Do You Excel At Chaos? Me Too! And This Is How I Turned Chaos Into Success
The Ugly Truth…
I’ve been called a slob before- my whole life actually. Just messy. I’ve lost roommates over it, enraged parents, and disgusted employees.
The fact is, I only clean for three reasons:
- To make space for another mess
- To avoid social humiliation (say if I’m having party)
- To avoid strife between me and my spouse and employees.
If left to my own ways, I would end up like that hoarder muppet in Labyrinth.
As I’ve built a growing business, it has become clear that a certain level of organization, rules, and operation systematization is crucial to help me deal with the overwhelming chaos. It also allows me to live in a world with my much more organized counterparts. You could say, I am a reformed slob.
What did I do to solve it? Systemize!
What Does It Mean To Systemize?
A system is just a documented, repeatable way of doing something that achieves a desirable goal.
Documented so the system can be followed, measured so you know if it’s successful, and flexible so it can be improved. Once a system is in place and is generating success, you don’t have to think about the tasks to achieve that success–as long as you follow the system, the system will bring the outcome you want!
I view systems now as mechanics- and I can geek out about mechanics.
I ask myself, “How can I ease this operation so that as much decision-making as possible is automated?” I walk through the steps, document it, and try like hell to use it every time I have to do that task.
Voila, a system!
This way, all my creative fuel can go into less boring parts like actually forming and executing new ideas.
Approaching a boring task used to be like this….
“Ugh, so tedious, where was that thing I did before? So much to do. I have to move this stuff out-of-the-way first. So much stuff… Maybe snack first… I love snacks. What was I doing?”
And this would continue until the actual amount produced that day was a shadow of what I knew was possible.
As it turns out, there are some studies in this area. They call it willpower, however that to me sounds like some sort of superhuman strength. When we mortals try to harness willpower we can only expect disappointment.
Really, willpower is only making the decisions that get you closer to your goal. And with systems in place this doesn’t require some sort of superhero strength.
Good Decision-Making Can Be Automated
You read that right: you can build systems to automate good decision-making.
That’s great because in Tierney and Baumeister’s studies on willpower in their book called (ahem) Willpower (non affiliate link), they talk about our brains having a finite ability to process information for that day. With every decision, you reduce your ability to calmly process data and come to a good decision.
Even small decisions affect your reserves.
That means, toward the end of the day, you have severely depleted your resources. In the morning, you fully intend to exercise, draw up a new proposal, and eat well. Around 5pm you are now sitting on a stool at happy hour eating cheese fries having only doodled over the cover of your notebook.
What can you do? Eating, sleeping, exercising, meditating, these are all things that can boost your metaphorical fuel tank. But, what can you do to preserve your fuel from reducing in the first place?
You got it! Systemize! (also called routine, but that’s boring.)
For example, if your goal is to get out of the house in a way that will not repel other humans, you will want to follow this system. I call it, the How To Leave Your House Without Being All Nasty System (patent pending):
- Get out of bed
- Take a shower
- Get yourself clothed
- Eat something
- Brush your teeth
- Fix your hair
- Get your stuff and walk out the door.
Congratulations! You have just completed creating systems and have not reduced your ability to make much more difficult decisions later on in the day. This list represents an automated system you have repeated and mastered to the point that it is not a chore.
And you can do the same for MOST business tasks and operations.
Where Can You Find Systems?
Once you start looking for systems, you see them everywhere. Systems are routines you follow to get stuff done. (If it still doesn’t make sense, refer to the above example of How To Leave The House Without Being All Nasty.)
Once identified, then the critical task is to document it.
Here’s what putting together a flower arrangement looks like in our shop:
- Start timer
- Clean off workspace
- Assemble tools and compost bin,
- Get flowers and raise them up so I don’t have to stoop. Everything should be easily reached.
- Assess goal size and shape.
- Prepare container and Go. I even have a system for how to start flower arrangement which you can review here.
- Stop Timer.
- Assess time spent and see if it is in line with how much time I have left to complete other tasks. If I don’t have enough, I need to go faster or reduce a step. If I have time left, yay, I can go home early.
- Count flowers used of each type of flower.
- Document on my FLOWER RECIPE average time and any alterations to the recipe.
- Take picture.
- The picture, flower recipe, and time is filed away so that next time when I have a similar arrangement, I know how much time to budget, how much of what to buy, and what it looks like, each time I use this recipe, I document for which job it was used.
- Repeat steps 1-7
Later I view the receipts to ensure that my flower recipe is priced appropriately and make any necessary notes for next time.
By doing this, it’s easy to start work. More importantly however, with each iteration, I’m honing my profitability and can accurately estimate how many employees I need for how long.
My employees can also get into the habit of using this system and develop a sense for ways to make things more efficient. When you’re doing your quarterly or yearly review to gauge how profitable your jobs were, oh man it’s nice when they line up exactly where you planned them to be (or better).
That’s some serious satisfaction.
Where We Use Systems
We try to use systems whenever we can. Here are a number of areas:
- Pricing: How to charge for what you do!
- Mobilization and Load In: How we get everything ready to go, how we get it packed, and how we get started on site.
- Payroll: How we track hours and get employees paid.
- Invoicing: How we get paid!
- Information sharing: How we share information internally.
- Packing: How to ensure you aren’t running around looking for something on site.
- Site and Venue analysis: What to look for, what to ask about, how to make a map.
- Flower care: How to ensure flowers stay fresh and open nicely.
- Yearly strategizing for labor, marketing, and expenditure budgets.
- Flower ordering: How to make a flower recipe and ensure profits.
- Proposals: What we show, and what we don’t,
- Client Intake: What happens after we get an email inquiry and how do we make sure that inquiry is not lost
- Client meetings: what we talk about, what we don’t, what info we collect, what processes happen next.
- Photographing jobs and systems for naming files so we know who the photographer, client, and venue.
Need more info on how to systemize your operation? The first book I read on the subject was the E-myth. We’ll also be putting together a ‘Nuts and Bolts’ training system that will show you our backend systems.
Let us know what you are curious about in our operation and sign up to our email list to be notified when that is out.
This is part THREE of our ten part series: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Event Business