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The Power of Subtracting: How to Get More Done

Power of Subtracting

Do you know the big secret about the FedEx logo?

It’s actually not much of a secret anymore. The logo has won over 40 design awards.

The idea of removing things to get better results may seem counter-intuitive to some.

Something was removed from the FedEx logo which gives it more meaning, symbolism and has made it a center of conversation for years.

If you don’t know about the arrow, look between the E and the X.

So why am I talking about the FedEx logo?

I was recently reading The Laws of Subtraction by Matthew E. May.

The cornerstone of the book is that by selectively removing things the results we produce become more powerful.

And that’s exactly the case with the FedEx logo. It had to be altered. Part of it removed in order to create that arrow.

The idea of removing things to get better results may seem counter-intuitive to some.

In this day and age, you don’t hear about subtraction. Everyone is talking about more, more, more!

More choices, more options and more value than ever before.

We buy new clothes, books, furniture, electronics, tools…you get the idea.

They pile up in our homes, garages and storage spaces.

Your main goals should be the ones that move your business forward.

But how often do we make an effort to ‘get rid’ of what we have?

Not often.

Stephen Shapiro, an innovation consultant, talks about moving from a 4 bedroom house to a 1 bedroom apartment. While the idea sounded crazy at first Shapiro said it gave him a huge sense of freedom to have “less.”

Sally Hogshead, a bestselling author, says that in order to succeed today you need to get people’s attention. And most people try to do that through every method possible. Instead what they should be doing is focusing down to the core of who they are. That’s the most powerful thing you have – and that’s how you can get people’s attention.

Paul Akers, founder of FastCap LLC, shares a great example of subtraction. At his office he had one operator working in a 15 x 15 room doing printing. The company was growing and so they needed part of that space for other operations. The operator’s space got cut down by more than half and was still expected to do the same amount of printing. What happened? He’s doing more printing than ever before. He’s more productive. Why? Paul says it’s because the operator doesn’t have to walk around the room to get things done anymore. It’s all there for him, in a small space, and that allows him to focus more and get more done.

So how does this relate to you?

I think it relates to all of us, actually.

Take a look at your to-do list for today or tomorrow.

Then think about what your biggest goals are for the week and for the month.

Now imagine if you could remove all the low-priority items from your list and just focus on the main one or two priority items.

How much quicker would you get them done?

How much better would the quality be as you focus exclusively on those?

“Well, Michael, how do I figure out what a priority item should be?” you say. Great question.

Your main goals should be the ones that move your business forward.

They will help you to land more clients.

To gain authority status.

And to make more money.

There are many more that could be priorities. There are no right or wrong answers here.

But replying to emails throughout the day and checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t going to get you where you want to go.

Playing with your brochure to make the colors just right won’t either.

And neither will launching a new marketing campaign if you don’t have a strong foundation for your marketing to begin with.

Here’s the takeaway: Look at your goals and what you want to achieve. Compare them to your to-do list and think about what you can remove from your to-do list so that you can focus more on what you really want and need to get done.

Subtraction can be a powerful thing.


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2 thoughts on “The Power of Subtracting: How to Get More Done

  1. Trudy Phillips says:

    Thanks Michael! I actually never consciously saw that arrow until now. I had to pull out a FedEx envelope and low and behold, there it was!

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