Subtraction Is Greater Than Addition

By Heidi Alexandra

I just came out of a mentoring session with my mentor Linda Hutchings what a great reminder it was to take my own medicine and keep it clean by making things simple.

Perhaps like me you’re a multi-passionate entrepreneur or leader who has 50 business ideas a day and struggles to decide which one to implement first. As I talked to Linda about some of my latest ideas of launching a new podcast, relaunching a group coaching program, beginning writing another book (I have two underway already), I began to hear the folly of my thoughts.

Yep that’s right, I was eating my own vomit.

I’d just spent the morning supporting a CEO at a mining engineering company to reduce the friction in his business and find more flow. We’ve been looking at where he can strategically narrow his focus and do what is most important. And here I was stacking my plate full.

As the minimalist leader I teach others that:

Doing everything = frustration and friction
Doing few things well = flow and fulfilment

Linda kindly reminded me that we often teach what we need to practice.Like anything in life and business everything can be improved by adding, or by subtracting. Typically adding is associated positively with enhancing something and subtracting is associated negatively with detracting from something.

The race is always for bigger, better, more. Do more, teach more, share more. We are told to keep adding – be on more committees, say yes to more experiences, strive for more money and definitely aim for more friends and likes. My kick in the pants reminder today is that more doesn’t always deliver more, in fact all it often gives us less clarity and more stress.

I have a theory:

Business is pretty simple.
Humans make it complicated.

What if instead we started to focus more on subtracting?We think the key to productivity is to find ways to get more done. We multitask, we attend productivity workshops and how to manage your email better webinars.

What if the real secret to optimum productivity is to do less while achieving more.

Here are four ideas for how you can implement this:

  1. Subtract Low Value Tasks – Linda and I worked through all the ideas I had one by one and identified which ones on my list which were the most commercially viable, would have the greatest impact in helping my clients and were in alignment with my big WHY and goals. It became pretty obvious, pretty quick which low value tasks didn’t deserve my attention right now (sorry I won’t be launching the Minimalist Leader podcast for a while).
  2. Subtract Distractions – simple really but how many of us can truly say that when we work on one task we remain focused on that task? Why not try my 45:15 batching rule? That is work solid on one thing for 45 minutes – turning off and eliminating all distractions such as email and social media alerts, move to a quiet space, wear noise cancelling headphones, leave your phone in your bag, remove all other folder and work from your desk until the 45 minutes of focused work is done. Then spend the next 15 allowing in all the distractions in, checking messages, making coffee, talking to colleagues etc.
  3. Subtract Head Over Body – too often in corporate world we are in our heads and not present in our body. In fact one of the smartest ways to get more done in less time is to batch your important tasks for when you’re most alert and effective. Generally speaking our brain capacity and decision making ability is highest before lunch so batch the meatier work then. Leave meetings and other less critical items to the afternoon when your physiology is lower in energy.
  4. Subtract Heavy Tasks – review your list of tasks and consider are there any tasks that really weigh me down and drain me? As a practicing minimalist towing and living in a tiny house, every item I bring into my house has to be weighed up – literally. Whenever I see an item I want to buy or bring into my life I have to consider will this make my 4 tonne home too heavy? How heavy is each task you have on your list? Is it possible to delegate, dump or deal on any of the weighty ones? Maybe you can exchange an hour of work with someone who’s pleasure is your poison? Which tasks that are more aligned with your strengths and talents? What 10 degree shift could you make to make each task lighter and more palatable?

The most successful people I know are focused, have boundaries against time vampires, say no to everything not in their top priorities and travel light in flow. If they add something to their life, their business, their commitments it’s done so in a mindful, considered way. And they’re always subtracting, reducing and eliminating things that no longer support them.What are you prepared to let go of and subtract from your world?

About the author

Alexandria Joy’s (AJ) mission is to empower people to create more meaningful, joyful lives that bring a deeper connection with themselves, others and our planet. She wants to shift the way we think about and deal with success in business and life.

As an aspiring minimalist and tiny house dweller she believes in keeping things simple and making 10 degree shifts in all aspects of life and work so you can do less and achieve more.

She is the founder of company culture firm UQ Power, co-founder of Human Power and creator of The 10* Shift and the tiny house experiment The Joy Box.

 

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