Taking Control of Your Business or Your Life is just like Cleaning the Garage... It happens one Manageable Step at a Time
by Adam Wade - Personal Success Development Coach
It was a little after 8:00 p.m. on a Friday night. I had just had an extremely challenging day and I was looking forward to enjoying a relaxing evening. My wife was out of town visiting an ailing family member. My older teenage kids were in and out so much that they pretty much fended for themselves when it came to dinner and other such needs when their mom was not around to cater for them.
I was imagining myself in a laid back position, savoring a simple but satisfying dinner. Maybe a ham and cheese omelet. It’s an easy favorite to prepare and enjoy with an extra helping of luscious melted cheese on top. I would include a simple leafy green serving of fresh salad to make sure I kept things reasonably healthy, a cold glass of apple juice on the side, and to top it all off, most of all, I was really looking forward to scooping into an untouched gallon of fresh Pralines and Cream Ice Cream hidden in the back of the freezer. At least I hoped it was still hidden. I would find out soon enough. I was planning to enjoy this simple little feast in my home theater with a new DVD I had been hoping to find some time to watch for a week or two. Yes sir, this was going to be a very pleasant, relaxing evening. I couldn’t wait to settle into it all.
And then it happened... the bomb went off destroying my perfect, simple, relaxing evening. My teenager barged into the room in a total panic. You know how teenagers are. They act as if there is nothing else in the world that matters except whatever their pressing problem of the hour happens to be. Well, it turns out that he had a science project due on Monday and he needed a particular tool to complete the project with and he wanted me to help him find the tool. Never mind that he had 3 months to finish the project before tonight. In the back of my mind I was remembering an old saying I’d seen on a coffee mug somewhere, “Failure to plan on your part does not necessarily constitute and automatic emergency on my part.” Hmmm... and yet at the same time I could feel the tug between wanting to enjoy my relaxing evening, and my need to be a helpful parent and rescue my seemingly desperate, if not overly dramatic teenager.
“It’s in the garage, in one of the tool box drawers,” I replied, and waited on pins and needles as my teenager shuffled off towards the garage to find the needed tool. I was hoping I had managed to sidestep this minor time quadrant 3 style crisis, but no such luck. “DAD! There is no way to find anything in this garage!” With a deep heaving sigh, I forced myself up and out of my chair and walked over to the garage door, down the back of the hallway. That was when bomb number two hit me hard. As I opened up the door, I realized that the garage was so tight and cluttered that I found myself thinking I can hear the air screaming for room. My wife had been on my case for weeks to clean the garage. You know how things roll down hill? I had been on my kids cases since about the same time my wife was on my case to get the garage cleaned up. The truth is I wanted it cleaned up as much as she did. I was tired of having to suck in my gut to move around inside that mine field whenever I needed something in particular that was lost somewhere in that waste land we called the garage. The latest thing I needed was my softball mitt. Some of my buddies wanted me to join a softball league with them, and so I did my best to venture around inside the garage-mine field-waste land to find it. That was two weeks ago. I still haven’t found my mitt. Anyway, weren’t garages supposed to be a place you kept your car in? Somehow we had lost sight of that idea, and the garage was more like a dumping ground for the “I’ll do it tomorrow chores.” A true procrastinators night mare.
Well, it did not look like my kids were going to follow through with cleaning the garage without my constant cajoling, and I didn’t feel like threatening them to do it, although that might have worked. Well, maybe not. I knew my wife certainly wasn’t going to do it. Especially since she thought it was my responsibility, not hers. It finally occurred to me that if I was really going to get this garage cleaned, no amount of wishing and hoping that someone else would do it was ever going to make it happen. But where do I start?
I mean, this garage was a huge two car garage. As I surveyed what I could see from the doorway, I realized there was no way I could just spend a few minutes to clean it up. This was going to be a major project, and I knew that if I was really going to succeed and do a good job, I needed to have a system to make this happen. I couldn’t just walk through the door, and hope it all turned out okay. Without a system of what to do to get the garage cleaned up, I knew I would probably end up doing a lot more work than I needed to do, and accomplish a lot less in a lot longer period of time.
Garage Cleaning vs. Business running
It occurred to me that cleaning a garage was a lot like starting and running your own business, or anything else you want to succeed at for that matter. I have been a successful entrepreneur for years. When I really think about it, the way I run my business was not any different than how I should go about cleaning out my garage. Now, I realize that some of you reading this are thinking there is no way that cleaning a garage is the same as running a business, or managing your finances, or raising a family, or running for public office, or anything else. Just bear with me for a few minutes. Stick with me here, and I’ll show you how it really is. I am going to draw some parallels that will help you realize that running a business or being successful at anything does not have to be overwhelming, just like cleaning an over stuffed garage does not have to be overwhelming either.
Making a Decision
First of all you to have realize that we all have a universe of choices. Everything you have ever accomplished in your life, whatever your current life’s circumstances may be right now, and everything you ever hope to accomplish in your future is a result of choices you have made or will make and action you have taken or will take. Your choices tend to fit into three different categories:
- Your Likes: I would like the garage to be cleaned, or I would like to start a new business.
- Your Wants: I really want the garage to be cleaned right. I really want to start a new business and do it right.
- Your Preferences: But in the end I prefer to watch T.V. So in the end, I do just sit around and watch T.V.
If anything is going to change, the change has got to start with you. Who can get the garage cleaned out the way I want? Who can get your business running profitably? Who can make your life be better? There are three answers: Only you, only you, and only you! You should be reading this as “Only Me, Only Me, and Only Me.” Once I realized that no one was going to do it for me, that cleaning the garage was up to me, up to me, up to me, and nobody else, I knew the next thing was to brainstorm and come up with a plan for how
I was going to do it. An easy question to start out with when you brainstorm is, “What am I gonna do?”
Do you remember the old line, “How do you eat an elephant?” And the answer was, “One bite at a time?” Well, as corny as that line may seem, there is a lot of truth in it. How do you clean an overly cluttered garage? How do you start and run a business, when it seems like there is so much to do, and it is seemingly overwhelming and you don’t know where to start first? The answer? One step at a time. A step by step process. It really is that simple. So where do you get this step by step process? Well, it is my garage, so it is going to have to be up to me. And if you are likening this to a business, it is your business. You are your own boss. So where do you think the step by step process comes from? You guessed it. It comes from you.
The Brainstorming Process
First I am going to set a goal, and I am going to write it down. My goal is to get my garage cleaned. But, by when do I want to have it cleaned? I need to have some kind of a deadline, a target date, if you will, for when I am going to have the garage cleaned. Having it cleaned before my wife gets home would earn me a great deal of brownie points. When is she getting home? I think she said she was going to be home the following Monday around 7:00 p.m. Well tonight is Friday night, so I set my goal to have the garage cleaned and organized by Monday evening at 6:00 p.m. at the latest. I write my goal down and post it some where I can see it frequently so that I don’t lose sight of it.
Preparing to move forward
Next I know that I am going to need some preparation time before I get started. So I plan to get a good nights rest, and get up early on Saturday morning, around 6:00 a.m. when it is still cool outside in the garage. I need to go check and make sure I still have some grubby clothes to wear, find some work gloves, and make sure I have some containers, boxes and or trash bags, a broom and dustpan, etc. to use in the cleaning process. I include in my schedule the time I am going to spend to accomplish these preparatory activities.
This kind of prep time is not unlike getting yourself ready to work on your business. You make sure you have the necessary tools. Perhaps you check to be sure you have a good dependable computer, set aside some work space where you can work uninterrupted, and make sure that your Internet connection is working right, have a journal or note book to keep notes in as you start your work, and make sure that any thing that would get in the way of accomplishing your goal at the time you have set aside on your schedule to start working your business are taken care of and/or eliminated.
Creating the plan
The next step in my plan to tackle for getting my garage cleaned up is to take this massive task and break it down into smaller steps. I decide that I am going to create a series of piles into which I will organize all the currently unorganized components of the garage.
I’ll probably have to start out by moving some things into the driveway since there is no room in the garage presently to make any new piles. I set aside a time in my schedule to start moving things around from the garage to the driveway so that I can have more room to move around in the garage. And in that process I decided that I am going to create 5 main piles.
- Pile 1 is for items that I need or want to keep; items I can’t live without ( like my softball mitt, if I ever find it in there).
- Pile 2 is for items I am going to list to sell on eBay or at a garage sale.
- Pile 3 is for items I cannot sell because there is more supply than there is demand, or no demand at all, so I will give them away to a thrift store.
- Pile 4 is for items I will give to other family members (who do not live in my house so that it does not end up back in the garage again) and finally...
- Pile 5 is the trash pile, to be hauled off to the local garbage dump.
As I make this plan, I am writing it down so that I now have a task list of what I am going to do. That list becomes my step-by-step list, or my plan to get my garage cleaned. I can then include my tasks into my schedule so that I am sure to have the time to work on each of the tasks on my list.
When it comes to a business, or any other kind of a venture, maybe your task list will include things like:
- Making a list of ideas,
- Researching Web sites that have products that would fit into those ideas,
- Finding a source for the products you are going to include on your business Web site,
- Creating effective text for the home page of your business Web site, etc.
For those of you who are only going to do things with eBay, maybe your list is going to include things like:
- Find a product source, get my tools such as Terapeak or Hammertap ready to use,
- Start researching products one at a time and
- Keep a record of each researched product until I find the one's that fit the criteria for listing on eBay.
- Download the photos.
- Rewrite the description, create the actual listing on eBay or with Auctiva.
There you go. There is an example of a step by step list to follow to get things done. By writing those tasks down, you have made a list of things to be done, and you can then write each of those tasks into empty time slots on your advanced time management schedule plan, so that you can follow it and get things done - one little step at a time.
Making it happen
Finally, I get started with the actual work of dividing up the contents of my garage into the piles I have designated, and I realize while I am doing these things, I am in control. I am making it happen. Not my wife. Not my kids. It is me. Just me, taking control and making it happen.
When you make a task list for your business and include those tasks on your schedule and then follow your schedule and start getting things done, one little step at a time, you realize that your business is starting to happen, and it is because of no one except you. Not your spouse, not your Business Coach, not George down the street, Mother Goose, Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. It is you, just you who is taking control and making it happen. You are also beginning to see that it is very doable. It was not such a huge overwhelming task after all. You can do it! You are doing it! One step at a time. And who is responsible? It is you. Nobody but you!
Now remember, sometimes things may take a little longer to accomplish than you might have originally expected. If you do not get everything accomplished in the original time you set up for yourself. That is okay! Your plan needs to be specific, but it also needs to be flexible. If you scheduled time to get 10 tasks on your business task list done, but you only got 6 of them done, that is okay! You succeeded on the 6! Congratulate yourself, reward yourself and focus on being glad for what you did get done, and do not beat yourself up over the other 4 that still need to be done. You simply schedule more time and carry over the remaining 4 as soon as you can.
I wasn’t able to get the entire garage cleaned with the time I had scheduled on Saturday, but I was able to follow up and schedule some additional time on Monday, and guess what? I got it done before my wife got home, which was my original goal! I did it!
Taking control and sticking to it
You see, having a plan and maintaining the discipline to work on your plan does not restrict you. It empowers you. It helps you to get outside your comfort zone and accomplish things that you would not have accomplished if you had stayed stuck in the stress relieving, time wasting, avoidance activity. You know, like watching TV, or browsing meaningless Web sites on the Internet? Having a plan admits to yourself that you are not omnipotent. You do not know everything, and that is okay! You will make mistakes, and not always get everything done in the time line you originally planned for. But you did make progress. You made your plan. You showed up to work your plan, you had the courage and discipline to follow through, to take and maintain control. Is that not the core reason you got involved in a coaching program to begin with? Because you wanted to be in control of your life instead of allowing other circumstances to control you? Yes?
Well, it is Monday night now. Turns out I found the tool my son needed. His science project turned out pretty nice. He expects to get a good grade on it. I think he will too. So much for negative consequences that come from procrastination. I'll have to have a little chat with my son about that. I guess that is another subject for another time for us here. I never did find my softball mitt. I’ll bet I lent it to my buddy Jimmy last season and he didn't return it yet. If I had never cleaned my garage, I would never have figured out where it might be. I’ll need to check with Jimmy on that one. Well, best of all though, you should have seen how delighted my wife was when she got home and saw the cleaned out garage. She almost wondered if she were in the right house. Like I said before, I did not get it all done on Saturday, but I was able to follow up and finish it and still meet deadline for my goal before she got home at 7:00 p.m. on Monday. She was so pleased, and I cannot begin to tell you how happy and good that made me feel. We’re gonna be watching a fun movie in our home theater tonight together. She’s making me a banana split with my favorite ice cream, Pralines and Cream, and all the special caramel and butterscotch toppings that will make it even more mouth watering to enjoy! I sure do love having control over my life!
Good luck with taking control over yours. I know you can do it. Be sure you take out time to enjoy something special when you do!
© Copyright Adam Wade, 2005 - 2017