The Art of Doing Less to Achieve More

Summer is here, and many of us are trying to slow down, work less, and enjoy the season. What if we could adopt this summer mindset of focusing on what's essential and spending more time on other things all year round? Let's briefly discuss the power of subtraction and how doing less can lead to achieving more!

🔬 Research: The Science Behind Subtraction

A study by the University of Virginia reveals that people have a cognitive bias towards addition rather than subtraction when solving problems. When asked to improve something, whether it's a piece of writing or a daily schedule, most people instinctively think about what they can add rather than what they can remove.

The same study also highlights that successful leaders are 25% more productive if they focus on a few key tasks. This principle of "disciplined prioritization" involves identifying and eliminating non-essential tasks and distractions. Leaders who practice subtraction, such as cutting down on unnecessary meetings and emails, find they have more time and energy to dedicate to strategic thinking and high-impact activities. You can do the same!

💪 How to turn Subtraction into your superpower?

The concept of subtraction is not just about doing less for the sake of it. It's about creating space for what truly matters.

1️⃣ Identify Core Priorities: Start by listing your top three priorities at work and in your personal life. These should be the tasks and goals that will have the most significant impact.

2️⃣ Eliminate Non-Essentials: Look at your calendar and to-do list. Are there meetings you can skip or shorten? Tasks you can delegate or postpone? Clear out the non-essentials.

3️⃣ Set Boundaries: Protect your time by setting boundaries. Limit your availability for meetings and create blocks of uninterrupted work time. Try to shift from 1h long to 45 or 30 min long meetings.

4️⃣ Simplify Your Environment: A cluttered workspace can lead to a cluttered mind. Take time to organize and simplify your physical and digital spaces.

🚫 The Ultimate Subtraction Advice: Practice Saying No!

It's okay to say no to requests that don't align with your core priorities, if you can. This helps you stay focused and avoid overcommitting. Here are a few ideas:

🔹 24 hour rule: When invited to a new project, regardless of its appeal, take 24 hours to decide. This helps you move past initial excitement, think clearly, and assess alignment with your long-term goals.

🔹 Mindful sacrifice: Whenever you say YES to something, you are indirectly saying NO to something else. By saying YES to one thing, you're sacrificing something else you could have done with that time & resources. It’s important to understand what are you sacrificing and if it's worth it! Same way, saying NO to a new project, can be saying YES to more time for more important projects or for self-care maybe.

🔹 Offer Alternatives: Suggest other solutions or resources. Example: "I can't help with this, but maybe Aziz can."

🔹 Be Honest: Explain your reasons if appropriate. Example: "I'm focusing on my family right now and can't commit to extra work."

Saying no is the ultimate self-care!

🚀 Action Item

Take 30 minutes today or tomorrow to review your to-do list. Identify at least three tasks or commitments that you can delegate, postpone, or say NO to. Notice the difference this makes in your productivity and mental clarity.

📚 Book Recommendation

For those intrigued by the power of subtraction, I highly recommend Leidy Klotz's book, Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less. It's a fascinating read that delves into the science behind why subtraction is often overlooked and how we can leverage it to our advantage. Klotz provides compelling examples and practical strategies for applying subtraction in various aspects of life and work.

✊ Until next time, remember that it's not about doing more, but about doing what matters most. Embrace the simplicity and focus that subtraction brings, and lead with greater purpose and intention.