More from my goodbye to the Oceanside Pier yesterday, because pretty. (& running though CLT requires pretty).

Whenever we want to make a change, whether it's at the beginning of the year or just in the regular review of our business, it's tempting to focus on all the things we want to STOP doing. Wasting time on Twitter, eating so much cheese, obsessing over a Facebook status update. And even when you want to ADD something to your workday (regular writing habit, eating more greens, making more products), it's easy to turn your attention to what you'd need to give up in order to have more space for the new.

But here's what I learned while going vegan: It's easier to add than to subtract.
I know, it seems like being a vegan is all about what you don't eat: no meat, no cheese, no dairy, no eggs. Nothing that comes from an animal.

But that's not at all what the experience of being vegan is like – I never think about what I “can't” have (because I still have free will, I can eat whatever I want!) I instead plan my meals about what we do eat (and what we want to eat more of): greens, vegetables, whole grains, interesting flavors.

While we were making the shift, it was obvious to focus on what we didn't eat (we were already vegetarians for years (Jay since High School, I have been since reading this book) so all we were “giving up” is cheese + dairy) and try to replace that with soy cheeses, almond milk, and flax eggs. But we found it all became so much easier when we instead found meals that were naturally vegan: spaghetti! burritos! soups! The PPK (and Isa's glorious cookbooks) are full of recipes that don't try to mimic meaty, cheesy meals, but instead revel in the deliciousness of veggies, beans, grains, nuts and spices.

In other words, it's all about focus.

In your business this doubly true – you could focus on where you're “wasting” your time, or you could focus on spending your time on effective, transformative actions. There are definitely things you can (and maybe need to) stop doing – but the easiest way to spot them and stop doing them is to fill up your time with more potent actions. So instead of restricting your time on Twitter, focus on filling up that time with a new experiment. Add the new thing to your daily schedule and just work on making it a habit, instead of trying to get rid of “bad” habits.

It's a heckova lot more fun to add in good stuff than it is to limit the “bad” stuff. Instead of trying to clamp down on what you shouldn't do, you'll be focused on the change you're making with the stuff you WANT to do. It's also a lot more sustainable. You see, we have a finite amount of will to use each day – so don't use it on trying not to “waste time”. Instead, make the new thing you want to add a HABIT, so you don't have to think about it each time. How? Zen Habits has a great path for turning any new thing into a habit.

So what should you add?

Look for the areas of your business that can use improvement (like your marketing system) and figure out what you can ADD to make it more effective. It doesn't matter if you're just guessing – if you experiment with it for 1-3 months, you'll know for sure. And no experiment is a time waster, if you learn more about what works and doesn't work in your business. To learn from the experiment, be sure to follow up with a review and assessment...and then experiment with the next thing!


What do you want to add to your business? To your life? 




4 Comments on Addition vs. Subtraction to transform your business

  1. penny
    January 22, 2014 at 4:30 pm (9 years ago)

    This is the philosophy that Shauna Ahern, the Gluten Free Girl, has adopted in her life. Instead of focusing on the negatives and the bad, find the positive. It works.

    When I struggled with being gluten free and I stopped buying and eating the gross pretend-to-be-gluten foods (bread) and found more naturally gluten-free foods (polenta, macaroons) it became much easier. It’s also helping me reduce dairy consumption (I’m not quite vegan, but I’m getting there).

    I’ve adopted similar methods when I need to change things up in my businesses, and yes, it works.

  2. Tara Swiger
    January 22, 2014 at 5:53 pm (9 years ago)

    So glad to hear it, Penny! And I love Shauna’s work!

  3. Tanith
    January 23, 2014 at 12:35 am (9 years ago)

    This is a great way to see it! I have also used this approach with healthy eating (“don’t think about the chocolate you’re not eating, just about how to get lots of fruit and veg into your day”) but I haven’t thought about my day that way. I like it!

  4. iHanna
    January 23, 2014 at 8:19 am (9 years ago)

    Great advice Tara! I like the analogy of food ideas. It’s simply way too easy to focus on lack instead of abundance, what you need to delete instead of what you’ve already done/written and so on. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂