In one of my newspaper design courses in college, our professor would write “KISS” on our papers if our layouts were cluttered — not enough space around an image, more than two typefaces — or overly complicated. KISS is an acronym that he used meaning, “Keep it simple, stupid.” Since that course, I’ve learned of a few other definitions for the final S in KISS, but they all express a similar sentiment.
The KISS principle has helped me a great deal with my productivity over the years. Whenever I lose sight of the fundamental elements of a project, I remind myself to keep it simple. I don’t allow myself to add anything beyond the most basic elements of the project until I’m 100 percent finished with that simple, first deliverable. Then, if I have time remaining, I can go back and add features that aren’t essential (if I even decide to do them at all).
Surprisingly, I’ve found the KISS principle to be more difficult to embrace as a manager of others’ work. I’ll see part of a deliverable and then want the person to go back and have the first part enhanced before seeing the rest of the completed work. If I don’t fight this urge, I end up wasting other people’s time, and can drain my budget before the project is finished. To get around this, I tell the people I’m working with that they are supposed to remind me of the KISS principle. I greatly respect the vendors and employees who have said to me, “Erin, I’m supposed to remind you to keep things simple and let me finish the basic project first.”
Beyond working on projects, I’ve found the KISS principle to be extremely beneficial in other areas of life. If I’m doing programming work, I tend to have fewer bugs in my code if I keep things as simple as possible. If I’m trying to clean something in my home, I always start with the least caustic cleaner first. When choosing between two items of clothing in a store, I always choose the one that is the easiest fabric to maintain.
What can you do in your work or home life to implement the KISS principle? Are you losing sight of the fundamentals and adding flourishes before finishing the basics? How do you keep things simple?