Before I started my website, this is how organized I was: I used to be great at writing up “Things to Do Lists”. Sometimes I'd be so up in my game that I'd even have them prepared the night before, and with that work ethic, I considered myself a completely organized person.
Then I started my online business: writing articles, Tweeting, promoting, marketing, sending emails, setting up courses...I was a one woman shop. And I realized that I sucked at organization. (And quite rightly so. I mean who makes lists and calls it a day?)
You see the moment we learn that we suck at something, it’s quite eye opening. As if Buddha smacked you in the face with his shoe. (Does Buddha wear shoes? I don’t know. I’d like someone to answer that.)
Oprah calls it an “Aha moment”, Leo Babauta calls it “enlightenment” and I call it “figuring out you suck.” We’re all eloquent in wildly different ways. And yes, I am the jerk who puts herself in the same sentence as Oprah and Leo. It’s an aspirational sort of sentence really.
So what did I do when the clouds parted and I figured out that I sucked at being organized?
Well if I’m being honest, first I cried, then I got angry at myself for being utterly ridiculous about it, and finally I did what I do best: when in doubt, do research. (It’s the default setting for everyone in my family. It’s like shooting nerds in a barrel.)
You see, being organized for everyday life and being organized for business are entirely two different things. In fact, they are so polar opposites that I feel the need to share this insight with you so you don’t have to go through my 3 step grieving process. (Yes, I hacked the 12 steps down and fast forwarded the whole d*mn thing).
You see, everyday life is pretty linear. Let me explain.
The majority of us work, maybe have kids, perhaps have a partner, and generally have a life (or some semblance of one, or at the very least the remains of one).
We are pretty well programmed and have organized our lives so that we’re working on ONE of those 4 elements at a time. (ie: we’re not juggling conference calls with clients in China while changing diapers and trying to have a romantic dinner with our partner. And if you are, you win the disorganization award of the year. Bravo.)
Sometimes those areas of life overlap and we get “stressed”. We’re not used to handling all that at one time. It gets overwhelming because we’ve trained our reticular activating system (RAS) to pay attention to only one of those elements in our lives at a time. When more than one creeps in, there’s a system overload and the system crashes. (ie: you end up on the sofa with a bottle of something soothing). (FYI, the RAS is a cluster of nerve cells at the base of your brain which basically acts as a mental filter. In other words, it controls what you focus on.)
Life gets overwhelming because our reticular activating system pays attention to only one element at a time. @IdeasWithRaisa
Now if we look at business organization. It’s a whole other ballgame. This is no linear walk in the park. In fact the diagram is so complicated it’s impossible to draw and can only be surmised as closely resembling the pattern you’d run if you were chasing chickens all day. (What? You never chased chickens? Ever? OK, I’ll forgive you. Just this once.)
So naturally after a week (which felt like a month), of working on my business, I decided I needed to ditch the list and find something better that worked. So I did what the majority of us do. When in doubt: Google &%$ outta that #$!&@.
So I did just that. And the advice sucked.
So naturally being mathematically inclined, I figured that finding out you suck plus sucky advice equals more general all around suckiness (that I was obviously trying to work myself away from).
So what was this generally sucky advice? It was : set goals. Yes.
Shocking isn’t it.
Now goals are generally a great idea, but here’s where the suck comes in: goals don’t happen in a vacuum. What invariably happens, is that just managing your goals usually leads to fast failure and major discouragement. So I nixed that approach.
The suckiness of goals: they don't happen in a vacuum. Just managing goals leads to failure and discouragement. @IdeasWithRaisa
The next thing that most people do, is to get tips from their mentors. Whether it’s an official mentorship or just a virtual one, the general idea is that we get to copy “hacks” that worked for our mentors and use these shortcuts to manage the overloaded plate we’ve decided to pile ourselves with in life.
The only problem with this idea: it gives you shortcuts, yes, but they might not be ones that work too well for you, AND it still doesn’t help us solve the first issue of setting goals more effectively.
So what does a girl do in a situation like that? She rolls up her sleeves (literally. Long sleeves bug me), she puts on her jam (Katy Perry's “Roar” because there’s no better motivation to stop being sucky than to listen to sucky music), and then she goes bat-sh*t-crazy-research-scientist on the problem.
And what do you get?
The first thing I recognized was that independently, those 2 solutions were OK but they left you wanting something more concise and complete.
So naturally when life threw me this problem, I threw back a venn diagram at it. (After all that throwing, we’re ok now. We made up).
Anyways, this Venn diagram showed 2 overlapping circles. One circle was life, one was business, and the overlapping section was the common areas of responsibility.
Naturally being the gigantic nerd that I am, I went into quite some detail on the items on that diagram, and I discovered an interesting and yet grossly overlooked detail.
In life we we’re very adept at controlling (as much as is in our power) the variables that we need to organize. Example: going on a date night with your partner? Get the kids a baby sitter, leave emergency numbers, leave pizza money, list of dos and don’ts, let the babysitter know of allergies, explain the routine, favorite toys, stories and games, talk to the kids about where you're going and who's going to look after them to make them feel secure, and then you’re off. Except for extraneous circumstances, the plan goes relatively smoothly.
But when it comes to business, we’re only controlling 50% of the equation.
And the other 50% ? We’re leaving it up to chance.
I don’t know if you’ve been to Vegas recently, but those really aren’t good odds.
So what does this “50% of the equation” translate into in a business? It means setting goals, creating systems, and organizing your Google calendar.
Me: (patiently) Yes. I know it’s tragic. The lies you’ve been fed…
And FYI, this was my Aha moment. The fact that this set up was being sold as the entire key to being organized and hitting your goals in business.
Business productivity: your goals, systems and scheduling cover only 50% of the equation. @IdeasWithRaisa
So let me put you out of your misery and just give you the right equation.
First, you want to Venn diagram the sh*t outta those two areas (your life and business) and hack then overlapping section within the inch of its life. And the rest? You want to look to manage not only the tasks involved, but also the environment in which those tasks take place.
And just to further clarify, when I say environment, I mean not only your physical environment (surroundings), but also your internal environment (your emotional state, your WHY? etc.)
When you deal with both parts of this equation you can truly get organized and hit all your goals.
And me? I’ll soon be hitting one of mine. As soon as I hit Publish.
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