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Diary of a startup: Prune and Reflect

Whether or not you have been lucky to escape on holiday and leave this dismal UK Summer behind you, as we settle back into an early Autumn – and for me with that lingering post-holiday minimalist clarity of mindset and aspiration – never is there a better time to do a bit of Autumn pruning for your business and clear the slate for a renewed business season.

Mine is long overdue. After a tumultuous period of client work the debris left from this whirlwind of activity is all too evident both to me and others. So, on yet another wet Sunday, I finally trundle down the path in my wellingtons to my garden office – but trust me that’s really where my ‘sustainability’ ends! – to embrace my paper mountain. “What better day” I tell myself to do this ‘rainy day’ activity. There are two types of pruning I’m intent on. Tidying but also pruning back the business proposition to its core objectives. This week I focus on the physical act of tidying up.

I’m not naturally tidy and certainly not when I’ve busy! For some reason, for most of my life I’ve been in denial about this. It’s true there was a spell in childhood when I was tidy. I was also a hoarder of pocket money and nerdy children’s club treasurer instead of the profligate spender I am now. Where is this getting me?….Well self awareness I’m sure. But back to the present day…

There must of course be a character (defect) link here, the desire to print and hoard documents – when in this electronic information age retrieval – if that’s even necessary – is a mere keystroke away and time management challenges. I’ll explore the separate issue of knowledge management in a future column.
I’m sure there is a whole body of psychological literature on why some people are tidy and others are ordered or require orderliness. I like to think it’s because I’m “creative”. But, being creative is not enough anymore – and seems strangely childish, despite the fact that I have a frightening ability to produce my very best work against this rugged background – and against the odds I can still pluck documents magically like needles from haystacks and retain critical information in my head.

Yet, I increasingly feel I can’t rely on it – the ability to work against disorder – and significantly I don’t want to anymore either. It must be an age thing – maturity brings a desire for orderliness and serenity of environment. It’s second best and I care about it now. Plus how much better would I be – and my business prosper – if I was able to combine my business intellect with some better processes? I’ve often had that conversation with myself.

I share the garden office with my long-suffering husband, Jon. I sat at his desk the other day, my fingers and gaze traversed, admiringly, his neat tidy “to do” lists, and labelled, spirit-levelled straightened papers and folders. Next, I opened his stationary cupboard and gasped at the beauty of its order. I can’t shut mine! It was a cathartic moment. I finally realised I must tidy up as it isn’t fair to those I would previously – but no longer – have dubbed as “neat freaks”. Anyway they say opposites attract and our marriage still works but there’s no room for complacency!

Speaking of rainy day activities, the act of tidying up, for those of us that are creative and whimsical creatures, brings its own dangers of “dwelling” on old – or possibly historic! – documents as if they were rare treasures and friends. It’s akin to looking at old family photos instead of filing them. No stop this now, the ruthless purging must go on as I progress with my structured filing retrieved from the precarious piles of paper.

Of course, there is a burgeoning army of admin assistants ready to sort out local businesses and untidy entrepreneurs. They will regale you with stories of dead mice and “final demands” that they find in the course of their work – I’m not that bad, but it’s testimony to the fact that I am not alone in my untidiness – perhaps I should form Untidy Anonymous! I suppose it is a kind of addiction. Why don’t I use an admin buster? Well, it’s partly embarrassment – shades of my mother (more evidence of ageing) who would always tidy and clean the house from top to bottom before the cleaner turned up! – I too don’t feel I’m tidy enough to be helped yet!

Anyway I have well and truly aired my dirty laundry in public, or at least online. It’s shamed me – hopefully – into action and I hope to report on my new state of pristine tidiness next week. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your comments or reflections. But go gently on me!

Have a structured, tidy and prosperous week.


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About Melanie Worthy

Melanie Worthy has a long and interesting background in PR and communications, working with financial services and government agencies for many years. This year she took the leap and decided to join the ranks of small business owners and has also taken on the not insubstantial task of Co-Editor! We hope you enjoy her take on starting your own business and we would love it if you shared your thoughts and experiences.

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