Omission is 10x more effective than addition

jasonleow  •  3 Jul 2022   •  

I’ve been doing analog weekly recaps for a few months now. Just physical notebook, a real pen, and coffee in a nice, quiet cafe, writing to these question prompts:

What’s adding energy?
What’s draining energy?
What moves the needle?
What to reduce/remove?

But over the months I’ve began to observe a pattern. The 4 questions are not created equal. One works 10x more effectively than the rest. Guess which one?

It’s #4 “What to reduce/remove?”

That’s surprising to me. I assumed it would be #1 or #3, the questions that affirm the positive, that add to life. But ended it it’s the question that aims to decrease or omit things that work. I realised after every weekly recap, I’ll go and remove/reduce exactly what I wrote. Week on week, I’ll do that and it’s gone. And I’m significantly better off. Every single thing I wanted to remove, I did, as I flip back to reread past recaps. The contrast here is the things that added energy and moved the needle, I didn’t always follow through. I always assumed it would have been more intuitive and natural otherwise.

Which kind of makes sense, because as humans we’re simply hardwired to loss aversion more than rewards. We fear losing what we have a lot more intensely than we look forward to what we want. It’s definitely a great way to sustain motivation on something for sure. Removing pain is always easier to keep at it than to gain a benefit.

The other plus point is what Nassim Taleb talks about in Antifragile - the via negativa approach. It’s much easier to get to a life you love by removing what you dislike versus trying to add more of what you like. Subtract what you hate, and you make space for the things you like to enter your life. Life abhors empty space, just as Nature abhors a vacuum.

I wonder if this is also a good approach to my creator journey, to making products.

Just remove or reduce what I hate about my products, or what I hate doing for my products. To give space to let the good things enter – revenue, profit, users, traffic, page views.

Instead of pursuing a grand vision for my SaaS, look to removing tiny to big things that me and my users hate. This gets me to keep working on it, and seems more impactful to users.

Via negativa for products!