There is this phenomenon in my house. As much as we try to keep the space orderly and minimalistic, the clutter keeps coming back in. It requires frequent and intentional decluttering just to keep at the same level of complexity.
I realize that the same happens with what we do in our business. Clutter creeps in.
I have identified three types of work clutter:
What used to be a dream client, project, associate, or process may not feel aligned anymore. We may have kept adding new projects without letting old ones go.
Legacy systems, teams, or products that nobody bothered to update to the current needs. It requires effort and energy to streamline our business and keep it lean. We need to go against inertia and the status quo.
We may keep a client because of their brand.
We might be pursuing a milestone as a vanity metric rather than because we really want it.
We might have launched a product that is not going well, but we are afraid to admit that we made a mistake, so we escalate our commitment (hello, sunk cost fallacy!).
Fear can take many forms. Sometimes it is monetary. We can take on not aligned projects or clients for financial safety.
Often, the fear is interpersonal. We are afraid of burning bridges. Disappointing other people. Having a difficult conversation.
What if we let go of this thing and we regret it? What if no other opportunities come?
We often hope that the not aligned thing will go away on its own. Or that the project we took on just for the money will not suck our soul and drain our energy so much that we won’t be able to do the fun stuff.
Keeping work clutter out of habit, ego, or fear sabotages our work satisfaction and success.
Letting go of things does not mean we are not grateful for them. It does not mean that we were mistaken to keep them for so long. It simply means that now is the right time to let go. To make space for more cool stuff to come in.
What do you need to let go of in your business? Go through this list
- Partners and Vendors
Don’t approach this exercise rationally. Trust your intuition. As Marie Kondo says, feel the item and see if it sparks joy. If not, it needs to go.
A pilot needs to do small and constant alignments to the plane; otherwise, it will shift and end up in a completely different destination. We need to do the same as business leaders. Re-align. Streamline. Let go.