Seek the Minimum Level | Find Invisible Pockets of Time and Energy

by: Andrea J. Lee

You wouldn’t use a power tool to put in a tack, right? So don’t send your ‘big guns’ out to do the little things in your business.

Which is why it’s the perfect time for this excerpt from the “Money, Meaning & Beyond” book that emphasizes the opposite…

Chapter 18: Seeking the Minimum Level

Would you use a power tool to put in a tack? Time and energy are your precious resources. Use them wisely by seeking the minimal level.

The idea of seeking the minimum level in business owes origins to the work of the Frugal Zealot* who wrote about ‘the minimum level’ from the perspective of thrift as an alternative lifestyle in 1992.

‘People are creatures of habit.’**

When it comes to business owners, there’s never been a truer statement. It’s probably for that reason that the unexpected ways we approach business in this book are so well received.

After hearing the same lessons about business for so long, we can tend to accept them without questioning. After doing things for the same way for so long, it can take a little shock treatment for us to stop.

But it’s important that we do, because far too many business owners are chronically tired and overworked, yet are still trying harder to do more with their energy and time.

Old ways of thinking and old habits can be very costly – to both the success of your business, and your overall happiness.

Case Study:

Andrea: I was working with a client in the summer of 2002. I remember it clear as day. She was a really earnest, really serious-about-getting-to-success type of client. And she was talking about doing some door-to-door canvassing of the business owners in her building to see if there was interest in doing a building-wide flyer.

(This was part of our work together on collaboration – see Chapter 12: No Great Thing is Accomplished Alone)

Now you need to know that her business was doing alright. She had earned close to six-figures each year for the last year and a half and had an assistant and a nice little office. But whatever reason – you might relate – she was extremely stressed about getting over six figures. It was a prize for her, something symbolic, I think.

When she started talking about going from door-to-door herself, later in the day, and how it would take her several days to get around to all the offices, I interrupted.

“I think that’s a waste of your time and energy. You’re already tired out as it is. Is this something YOU have to do?”

I don’t know why, but some clients just like to argue with their coach, and that’s what she did. Finally, I said –

“Why would you use a power tool to put in a tack?”

And she got it.

Do you invest too much energy into tasks that aren’t worth it? Are you using a lot of time on a project that could be done with much less?

If you have a tack in front of you, you wouldn’t use a power tool to put it in. It would be a massive, disproportionately powerful tool to get the result you want.

This can be a difficult one, but try to develop an awareness of how to apply just the right amount of energy and resources to the appropriate tasks.

If you’re used to providing a full-fledged proposal for a client, would a two-page summary work just as well? Do you send over five possible ideas for how to ‘redo the living room’ when 3 would be equally delightful to your client? How about paperwork – are you overdoing your paperwork and losing time and resources?

When you write emails, do you always proofread and double-check before you send out? If you’re doing a series of follow-up calls that are administrative in nature, could an assistant could do the trick? Do you always stay open an extra three hours on Thursday night when only a few customers ever come in? See if closing up shop on Thursday nights will work. Or, take appointments for people who absolutely can’t get to your store during regular hours.

You get the picture. Experiment with the minimum level.

Wisdom nugget:

Based on experience, we estimate business owners waste an average of 20-30% on tasks that would be just as good, just as complete, if they’d leave well enough alone.

The Frugal Zealot puts it really well:

“When you wash dishes, do you always fill the sink to the top? If you’re doing a small number of dishes a sink half full of water may suffice just as well. Do you always put a two-second squirt of dishwashing liquid in the water? See if a one-second squirt will work. ”

“Do you use an inch of toothpaste because a brush has inch-long rows of bristles and every toothpaste advertisement you’ve ever seen portrays a neat, full, bristle-length swath? Experiment to see if a ½ inch of toothpaste works as well.”

Seeking the minimum level definitely goes against the grain at first, because business owners are used to working hard, and racing to keep up.

Take a moment now to think of just one thing that you could work a lot less hard at to complete, or better yet, one thing you can take off your ‘To Do’ list entirely.

* The Frugal Zealot is pen name for author Amy Dzcyczyn, founder of “The Tightwad Gazette.”

** Amy’s article on ‘Seeking the Minimum Level’ in volume I of her book ‘The Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle” was the inspiration for this chapter which takes the idea of the minimum level and applies it to the business world.

Picking the Ripe Apples

May I ask you a question? Might you be guilty of being too smart for your own good? Let me tell you a secret – you’re not alone. Smart people tend to get in their own way a lot. And for some reason, a disproportionate number of business owners are smart, at least in my opinion.

So here’s my encouragement for you today: Stop making things complicated for yourself. It all starts with picking the ripe apples.

Imagine yourself in an apple orchard for a moment. Picture yourself reaching your arm out, fingers curving around the bottom of an apple.

You pull.

But instead of the apple falling into your hand, the entire branch comes with it.

When an apple isn’t quite ripe, it sticks to its branch.

On the other hand, when it’s ripe, it quietly breaks away from its branch with a snick.

There’s something to learn from the way a ripe apple effortlessly leaves its tree when it’s time.

As business owners, one of the valuable things to learn is that there is a season for everything. And sometimes, in our single-minded focus to get ‘something’ done, we force that ‘something’ before it’s time.

The result? Not much to show for a lot of effort!

If you’ve been trying to get something done…

Or you’ve been trying to convince someone of something…

Or if you think you simply must persist towards a certain goal or target or result…

Ask yourself…is this an apple that’s not quite ripe, and must I pick this particular apple now?

The answer is usually no, there are other apples – or even other fruit – that are ripe right now that would be less difficult to pick.

Often, bright people can think their way into a decision that’s based on logic alone. Their intellect ‘informs’ them that their choice is the smart one.

But recognizing there is a natural cycle to everything – including business – will help you put your effort where it’s warranted…where the ripe apples are.

Wisdom Nugget:

Struggle – of all kinds, in business and life – is highly overrated. Are you someone who thinks you have to struggle or work hard in order to achieve something? Where did you learn this message?

Consider the possibility that you could achieve just as much if not more, in your life, not by struggling, but with ease. What feelings come up for you when you explore this concept?

Freely brainstorm and list what you are struggling with right now, using the comment section below, or a piece of paper on your own.

Now that you’ve done that, what are three things you could let go of, and stop struggling? Put a line through each of those. Take just a moment longer here and become aware of your energy and emotions. How do you feel as a result of shedding just a little of your habit of struggling?

This article is an edited version of Chapter 13 from the book ‘Money, Meaning and Beyond.’ More details available at

Build the Relationship: Infuse Your Online Interactions With Intimacy, Mystery and Sensuality

by: Andrea J. Lee

What does this mean?

When it comes to building relationship with your customers and prospects, there are three main components to consider.

You need Intimacy.  You create a more intimate relationship with your community when you use questions, tell stories, and create opportunities for interaction and dialog.

For example, if your own pink spoon or website is not converting well – ask yourself – should some of the copy be converted into a question? Many headlines or even titles can be improved through the use of a question mark at the end.


Because a question is a natural hook. By asking a question, you instantaneously create a dialog with many people.  By doing this, you have intimacy.

When it comes to mystery –everyone loves a mystery.  One with a little creativity where you can also foster some curiosity and enthusiasm.

You can infuse mystery in all sorts of ways – at the end of each lesson in your pink spoon mini-course, at the end of an audio by building excitement about what’s coming up next.  Add a little mystery and talk about what’s coming up next and not only will you stimulate curiosity, you will increase conversion.

Sensuality can make a big difference to your ability to convert customers.

Whenever possible, engage the five senses.  For example, when you create a graphical cover for a product, you lift up your writing to a new sensory level.

If you take more time to write your Pink Spoon using stories, recalling foods, places, events … you can waken the reader to their sense of smell, taste and even touch.

These are all things that further a trust relationship with you … and truth be told, not many business owners understand this.

If you go ahead and apply some of these things, you will have a much more free reign to grab the attention of the customers you want to serve.

Add interactivity to your publications.  This can truly deepen the relationships you are creating online.

One of our favorite and simplest strategies that we still use today, is called the ‘quick question’ email.  In it, we use a question as a hook to begin engaging with the customer on a very personal basis.

A ‘quick question’ email is an email that goes out automatically the day after someone subscribes to your pink spoon. It can be as simple as “I was wondering, what is your biggest question about XYZ (i.e. the topic of your pink spoon)?” You may surprised at the response you receive with this.  It is extremely effective because it is short, personal and written in a way that clearly expects a reply.

In our experience 50-70% of people take the time to answer this email.  A HUGE conversion rate all on it’s own.

And finally to really strengthen the trust relationship with your customers, you need a newsletter strategy.

It’s one of the best tools available to continue the relationship you started with your Pink Spoon and allows you to provide ongoing value to the people on your list.

Newsletters have been proven ‘necessity’ for years, however it’s interesting to see the number of online based business owners who have not implemented this strategy.

Start by setting up your publication schedule. Then consider the 80/20 content split of your newsletter.  80% is simply to provide value in the form of articles, case studies, stories, Q&As etc.  This is the key part — the GIVING part of your newsletter, where people get to know, like and trust you.

The other 20% is then available to make paid offers of your products and services.

What will you do to build better relationships?

Let us know in the  comments section below.

Doing More with Less | Excerpted from ‘Money, Meaning & Beyond’ Chapter 11: Gravy Pans

by: Andrea J. Lee

I’d like to ask you the question again if I may … even though it may be hard, take the question seriously for a moment.

How can you get 10 times the result with half the amount of effort?

It seems paradoxical, but the very act of asking an outlandish question like this can open us up to new possibilities.  In this case, we begin to sense that somewhere, there may be a path that we haven’t discovered yet. One that allows us to get more of what we want, whether that be more time, results, meaning, money or something else entirely.

One thing we seem to know for sure is the path is very likely NOT a straight line.  There’s NO logical progression from point A through point Z.

No, there’s a less linear way of looking at the issue of getting more done in less time.

The invitation here is this:

Reconsider how you can do more with what you’re already doing.  And in doing so, recognize you’re getting a lot more done than you think. The thing is, getting more results with less effort doesn’t have to be hard.

Yes, it seems odd, but relax a moment and see what happens. Relaxed is the best state to be in if you’re going to try and transform an old way of thinking.

The thing is, getting more results with less effort doesn’t have to be hard. Here’s an example:

  • Let’s say you’re roasting a chicken; one of those wonderful activities that shines a light on things that matter:  a great meal, conversation, laughter and family.
  • While you’re roasting a chicken … what else can you think is happening inside the oven?
  • If you said gravy’s getting made, you’re right.  When you’re roasting a chicken, even though you’re not making any extra effort, you’re also making gravy by catching the drippings in a pan.
  • But – this is true only if you recognize the value of the gravy.  (Some people miss this, and throw out great gravy, right?  That’s because they’re so single-mindedly focused on roasting chicken.)

With this example in mind, let’s try the invitation again.

What if you are already getting a lot more done than you think?

This isn’t just a fancy way of describing multi-tasking either.  It’s actually a shift in the way you look at what can be considered productive activity in your business.

What are some ordinary activities you do in your business, that bring with them unexpected gravy?

How can you create more results with the same (or less) amount of effort?  And how can these benefit you in your life, business and health?

As a leading business owner in your field, you might realize the unexpected truth that you’re further than you think in finding ways to ‘make gravy’ in your business.

It’s a fantastic time to solve this frustration.  What can you learn from our non business coaching colleagues and implement into your business to eliminate these problems and frustrations moving forward?

Tell me, what do you hope to learn and also remove from your business in order to provide the level and flavor of coaching your clients most want?