Subtraction can be transformative – it better focuses our attention on what matters in our personal lives and what drives value in our professional lives. But humans are terrible at subtraction. In fact, we add and add and neglect subtraction as an option.
It’s an essential and indelible skill that is rarely practiced.
To turn subtraction from a neglected option to a first consideration, we enable behaviour change through our six chapters. Each chapter makes visible unique, insight discovered, often invisible expectations and obligations that weigh people down and drain energy. There are three chapters in the personal space and three in professional.
The areas were discovered through our deep dives with a diverse collection of over 200 working women and men. The subtraction area corresponding to each chapter are as follows:
Chapter 1: The Supposed To’s, @life
These are the demands we put on ourselves which create undue burden, often based on unattainable goals externally set through social and cultural influences, family, media, etc. We share the evidence-based concept of “ought” versus “actual” self, which helps participants to recognize the fantastical standards they strive for, allowing them to “see” and subtract those that no longer serve them.
Chapter 2: The Invisibles, @life
We introduce the concept of Cognitive Labor to make the volume of invisible work in life visible, enabling us to intentionally reduce it and/or distribute to others. Notably, research shows that domestic responsibilities, especially the invisible components (e.g. anticipation and monitoring) remain under-distributed and unappreciated, creating distraction at work and tension at home. Shining a light on and labelling this labor enables more successful subtraction.
Chapter 3: “Me” Time Villains, @life
This chapter speaks to the era we’re living in, where the “me” is under siege because of the expectations, obligations and other villains that drain one of our most precious resources – our time. This final area of subtraction in our personal lives raises consciousness around the emphasis all around us on increasing efficiency, i.e., shoving more in to do more, and introduces instead a more satisfying solution, Time Well Spent. We focus on subtraction of “time villains” that don’t contribute to Time Well Spent in order to free up “me time.”
Chapter 4: The Supposed To’s, @work
The Supposed To’s we take on at work drain energy and create development and time traps. These unwritten rules or expectations that we think we’re supposed to follow often distract us from more important things. Here we pause to illuminate these Supposed To’s, and make subtraction choices to reduce our load and focus on value-driving efforts.
Chapter 5: The Invisibles, @work
Here we “see” the work that we continue to do, often because “we’ve always done it (and it contributed to our success),” “it’s easier to do it myself,” or we don’t trust others to do it. The propensity to continue to do work that is no longer essential drains capacity, undermines personal efficacy, and thwarts growth. It gets in the way of us focusing on our highest contribution areas. By examining what is really essential for us to do we open new possibilities for subtraction.
Chapter 6: From Harder to Smarter, @work
As the culminating experience of the professional stream of the program, the workshop helps participants to work wisely by highlighting aspects of their work experience that can undermine potential, especially the tendency to rely on “ overwork.” Participants gain clarity over their Super Powers – their distinctive skills – and how these skills can be aligned with what drives success in their work contexts, so they can maximize impact.