A CEO's Job Is a Messy Job

I'm an organized person. Actually, that's probably a massive understatement. I've obsessed over personal productivity for 15 years, and created systems to organize my rather chaotic life. Living messy is hard for me, and I constantly need to remind myself that often times, its my job to mess things up.

Here's the thing about valuable people. They always have too much to do. It's a simple case of cause and effect. When you are valuable to others, they want and need more of you. This doesn't scale. The more people learn to depend on you, the less able you are to help them.

As CEO, there's nothing more valuable than your time. Your time is your ability to help. It's why we say "thanks for your time" when someone serves you. Time is everything.

And so, to be valuable to many people, in a finite amount of time, things fall apart. It's physics, there's just no getting around it. You can't fit it all in. And so, we create a huge mess.

  • We are late to meetings, and not in the totally excusable 5 min "sorry for the traffic" late. Seriously late.
  • We drop the ball on promises. Things that really matter to real people you care about.
  • We make silly mistakes by taking shortcuts. Personally, I'm guilty of delegating things to my team without good expectations.

You're probably thinking that I'm a crazy person. With some better GTD coaching, better delegating, and great supporting staff this would be much more controllable, right? Surely executing more effectively would give you more time back, right? Not so. I've been deluding myself with this argument most of my career.

Here's the truth. Better productivity systems, organization and staff are critical tools, but they make you more productive. That means you can serve more people with your time, but it only overload your plate even more. You become more like a stunt car driver than a civilian driver. Barreling at high speeds, fast turns, unknown obstacles, and an occasional crash. When you drive fast, no matter how experienced, you make a mess.

Intentional Mess Making

You don't always get the luxury of executing the projects in front of you. Rather, its your job to decide what initiatives need to happen. You are a strategist.

And so, you can really shake things up in your organization. You come up with a new idea and toss it to the team to catch. They aren't always ready. After all, you didn't have time to comprehensively prepare them for this project, did you?

As long as you pick these moments wisely, the team will grow stronger and the company more valuable with each mess they inherit.

So, what do we do?

There are a few things we can do:

  1. Never give up your pursuit of productivity. This is not a reason to stop trying to organize. Remember, these systems do make you more productive.
  2. Hire and work with a great assistant. Delegate the mess. Empower them to find the most important content for you.
  3. Most importantly, surrender to the mess. Don't let it stress you out. Stress will kill you, literally. We need you, so stay calm.
Related Articles
How to use the Eisenhower Matrix to manage results.

Have you ever met someone so productive that they accomplish more in a week that would take others months to do? It’s not a secret; it’s their fierce personal discipline in control of what they spend their time and energy focused on.

We all have the same 168 hours each week. That includes you, me, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Walt Disney and Andrew Carnegie. We are all plagued by the same limits of time.

If you bring the same ferocity to your own work, you can accomplish just as much.

Read Article
How to be productive when there’s too much to do

There are times when the world beneath you seems like a treadmill, and you just can't run fast enough to keep up.

Read Article
Learning to Trust

How do you decide if you should trust someone? Do you trust by default, or does someone have to earn your trust? What factors go into that decision?

What if I told you that this way of thinking, that you can consciously decide who to trust, is one of the most damaging aspects of your professional mind?

Read Article
More Articles
Related Books
The Effective Executive by: Peter F. Drucker
The 12 Week Year by: Brian P. Moran
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by: Stephen R. Covey
The Essential Drucker by: Peter F. Drucker