A CEO's Job Is a Messy Job

The job of a CEO is messy. When everyone else wants to keep things stable, they can always count on you to shake things up, to force positive change.

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.

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.

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.