imagine all of your content will go to the CEO.   Exaggerate your preparation for all occasions when you’ll be presenting to clients and colleagues alike, and you’ll make a better use of your interactions (and maybe have time for an impactful brainstorming session).
  5. Find/reconnect with a mentor: If you don’t already have a mentor, choose one.  This should be someone you admire and look up to, and most importantly, someone you trust.  Human relationships are complex by nature, but connecting and communicating with a mentor can actually help simplify your life and keep you focused on the higher goal.  This is an evergreen tool which is free and directly impacts your professional life.  

Give yourself more credit in 2012

I hope these ideas serve as a palate-cleaner to the noise of the Internet and media buzz on social media trends and future of the public relations, marketing and advertising industries.   How are you planning/or not planning on making your life simpler in 2012? I look forward to your ideas.

Wishing all a prosperous New Year!

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