What Can You Remove?

It’s the beginning of a new year, and that means many people have resolutions. They’re thinking about what they will add to their lives. While addition might be helpful, what about removing things from your life? What would that look like?

Here’s what happens to me if I’m not careful. I see a good idea and want to implement it. That good idea often means adding something to my routine. I’ve been adding and updating various exercises to my morning routine over the past year. The results are great—I’m stronger than I was a year ago.

At the same time, I’ve stopped doing certain exercises because they no longer achieved the results I wanted. I have advanced past them.

Every day I have a core set of 30 or so minutes. I also have more intense exercises which I separate into A and B days. I’ve updated my A and B exercises, adding and removing parts of them over the year because I needed different challenges. At some point, I’ll update my exercises to make them more challenging. I might have to readjust what I do on the normal days, the A days, and the B days.

I didn’t just add exercises to my entire routine—I changed some, removed some, and moved some.

Adding all the exercises every day would not help, and might even hurt. That’s because I might stop doing them altogether, or I would have hurt myself. This way, I have a reasonable number of exercises each day.

It’s the same idea with any other work you do.

Too often, managers in organizations want to define a process for (other) people to work by. That can work, as long as the people have a say in the process, and as long as everyone doesn’t add too many details to the process.

We can’t possibly know all the situations people encounter. It’s not worth trying to detail all those situations and the results we want. Instead, consider this:

  • Create guidelines based on values
  • Remove anything not aligned to those values

That does require we know our values. That might be the most difficult part of removal.

My values are to learn and have fun. In order to do that, I need to be healthy. That’s why I exercise. I happen to like much of my exercise (the fun part). The parts I don’t like I still enjoy because I can see my progress. For me, it’s a positive feedback loop of “build and maintain health<->have more fun and learn more.” It’s a cycle.

We can do the same things with our work.

That’s why it’s so important to remove processes, regulations, whatever you have that don’t fit today’s situation. You might create more-frequent and less-frequent work. Or, you might remove work altogether. (I like delivering more often so I can remove reports and status, but that’s me. You might have other choices.)

In this new year, do consider this question: What can you remove?

2 thoughts on “What Can You Remove?

  1. David A Koontz

    I’m liking this view. I’m starting to wonder why Processes (like the ones many offer to teach e.g. Scrum, SAFe, FLEX, etc.) do not start with the practices that should stop – BEFORE adding on new practices…

    In fact seems there would be greater gains in removing things from our lives, our work, our play – that might have far greater benefit than anything we add. For example: That bully that comes to play with us… remove them from the field… (How to do that – might be very difficult).

    1. johanna Post author

      David, yes, for discussing what we might remove before we add. (Of course, my opinion is that most of the frameworks have too much in them, anyway!)

      As for people, maybe the way to think about this is to remove difficult interpersonal practices before removing the person. I often find that the system reinforces behavior we don’t want. Of course, there are certainly bullies and removing them improves things.

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