Not everything is a complex problem

December 9, 2017

I’ve found that the apparent complexity of a problem is proportional to the amount of time you’ve spent thinking about it. Which means, it’s easy to fall into a trap of turning a really simple problem into a difficult one simply by virtue of entertaining it too rigorously.

I’ll run into a problem sometimes, be it a personal or technical one, and immediately assume it to be a Hard problem. I’ll completely over-engineer a potential solution. This is more to do with my personal life than engineering, as I’ve been able to hone my simplistic approach to solving engineering problems over time. But for personal problems, over-complication is the name of the game.

This can easily turn into a daily occurrence if you don’t catch yourself. I’ll be feeling down one day, not feeling like working, and begin contemplating (or complicating) the nature of the problem. Do I lack proper incentives? Am I motivated? Am I losing my mojo? Perhaps I need to awake at an earlier time? Perhaps eat better? Perhaps I need to eat first then drink coffee then perform some physical exercise then step out of the house with my left foot before my right—perhaps this will solve my problem?

But na. That’s not it. It’s usually that I’m tired. Or worn out. And sometimes, you just won’t feel like working. That’s always ok.

Another complex problem for me will be, what am I going to get done tomorrow to ensure a constant stream of productivity? And I start designing some tasks in my head that over-engineer the purpose of any day. But it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like a solution. The real solution turns out to be, relax. This is not a hard problem.

This is such a common occurrence that I fail to come up with any concrete examples. But when a problem is so difficult, particularly a personal one, that you cannot fathom an agreeable solution to it, it usually means you’re over-complicating. There’s a simple answer right at your feet that you perhaps lack the conviction to pay mind to. But, when in doubt, start simple. That’ll usually be enough. Rarely is an overcomplicated solution the right solution.