As you progress through life and your business grows, it’s natural that some messes will accumulate in your life. We define a “mess” as an obligation you’re not committed to. You can remember this as “M = O – C,” or “Mess equals Obligation minus Commitment.”
Common messes entrepreneurs experience are legal issues, financial concerns, and problems that arise out of the complexity of running an evolving business. As messes build up over the years, they can start to block your progress and bog you down in minutiae.
When you leave a situation in a mess, a part of your brain stays with it. That bit of mental energy isn’t able to contribute to solving other problems or creating new opportunities. With each clean-up you do, a portion of your brain is set free again.
The clean-up two-step.
The process for cleaning up a mess involves two steps. The first is to face it. Until you’ve looked at the messes in your life head-on, acknowledging and identifying what they are, you can’t begin to clean them up.
The second step is to deal with it. Messes are often the result of guilt, justification, and avoidance, so a little action goes a long way toward dealing with them. Complexity and negative emotion then turn into a new sense of simplicity and confidence.
The Monday morning invasion.
Your office can be a constant source of messes. For instance, you might not even use your desk drawers anymore. Many people’s drawers turn into time capsules and their closets become museums, while the bulk of their work sits on their desk. If you have piles of paper to get past just to reach your chair, Monday morning might feel more like storming the beaches.
A mess in your physical space goes beyond mere untidiness. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a cluttered or haphazard workspace (no matter what a compulsive organizer might say!). What really matters is whether your space contributes to your ability to think, communicate, and act, or if it gets in the way.
There are many solutions for getting your space set up so it helps you do your best work. One strategy I recommend to my clients is “The No-Office Solution”: Instead of having a space where “stuff” can pile up, work off-site or use a temporary space in the office. When you’re finished, a team member takes your stuff away, so there’s nowhere for more of it to accumulate while you’re out of the office.
At first, many people think they couldn’t possibly do this. Those who try it, though, find that it provides a huge boost in confidence. Being faced each day with stacks of stuff can keep you from recognizing the progress you’ve made. The No-Office Solution™ focuses your attention on active tasks and projects that you can deal with one by one.
Doing deals with the world.
Many people get into messes when they work outside their area of expertise. When there’s something you know you have to do, but you don’t enjoy doing it and don’t do it well, it’s easy to put it off until it becomes a problem. While it’s up to you to say what needs to be cleaned up in your life, you’re not necessarily the person to have to do the clean-up. You can get anything accomplished in the world as long as you’re not always the person who has to do it!
Delegation is a key strategy for cleaning up a situation and preventing it from becoming an issue again. The power of delegation lies in the way it extends your abilities. By surrendering a task to someone with a talent and passion in that area, you make sure it’ll be handled now and into the future, and you also open up the opportunity to have it handled well.
Wondering what to delegate?
There are a few key things in life you do really well and that give you energy. Then there’s everything else. Some of these other activities are things you’re simply not good at. These “incompetent activities” can be very frustrating, and are dangerously easy to ignore because you dislike them so much. There are other activities you’re competent at, but you don’t add anything special to the way you do them; anyone could get the same result as you. Then there are things you do exceptionally well, but aren’t passionate about. You might enjoy the attention or the results these excellent activities get you, but they don’t really ignite your passion.
These three types of activities–incompetent, competent, or excellent–are good candidates for delegation, starting with incompetent activities. In these areas, you might find that your energy drops after the novelty wears off, and you have trouble finding the motivation to complete projects. Someone else, however, might have the energy to finish the job, or to add a new element that makes it interesting for you again. They might enjoy tasks that you don’t, and have a different perspective or abilities to bring to them.
The trick is to draw a circle around those few activities you’re great at, then make deals with the world to take care of everything outside that circle. In doing this, you multiply your abilities and preserve your energy for those activities that distinguish you from everyone else.
Releasing potential energy.
The initial thought of doing clean-ups may not excite you–after all, aren’t these things you were avoiding in the first place? But think of how good you’ll feel once they’re done. With every mess you clean up, you’ll transform a source of guilt, frustration, and suffering into a source of confidence, energy, and progress. This releases an enormous amount of energy, freeing you up to shift your attention from dealing with little problems to the much more rewarding business of creating the future you want to see.[Ed. Note. Dan Sullivan is the president and co-founder of Strategic Coach®, a global organization that has helped tens of thousands of entrepreneurs grow their businesses exponentially while enjoying an exceptional quality of life. He is the author of more than 30 publications on the subject of entrepreneurship.]