Albert Einstein once pointed out that everything should be made as simple as possible—but no simpler. This certainly can be applied to any business that wants to keep its equilibrium.

For most entrepreneurs, that requires constant vigilance since a business can become complicated and cumbersome in the blink of an eye. Here are some guidelines to keep that from happening.

° Make simplicity a goal. It’s not enough to say you want to simplify your business. Identify specific measurable results that will indicate that you have made your systems, marketing, accounting, etc. as simple as possible.

° Work on one profit center at a time. Give a single project your full attention by keeping papers or items related to other projects out of sight. When it’s time to move on to the next project, stash things related to the last project in a file or closet or drawer.

° Avoid confusion. “Clutter and messy work areas cause confusion and irritability,” observes Alexandra Stoddard. “Give your mind a spa and take some time out to rearrange your office. Block off a few hours on your calendar and use the time to putter. Edit out the unnecessary.”

° Identify spendthrift behavior and eliminate it. New gadgets and technologies can be seductive, but refuse to purchase anything for your business unless it makes a positive contribution.

° Keep projects separate. If you manage several profit centers, color code the work in each of them for ease in locating and filing.

° Keep a single calendar. A portable system is ideal. If you write appointments, deadlines, etc. in several locations, you’ll waste time transferring them from place to place.

° Hire a professional organizer to help you develop the best system for you. Make certain you understand how to maintain it as easily as possible.

° Clean out your computer and cabinet files at regular intervals. Make a note on your calendar every 60 or 90 days to tidy up so things don’t accumulate.

° Designate space. My grandmother’s favorite saying was, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” As I’ve discovered, uncluttering is as much about creating places as it is about throwing away.

°  Identify your nemesis and make a special effort to deal with that. Going after the biggest problem—and solving it—often makes solving lesser problems a snap.

Some people become giddy when working with numbers. I am not one of them. However, that doesn’t mean I ignore them.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to put numbers to work for you. Assigning a number to a project can help you focus and, also, give you a finish line. Open-ended goals have a way of never reaching completion. Here are a few ways to make numbers part of your tool kit.

 Pick a number under ten and use it as a goal setting guide. For me, it’s the number five. You might prefer three or six. Then instead of thinking, “I need to get more clients,” set a short term goal to get three (or whatever your favorite number is) new clients. Of course, you can repeat this exercise as often as you like, but your chances for success increase enormously when you work with a smaller number.

 Bird by bird. Small is manageable. I learned this years ago when I was floundering around trying to get my speaking business launched without much success. Then I met a successful, but unhurried, seminar leader who told me that her business plan was, “Do one, book one.” As soon as she finished a program, she’d spend time marketing her services until she’d booked just one more. It kept her business flowing without overwhelming her. It’s been a policy I have used ever since with great success.

 Challenge your imagination. Stumped about your next steps? Challenge yourself (and your subconscious mind) by asking an idea-generating question such as, “What are three ways I can grow my business right now?” Or “Who are four people I could collaborate with?”

Numbers work equally well for subtracting things from your life you no longer want. Instead of trying to unclutter your life all at once, for example, get rid of nine things a day until the job is done.

 Pick a number, any number, and then pick one of the projects listed below. 

 * Ways to get into the conversation

* Books to add to your library

* New profit centers to design

* Things to study

* New adventures to schedule

* Self-bossers to invite to breakfast

* Fresh marketing tools to create

* Media interviews to book

* Non-essentials to eliminate

* Ways to support other entrepreneurs

* Articles to publish

 Add your own projects to the list—and  then get busy making them happen.


I got this e-mail today and as I was answering it, I got thinking there might be other readers feeling the same way. So here’s the question and how I answered it:

I’m planning to take your upcoming class on goalsetting. I feel like I’m not sure how/what can make me focus better. I wonder if it’s even possible for me to accomplish such a path sometimes. I find I tend to feel bad not to spend time with family and friends or my mind gets lost in worrying about them or pleasing them, etc…or taking time at 10pm at night to watch Donny Deutsch… or go do other things. How do you and the others really achieve all of this stuff and find time for everything else?

I know you get a lot of emailings from a wide range of personal growth teachers. Maybe Step One for you is to really decide what is most valuable–even rank all those emailing as A, B, C–and unsubscribe from the Cs. Only look at the Bs if you have buckets of time to spend. (This advice comes from a fine classic by Alan Lakein called How To Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.)

Secondly, do you have a theme, an organizing principle? It sounds as if Simplify! might be fitting for the next 90 days. Then every activity, invitation, distraction is held up to that mirror. Does it take me closer or farther away from a simpler, richer life?

It’s sorting again. A, B, C.

Also, if cleaning up your office is a starting point (and it’s a good one) do it with the spirit of William Morris who famously said, “Have nothing in your houses that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Physical clutter is often very connected to mental clutter. It’s also easier to handle. So if you tackle that project with the intention of getting rid of anything that’s not fabulous or meaningful or representative of who you are right now, you’re bound to get free of some of the mental stuff that’s also keeping you stuck.

If you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your family and friends, for instance, talk to them and negotiate something that works. Tell them you need to focus on laying a foundation for your business and ask them how you can spend time with them in a way that’s satisfying, but not excessive. A special day or gathering every few weeks may be a better solution than regular, but not so festive, times together. Then when you are together, you’re really there and not thinking about things you need to be working on.

Then there’s this fine quote from Jim Loehr who has a book on storytelling: Life is enriched because of the commitment, passion and focus we give it, not the time we give it.