Simplicity and clarity – especially in marketing – can lead to great big heaps of business success. But the very act of simplifying can make things way more complicated than they ever were in the first place. So what’s a gal to do?
Welcome to Bliss for Business! If you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, or career-driven individual, tune in on Wednesdays to join Dani on an adventure to learn how to bring your work life in harmony with the thirteen Bliss Habits.
For the last month or so – but especially for the last week and a bit – I’ve been tied into a radical cycle of change. New haircut, new website, new focus, new projects, new songs, new opportunities, new tattoo. Words like “maelstrom” and “chaos” come to mind.
And yet all of it, all of the mess and the chaos, is rooted in an intense desire, a core need to simplify. (Well, except the tattoo, which was years in the making and its timing incidental.) To get rid of the clutter and the muck that accumulated over the last year or so, since the last big cycle of change, and settle in to a new normal.
Feels a bit like cleaning out the gutters, to be honest.
In my business, especially, there was a lot of cleaning to be done. A lot of gunk that had flown in through open windows, ideas I’d tried on for size and neither committed to nor discarded, and miscellaneous other crud that was clouding my vision and making me feel heavy, a bit manky, and a whole lot unclear.
And, well, I know better, right? (Enter the giant cloak of shame!) After all, I help other people cut through this crap to make their businesses shine. I know first-hand the power of clarity and simplicity, and the direct connections between that and success.
Which means, of course, that I was completely ignoring everything I know.
Yeah, well. Raise your hand if you’re terrible at taking your own advice.
Getting Simple Makes Things More Complicated
So there I was, problem (muck!) identified and solution (de-muck!) in hand, and I started swirling around the problem. Clear this out! Get rid of this! Make this better! Rewrite this! Change this thing over here! Add this thing here!
And I very quickly drove myself to the brink of madness.
In my effort to simplify, I made things so much more complicated than they needed to be. A handful of small projects was suddenly a basket of twenty. I had identified new projects! And new targets! And everything (of course) had to be perfect, perfect, perfect! My copy was sloppy and less clear than ever, my to-do list was triple its original size, and for every idea and bit of gunk I cleaned out, three new ones came in to take its place.
Not a great place to work from. And definitely not the simplicity I was after.
Stepping Forward Into Simplicity
So what can you do when you find yourself swirling in the chaos of good intentions on your way to simplicity?
- Remember your “why”. Bring yourself back to earth by reminding yourself why you’re on this path in the first place. In my case, I wanted to make things clear and simple, both to streamline my workload and to help people better understand how we can work together – things I will never accomplish by adding more complexity or more tasks to my list.
- Start with a clean slate. If you try eliminating bits and pieces from your list, you’re going to convince yourself why they all need to stay – and wind up right back where you started. Whatever notes you’ve made, whatever to-dos you’ve listed, wipe them all away. Yes, it’s scary. But if it’s really, really important for your end goal, you’ll come back around to it naturally.
- Focus on your goals. What two or three outcomes do you want to see happen as a result of this change? Grab some blank paper and write them down, in nice big letters, one at the top of each page. These are your targets, your goals – and everything you do should tie directly back to them. Grab one last sheet of paper, and make this your “dumping ground”. This will help you keep things simple (and stay sane!) throughout the process.
- Make your lists. Start with one of your goals. What are the minimum – absolute bare minimum – steps you need to take to achieve that goal? Write them down. Anything that doesn’t fit the bare minimum? Anything that is a “nice to have” or “I would love to” or doesn’t fit this goal at all? Write it down on the dumping ground page and forget about it for now.
- Do it! You have your lists, and you know what the very minimum is to get there. Now go and do it! Don’t do more (remember the dumping ground), and don’t let yourself get distracted.
Dani Nelson is a geek and a hippie with a passion for helping smart, creative entrepreneurs make their businesses better. Her secret ingredients? Strategy, tenacity, tasty beverages, and two unshakeable beliefs: that you (yes, you) have awesome things to share with the world, and that marketing doesn’t have to be awful.