How To Build An Easy-To-Run Business

One day, every single part of your business is going to be easier to do, more streamlined, more organized, more easeful. I don’t know when that day is going to be – it’s different for everyone – but that day is going to come.

At some point, eventually, all the transitions will have taken place, all the new systems and fresh approaches and all that “working smarter” stuff will move from “to-do” to “to-done”, and your business and life will be unimaginably different than it is now.

That’s wonderful. But we’re not there yet, are we? We’re on the timeline, moving forward in our journey to running our business like a boss.

So let’s take a gander at what that journey is going to look like to you. We’re going to peer into the crystal ball and see your future, right now, so you know what’s in store for you.

Here’s the story of how you get from today to that final day when everything is shockingly easy compared to how it is right now.

Where your story begins.

I can tell you that it won’t happen overnight. Sometimes your path will have a few big leaps – major changes that have enormous impact – but most of the time it won’t be so dramatic and adventurous.

For most of your journey, your progress will occur in tiny baby steps, a collection of small, meaningful improvements that will gradually help you make the shift to “easier”, everywhere.

This isn’t necessarily going to be intuitive for you, because we aren’t skilled in noticing the little things, the tiny improvements and shifts that add up to larger changes over time. Science backs this up – it’s called change blindness, and it’s the reason why we don’t really notice how much our children have grown, or when someone makes a small change in their appearance. (The number of times I’ve heard of men shaving their beard and their families taking days to notice is h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s.)

You need to build the habit of noticing small improvement.

Change blindness is real, and it inhibits our ability to appreciate the impact of small adjustments in our circumstances. Surely these little shifts are just drops in the bucket, we think, and look for something bigger that will make a “real” difference.

What you’ll discover throughout the upcoming months and years, however, is that there are about 100 times more opportunities for making small improvements than there are for larger ones. And the odds of making smaller changes stick is significantly higher than larger ones, because math. Turning the lights off when you leave the room is easier and faster than getting someone in for a home energy audit and installing new windows.

So it stands to reason that focusing on the little things will get you more traction on making your business easier to run, and will keep your feet in constant motion on the path. Slow and steady really does win the race.

Now, about that constant motion… how does it happen? How do we locate those hundred-fold opportunities to eliminate hard stuff from our business and life?

We play a little game of hide-and-seek.

I’ll go first.

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, and writing this piece isn’t feeling easy at all. This is my third draft – I threw the other two away, because they just weren’t working. And so I’m sitting in my chair, trying to make it work for the third time, and I’m feeling frustrated. Writing feels hard.

This is where most of us stop – not with the writing, but the describing. We say something generalized, like writing is hard, or Facebook is hard, or rebranding our website is hard… and we leave it at that. On the surface, it seems correct. Doing “the thing” is hard.

But “the thing” isn’t just one thing.

It’s a lot of things in one package, a big whack of steps and pieces that we call a “thing” for the sake of convenience. We call a salad a salad, because it would be ridiculous to call it a pile of lettuce and tomatoes and onions and cucumbers and peppers and pecans topped with balsamic vinaigrette. We don’t need to think about the components.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We don’t need to think about the components when everything is GOOD. You can simply say “this salad is delicious”, and your dining companions will say “that’s great.” End of story.

But when everything is not good, we want to know why. If you say the salad doesn’t taste right, that something’s off, we want to know what is off. Has the dressing soured? Are the cucumbers blue? We play a little game of hide and seek to figure out the source of the problem. (Especially if we’re also eating the same salad.)

When something is wrong with the salad, it’s not “the salad”. It’s something inside the salad, one of the parts of the whole.

Remembering this will make your journey to “easy” go faster and… well, easier.

So, back to the writing.

I’m in my chair, thinking that writing feels hard, and so I begin a game of hide and seek. I start looking at all the little ingredients that make up writing.

Writing itself isn’t hard. I do that for a living, and sometimes it’s very easy indeed. So scratch that.

Writing this piece isn’t actually the hard part. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, and I know my core point. So take that off the list, too.

The introduction was pretty easy. I already know how I’m going to close it out. So nope, not there, either.

(Where is this hard part hiding, anyway? We’re losing daylight here!)

Eventually, after a little more seeking, I figure it out.

Writing isn’t hard. Writing this piece isn’t hard. Making my example work is the hard part. I had this example about atoms and how all your tasks and projects are made up of little atoms and then I got into science and it just wasn’t working.

Writing wasn’t the hard part. Forcing my analogy to work was hard. That’s the step that was tripping me up.

So I decided to change it to salad, and that ended up working. By finding the step of the process that was hard, I could make that the process one step easier. Just write about salad instead of atoms.

This is what hide-and-seek is all about – looking around, looking at the details until you ferret out where the difficulty is presenting itself. You’ll always find something specific – and because it’s specific, it’s an easier problem to solve.

As you look at your tasks and projects over time, you’ll run into two kinds of situations where this hide-and-seek methodology will help you.

The first situation happens when you are stuck at a standstill, like in my writing example. Sometimes you’ll encounter a roadblock and it will be too difficult to surmount. You’ll have to make that hard step easier by replacing it with something else. In that case you’re making one step easier by changing the step entirely.

The second situation happens when the thing you’re doing is just plain hard to do. It’s draining or taxing or frustrating or takes forever. We play the same hide-and-seek game with this scenario, but with a slightly different angle. Instead of replacing the step, we adjust our approach so that the step itself is just one degree easier to execute.

Again, I’ll go first.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I post pictures of cats giving business advice. There are three cats per week, which adds up to 156 separate pieces of business advice that I need to fill the year’s calendar. Because I hate open loops, I decided to batch the project and write out all 156 posts up front.

Writing 156 standalone pieces of business advice is hard and exhausting. Well, again, that’s not entirely true. Writing them is work. Choosing them, coming up with the ideas and the topics and the oh-my-god-I-hate-this was the real hard part, if we’re going to get all hide-and-seek about it. One hour into the project and I hated myself, I hated cats, I hated business and I certainly hated Instagram.

Yeah, that’s not going to work.

So here’s what I ultimately did.

I wrote down a list of 26 words, words like leadership and productivity and strategy and networking and delegation. Just a big list of random words that pertained to business in general.

Then I set about generating 6 pieces of advice for each word. 6 separate tips on leadership. 6 on productivity. 6 on strategy, and so on, until I was done.

It was still a lot of work. It wasn’t easy like eating brownies is easy. But before I came up with my word list, it was pulling-teeth-out-of-my-own-head-wearing-motorcycle-gloves levels of hard, and it was boring and tiring and hateful to boot.

But! When I made the change, the deciding part got a little bit easier. Instead of 156 arbitrary decisions and the constant wondering of “is this a good topic?”, I just had to pick 6 things that fit a predefined topic.

The work was still the work, but now it was one step easier.

Sometimes, One Step Easier makes things possible. Other times, it simply makes them a little bit more enjoyable. You’ll experience both as you move along your journey.

Always keep this question on the tip of your tongue:

If you keep this one question in the back of your mind – How can I make this one step easier? – you’ll be able to call upon it every time you’re dealing with something that feels hard. You can begin the game of hide-and-seek right away, and that will let you find an answer that makes an immediate difference to you today.

If writing is taxing because your chair is always uncomfortable, you can get a different chair, or find a different place to sit, and make the process of writing one step easier, one step less taxing.

If facing your inbox is overwhelming because deciding how to prioritize your emails makes you crazy, you can start at the top and work your way down (or start at the bottom and work your up). Make one decision instead of dozens, and make the process of answering email one step easier, one step less overwhelming.

If cleaning the cat litter thoroughly sucks on all fronts, even just putting a little roll of baggies beside the box means at least you don’t have to find a freaking bag every time. One step easier. Just one step.

Everything you do in your life and in your business can be made one step easier.

And you don’t have to be a master strategist to figure out how to do it. All you really need to do is practice being mindful as you go about your activities each day.

Every so often, as you’re working, ask yourself “Is this hard right now?”.

If the answer is yes, then stop what you’re doing, step back, and begin a little game of hide-and-seek. Find out what’s hard, and ask yourself how you could make it just one tiny step easier.

Once you do this a few times, it will become addictive. Your tolerance for difficult will drop through the floor, because you’ll become more and more aware of how quickly you can make things even one step easier than it is right now.

Then the steps start adding up pretty fast. It becomes a game you love to play.

And before you know it, you’ll begin to see the first glimmers of your easy-to-run business on the horizon.

Things you can do next!