Actions You Can Take Right Now
- Consider the capabilities of the people that you’re trying to serve. You might reveal some things that could be subtracted to make better use of their time.
- When you subtract a meeting explain to people why you've subtracted the meeting and that they now have free time as a direct result of that subtraction.
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Episode Highlights and Excerpts
- Subtracting is a tool you want to have in your toolkit. “It’s underused because of our brains, we think of adding first, and we add and move on… that’s why untapped is in the title of the book, it’s kind of like unleashing through subtraction.”
- Our default is not to be standing still – it’s to be constantly adding.
- The pandemic was a massive interruption to our default and a massive opportunity for change. Many of us were forced to try different things, like the shift from in-person to virtual meetings. A lot of unnecessary travel was replaced with a 1-hour virtual call. We don’t need to eliminate travel forever, but we can make better decisions about what we should commit to and what we can subtract.
- "There’s the person who’s schedule is always really flexible… they seem to really prioritize their creativity and their free time and thinking time. … it’s because they’ve subtracted a lot."
- Build subtracting into your regular process. For example, a house rule could be that every time a new Amazon box comes you must get rid of something of equal size.
- Remove tensions: The founder of social psychology, Kurt Lewin, argues that there are two ways to make change. One is to add incentives, but the better way is to remove barriers. By removing barriers, you are often removing tensions.
- Don’t call it subtraction – frame it like essentialism. A great example is Marie Condo. She gets people to declutter their homes by using positivity. She doesn’t focus on the stuff they are giving away; she focusses on the ideal end state.
- Spend more time visualizing what your day-to-day could look like if you stripped half of the redundant tasks. If we focus on reducing redundant tasks, we can really begin to imagine a better end state and how to get there.
- Triage your daily activities – what can you subtract so that you can focus on the things that matter the most?
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Leidy Klotz, a professor of engineering systems and environment at the University of Virginia, is nationally recognized as one of 40-under-40 professors in the United States. His online courses have reached tens of thousands of learners around the world. Klotz has written for venues such as The Washington Post, Fast Company, HBR, The Daily Climate, Inside Higher Ed, and The Behavioral Scientist. His first scholarly book was, Sustainability Through Soccer: An Unexpected Approach to Saving Our World and his most recent book is Subtract: The untapped science of less. See Leidy’s full bio here.
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Article by Katherine Turner