When the phone call came from a friend, asking me to help chair a massive meeting, I told her I was too busy to do a good job. “The busiest people do the most work,” she cajoled. Within 15 minutes, I had agreed to take on a job on a committee. No one was hired as the committee head, and people kept acting as if I were running the committee. I hated to back out, so I plugged ahead, doing a bad job.
It gets worse. I had just joined the organization, and many of my colleagues were doing great jobs as committee heads. My agreeing to do the work resulted in my looking disorganized, lazy, and incompetent.
Taking on Too Much Is a Recipe for Failure
During the same time, I was planning a move, doing art shows, planning and developing new training classes, working with coaching clients, running training seminars. It was not unusual to log 125 working hours a week.
I love working hard. But I took on a task I could not possibly do well. Because I didn’t want to say “no” to a friend who needed help, I did a bad job, let people down, and damaged my own reputation.
A few days later, I saw a book called The Power of Positive Choices, by Gail McMeekin. It was the subtitle that interested me: “Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life.” I picked up the small book and began to page through it.
Find the Idea That Solves A Business Problem
As with most self-help books, I’m happy if I can find one helpful idea. And I did. It was the idea of subtraction. Normally, when my business needs a boost, I add a product or develop another training course or speaking idea. Adding something always results in a lot more work. But more work doesn’t always result in more money.
McMeekin’s book brings up the power of subtraction. “The Power of Subtraction” works. McMeekin says, “When we forcefully say ‘No’ to dysfunctional people, toxic workplaces, limiting beliefs, or unhealthy habits, we open up the space to fill our lives with what we long for.”
Here’s what I dropped immediately:
— Products that demanded a lot of administrative work for a mimimum profit
–Training jobs that paid next to nothing but promised “a great marketing opportunity.” Often the opportunity was not clear or unlikely.
Subtract Time- and Money Drainers
The day I created my “subtraction” list, I got a phone call from a church group who wanted me to run my creativity seminar for less than half of my usual fee. “Our group is really worthy,” the events director said. “And if this one works well, we may be able to afford your full fee in the fall.” I was about to agree–after all, how can I turn down a spiritual group whose only fault is a cash pinch.
Wrong line of thinking. Better line: Could I afford to run the seminar at a loss? And once I taught this course at a loss, could I realistically teach it again at my normal price, which would be more than twice the original church rate? And would the group really come back in the fall and say, “We loved your seminar so much, we will gladly encourage you to charge more than twice as much for this session.” Probably not.
The Power of Subtraction
I turned the seminar down. I kept my business priorities in place, and instead of trying to make her understand, I just kept politely refusing.
Subtracting is a wonderful exercise. Look at what isn’t making money. Instead of pumping money into it, think about the pros and cons of subtracting it. Use the time for marketing your products that are already successful. Often, it’s a quick was to saving time and money.
Visit Quinn McDonald’s website at QuinnCreative.com