Last week I posted on Twitter that this week’s Next Five would be about trust.
The theme in the last few weeks has been a project management theme. But, you know, there’s a flipside to getting this working the right way. It’s trusting both the process, and yourself.
It’s funny to be writing openly about this stuff, because the impression everyone else has of me is that I am super organised. The badly-kept-secret is that I am super organised in the world because internally I usually feel like a disaster area. My natural tendency is to live in a sprawl of things. Learning that the sprawl was disastrous for my emotional health was a real game-changer. Now, even my wardrobe is organised. My mum would be so surprised.
As a sole founder and the person doing most of the work for the past five years, great project management systems have never been a big deal. I had the idea that I had much of it in my head, and that this is ok.
Well, it is. Unless you want to actually grow your business. If you want to be stressed-out and overworked, it’s hands-down the best way to do things.
Which means that being stressed-out and overworked is unnecessary.
Since getting the systems in place properly, and running them for two weeks, an incredible thing has happened. First, I worried myself stupid that the system didn’t capture everything required. Then, when I did a job and went to the schedule to see what was next, it was always what I would have naturally done anyway.
Working through the schedule in Week 1, I ended up at Inbox Zero daily. Completion rates went up. I had free time for the first time in forever. I define ‘free time’ as ‘time that hasn’t been earmarked ahead of time for anything’. It was amazing!
And terrifying. Yeah yeah workaholic yada yada.
My point, dear reader, is that when you create a system, you have to trust two things:
The system you created
Trusting the system is often no big deal. It’s trusting yourself that is the kicker.
This is especially the case with forward planning, and forward scheduling. For example, today is 22 October, and I have schedules known and booked in through 12 November. This doesn’t mean that the work plan stops at that point; it just means that I have scheduled the work into the calendar up until 12 November. And that only because I work with the time allowed for this stuff each week as we transition into this new mode of working. Trusting yourself is necessary because if, as a sole founder, you have been available to people, working like you have a job is a big change mentally. It means creating the time to do your meetings-and-business-development-stuff, smart ways of evaluating where the time goes, and building out your own team to deliver on work if you can’t get to the critical sales work.
Trusting yourself means not second-guessing the system. Trust that when you set it up you did it in sound mind, and had considered everything you need to. Second-guessing the system is going to fuck it up for you, because you’ll just disregard the requirements and end up in a mess.
Trusting yourself means doing the work as and when it is scheduled to be done. And if someone wants your time when you have other things booked in, evaluating whether or not that someone is more important than what’s ahead of them.
Trusting yourself means being strong enough to say no to other things, to other people, and to negotiate for an alternative if no is not appropriate.
Trusting yourself means getting out of your own way.
As founders we often find that our greatest enemy is ourselves. It’s why we self-sabotage by not putting these systems in place from Day 1. It’s why we think, ‘oh but if I just do this other thing, it’ll be ok’. That, too, is a form of self-sabotage.
Trusting yourself becomes a step towards maturity.
If you’re reading this and you’re a founder thinking wtf why is she doing this five years in, then maybe you’re in a different type of business; maybe you have a co-founder; maybe you’re not a pantser but are a systems-driven, systematic kind of thinker. That’s ok - everyone does things differently.
And if you’re a founder who’s thinking, yeah man I suck at this stuff, I want you to realise that it doesn’t matter if you suck. We all suck until we learn enough not to. It’s just like anything: You gotta start somewhere. And if all you can do is think one day in advance, then start there. It gets easier.
As for the trusting yourself thing? There’s a reason so many of us meditate, do yoga, spend time in reflection, journal our way through. This is just one of them.