Clearing the cluttered path |

Clearing the cluttered path

Evan Zislis
Life. Simplified.


Early in high school, I remember a writing assignment that required an in-depth narrative for why and how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as if educating an extraterrestrial being, entirely unfamiliar with life on planet Earth. We were to approach this project as if the very survival of the planet hung on the successful delivery of our detailed, comprehensive explanation. Regardless of the details of our particular recipe, our account had to be both persuasive and instructive to our alien visitors — who, if offended or in any way were unclear, might, in fact, destroy the sandwich and the planet along with it. We took turns presenting to each other and voting to determine if all was lost or if we had safely accomplished the mission.

How often do we bring this level of focused intention to the processes of life? The why and how we do what we do is my definition of operational systems. Consider the minutia of tasks you successfully complete on a daily basis. Whether running a household, managing a business, directing a department, or completing complex school assignments — why and how we do what we do has serious implications on our day and the ultimate outcome of our effort. To optimize efficiency and productivity, I believe we must scrutinize three steps that examine both why and how. I use these three steps in everything I do, (and they represent an example of a procedural method of operations): 1) simplify, 2) clarify and 3) inspire.

When it comes to operational systems, step one is all about purging anything that distracts, diminishes or muddles desired simplicity. We'll need this focus if we are about to hone in on effective systems. If we are unable to understand the why and how because we are overloaded by the irrelevant, procedures inherently lose their scope and context for those tasked with swift execution. Step two is all about organizing content out of the way in an effortlessly retrievable manner until information is needed. Relevant informative details for any process are essential for consistently reliable outcomes. Fill in the blanks with your particulars (no matter what they are), organize them with intention, and clarity is the result. is an excellent tool for organizing the team's information. Step three helps us to stay inspired by how smoothly our systems feel to implement. We're talking about aesthetic, functionality, flexibility, form, and personal preferences. Inspiration and ownership keeps all the cogs turning together with style.

In my work with clients, I utilize the Intentional Solutions' three-step method, designed to be easy to learn, easy to remember and easily applicable to three areas of life: 1) the stuff in our spaces; 2) streamlining operational systems at home, work and school; and 3) turning complex concepts into practical application. I help busy parents, professionals, and students to simplify, get some clarity and stay inspired for the long haul. This work is all about carefully carving systems down to the bare essence of who we want to be and what we want to do. That's the whole show. Everything else is just stuff and spinning our proverbial wheels. Clearing the cluttered path to the life we seek is about implementing the intentional. In essence, my work helps to simplify how we do this.

Think about your work, whatever it is. Ask yourself if you understand the why and how of what you do — and what you may be asking others to do. Keep this a dialogue. Make it an ongoing conversation with key stakeholders and those who can shed new light on potentially obsolete methods of your operation. Keep this in mind: the more complex your operation feels — the more intention is required for effective implementation. Just for fun, approach this exercise with the same scrutiny you might if the planet's very survival hung in the balance. Collectively, it may, indeed.

— Evan Zislis is founder and principal consultant of For more information about simplifying your stuff and organizing your life, call 366.2532 or email

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