A Sinkful of Dirty Dishes Made Me Write This Post.

by Annie

in defeating procrastination, systematic

Child washing dishes in a kitchen sinkThis month’s Word Carnival theme: What I would do differently if I could.

And you should know that initially, I felt so swamped with client work and administrative stuff that I told the Carnies I’d be sitting this one out.

But then, as I began to plow through that mountain of crap on my allegorical plate, a weird thing started happening:

I started writing this post in my head.

Well, what I actually mean: I found myself listing out in my mind all those things I wish I knew then that I know now.

So many things.

Things like “I’d start from a stronger foundation – legally and financially speaking.”

Also: “I’d focus right off the bat on the problems/needs my target market already had, instead of what I thought they should be worried about.”

Oh, and definitely this one: “I’d spend more time and money improving my skills, instead of making it something I did when I had a few free hours and felt like it.”

But then the wispy mental clouds skedaddled right out of my imaginary sky and this one thought prevailed over all others that came before. If it had been a message from God, it would have been fiery letters in the sky with the booming voice. THAT kind of thought.

And it was this:

“I’d spend more time and energy creating seriously organized systems from the get-go, because the one thing I know for sure is that it’s much easier to keep a system functioning optimally, than to fix one that’s already broken.”

You already know this to be true, by the way.

And I knew it, too, though it took me awhile to embrace the truth of it.

All it took for me to internalize this one, though, was a really cluttered, dirty house.

Now, I’ve never been a neat-freak. And I have zero intention of turning into one now. I feel weird in the living spaces of neat-freaks, like I’m behind the velvet rope at the art museum.

But things got particularly bad a few weeks back. It was a combination of me being sick, and then my daughter being sick, and then both of us being sick together, and a sudden influx of deadlines.

And the next thing I knew we’d gone from “comfortably cluttered” to “Holy shit, DSS better not be stopping by unannounced.”

OK, not quite that bad. But there were more than a few meals’ worth of dirty dishes in the sink, the laundry hadn’t been done in awhile, and there may or may not have been a mini-pharmaceutical lab operating in the back of my fridge.

And finally, one day, I’d just had enough. Everything got put on hold. I made my apologies, and I disconnected.  I threw on the Clorox-splattered yoga pants that I really should have thrown away a few years back and an old t-shirt and went to work.

Two days later, this house was spotless.

And I? I was exhausted.

(I was also in considerable pain – chronic pain peeps often experience something called “post-exertional breakthrough pain” and boy, howdy, did it ever hit me upside the head with a good wallop.)

But I made a pact with my daughter: we’d never let it get that way again.

Now, we’d made that promise before. And it usually held for a week or so, at most.

This time, however, we did something different: we decided what specific tasks would be done every single day, without fail.

The biggest one was the dishes. We agreed: No going to sleep with dirty dishes in the sink. We’d wash them after every meal, promptly.

And ya know what? It takes monumentally and proportionally MUCH less time and energy to do dishes for two people after one meal, than it does to do dishes for two people from six meals. Even factoring in the multiple meals.

The same is true for any repetitive task on the list, I found. Sweeping, garbage collection and disposal, laundry, dusting … it was all completely manageable and no-big-deal-whatsoever if it was done frequently.

Sounds counterintuitive, perhaps, but it’s absolutely true.

And it’s just as true of our businesses as it is of our houses.

You try figuring out your books after three years of – um, not. Then tell me it’s harder to do it properly on a monthly basis.

You try scraping together your time records at the end of the month in a frantic rush to get paid before the rent’s due. Then tell me it’s harder to do it every day.

It isn’t.

It’s far easier and takes FAR less time to create and follow regular, consistent systems from the start than it is to fix a broken system down the line.

If you’re new to the run-your-own-biz game, please do yourself a very large favor and trust me on this one.

And if you’re not new, and you know the truth whereof I speak, but you’re still putting it off? Get help. Call me. You get half an hour of my time absolutely free of charge, and I can help you face that mountain of undone shit down, baby.

Or call someone else. Or figure it out yourself over a pot of the strongest dark French roast around. Just figure it out somehow, and do it now.

Because the longer you wait, the worse it gets.

This post is part of the monthly Word Carnival series of posts. This month, our carnies are exploring the theme of Time Travel, specifically: from where you are now, what one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself on your first day in business? Check out more of the Word Carnival series at WordCarnivals.com.

photo credit: cafemama via photopin cc

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Petrolino May 28, 2013 at 10:11 pm

So anyone who doesn’t resonate with this post in some way is, quite simply LYING! We all have that ask (or two, or three…) that we despise and will do anything instead of. For me, I try to outsource for those tasks (when possible). For example, I’ve had a bookkeeper from day one. This is something I hate, it takes me way too much time and I’d honestly be a clusterf$%k if I tried to do it. Know your skills, know your weaknesses and find ways to make it work…that’s called MANAGING a business 🙂 Great post!

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Annie May 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Grazie, Lady Laura of the Porcine Aviators! And holy hell yes. Delegate the CRAP outta that shit wherever and whenever possible.

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Tea Silvestre May 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Can I just say, I am SO glad you had some dirty dishes to do? When I heard you weren’t participating this month, I was like “wha??” And also? This post ROCKS. *looks around furtively at the clutter* Having just come back to my normal routine, I can tell you that systems, routines, etc. are SO important. Thanks for sharing your very human epiphany with us this month, Annie!
Tea Silvestre recently posted..Case Study: Create Your Mastermind ‘Posse’

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Annie May 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

De nada, my world-travelin’ amiga.

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Carol Lynn May 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm

::::ahem:::: Systems? What systems? Yes, this is something I would have told myself looooong ago. The worst part is that I totally know that doing 2 dishes every day is a lot easier than doing 12 at once but I still ignore them!! The good news is that I’ve already called you 🙂

Seriously though, this is a really important thing that is really easily brushed off. I think part of the challenge is finding systems that work FOR US – not systems that we’re constantly trying to work WITH because someone said “get a system”. I tried the whole “do the books once a month” thing but found I was constantly battling the date every time it rolled around, then feeling overwhelmed anyway and putting it off some more. Instead now I do it more like your dishes – when the checks come in and the bills need paying, I do a bit today and a bit tomorrow as it needs doing. It fits into my life that way and doesn’t end up being just another thing I have to contend with.

So there. Great advice. Now if only we could rewind a bit and prevent the broken stuff…
Carol Lynn recently posted..Want To Succeed In Business? Do Something.

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Sharon Hurley Hall May 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Wouldn’t have been the same without you, Annie, so yay for those dirty dishes! Whether you’re talking dishes or dollars, you are so right. I’ve been gradually trying to document what I do and figure out if there are better ways of doing it. In the long run, this will help with outsourcing, but in the short term I should be more efficient. (I say should, because we all slip back into bad habits occasionally). Speaking of which – I need a system for keeping my desk uncluttered! 🙂
Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Social Media and Your Business – What Happens After the Tweet?

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Katherine May 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Sometimes we can certainly have a lot on our plates! I got burnt out once because of it all. I am so glad I recovered from that. lol
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Clare Price May 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Boy Annie! Did this one hit me where I live. Its the house cleaning thing that always got me. Systems are critical at every stage of your business operation including those “dirty dishes” that every business has to deal with: “It’s far easier and takes FAR less time to create and follow regular, consistent systems from the start than it is to fix a broken system down the line.” Well said!!
Clare Price recently posted..Finding Your WHY

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Ashley Welton May 31, 2013 at 1:07 am

Yay systems!! I lurve systems, even if every task doesn’t have a system (yet) I love having something come up (just did today with a new client) and me think, man I really need make that a template and add it to my client welcome packet – it’ll save me so much time.

Slowly I learn, refine, try new approaches until I zero-in on what works for me – which is apt to change as well. But I agree, there are certain things that need to be taken care of consistently, lest we die from fatigue and overproduction (read catch-up)

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Nicole Fende May 31, 2013 at 1:48 am

First I must say this is exactly why I instituted the following post college rule: I would only live in places that had a dishwasher. I despise dirty dishes and I despise doing dirty dishes.

Second, I must give everything you said a firm vote of agreement. Plus just the mental angst of knowing you’ve got an electronic mess to clean up. Ugh.
Nicole Fende recently posted..Timeless Marketing Tips from a Slow Learner To Boost Your Bottom Line

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Nick Armstrong June 2, 2013 at 5:17 am

Yes, absolutely. For the last four years, I’d been operating without solid systems in place. It’s been a drain on my mental resources as I kept track of everything inside my own head… often to have everything blow up when things got too complicated.

The only person I had to blame was myself – once I started doing the work to fix those systems, things became a LOT easier. Suddenly finding new clients wasn’t a massive project to try and deconstruct my word-of-mouth marketing machine, but was instead creating the correct inputs into the system which – over time – will generate the right outputs.

And, as an aside, I’m always amazed at how cleaning and household chores tend to bring out my most creative insights. GMTA!
Nick Armstrong recently posted..Leave the Past in the Past: A Lesson from Star Trek

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SandyMc June 11, 2013 at 2:02 am

Annie, like doing the dishes, one should ALWAYS read and comment on the Carnie posts before going to bed. Not only because you learn so much, it lightens the day, gives you good cause, makes you feel at one with the world and on occasion when you read something like this “mini-pharmaceutical lab operating in the back of my fridge”, snort out loud, but because that way weeks don’t elapse before you realise the job is not yet done!

Systems, absolutely. Once many many years ago, a wise business person said to me as he prepared to sell his business for much more than low 6 figures, it was only because of systems. Without them, it was just a salary paying job for him and his partner and their personalities and input. With them, it was a business with a value independent of them. I paid heed. But found that systems like all things require discipline and rigor. And sometimes one can get so laborious with them that you have inadvertently created a spaghetti junction noose about your neck. I am still working through the process of creating good systems!
SandyMc recently posted..How to know your ideal client. It’s so much more than demographics.

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