2020 Principles That Worked

My friend Mako has been doing a post every year since I’ve known him of the things he liked and disliked in the past year, and it’s inspired me to do the same. I highly recommend checking out his post for 2020, and subscribing to his newsletter..

First, a little bit about me since this is my first post. My background is in computer science and engineering, one of the things that I’ve learned from this field is to systematize my thinking and processes. In 2020 I had a lot of success applying this idea to all of my decision making (my personal life, career, projects, designs, etc) so I want to start my blog with some of my principles and processes which are great context for understanding how I view and navigate the world. I already mentioned my first principle.

• Systematize my thinking and processes

Someone else who has done this to great success is Ray Dalio, and if you’ve read his book Prinicples or come across his list somewhere else, you know that it’s HUGE, over 100 principles long. Now, my guess is that he slowly built this list of principles over many years, and likely started with something much much smaller, which leads to my next principle.

• Just start, and start small

This one likely needs a little explanation. I struggle with getting started, and this is the one trick that has really worked for me. Just start on the simplest thing that seems like a decent logical next step. For me, once I’ve started I almost always get into the flow and keep going past that initial small goal. It’s the starting that is the most difficult. So I wake up every morning, find the smallest task to get started on, and kick off my day. I’ve become far more productive, happy, and less anxious from this one simple principle.

The next principle is fairly self-explanatory, but it also is one that I’ve learned over the years is necessary for me.

• Keep it simple

This also comes from my background in engineering, the most robust systems are usually simple and easy to combine with others allowing you to solve very complex problems with parts. I’ve found the same thing is true for my personal systems whether it’s how I manage my todo list, my inbox, projects, performance metrics used in business plans, etc. Every time I’ve tried to create a complex system, like a todo list with tags and hierarchies, it’s failed to stick. So I’ve learned to Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).

So now you know that I like to systematize my thinking, keep it simple, and just start on the smallest thing. Like Ray Dalio, I have a lot of other principles, but these are a good foundation to start with. Now it’s time for me to go start on the next simplest thing on my simple todo list.