Certain types of “messy” are all right with me. I expect a jumbled first draft when writing, or some kitchen chaos and studio disarray when I’m creating. It’s always been my style to fall into creative mode without caring about the chaos. But I’ve recently discovered that, when it comes to a new business project, I have an entirely different set of expectations.

When designing products, for example, I prefer things to move along smoothly after the initial piecing-together stage. Still, even with the help of my trusty white board, dry erase colors, and planner, sometimes they just don’t.

This double standard was unveiled to me recently, as I did some “winter cleaning.” I caught sight of my bookcase with its vertical book rows all topped with horizontal stacks. (I have a hard time parting with books.) I thought about just dusting and moving on, but opted to dive in and purge.

While sorting and organizing, I came across a small, slightly yellowed paperback: “Art And Fear,” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I flipped it open and started reading about the process of innovation. The authors were describing how disorganized, difficult and seemingly imperfect the whole creative process is for just about everyone. I love the example they gave: Tolstoy rewriting “War and Peace” seven times . . . by hand!

I felt a big wave of relief wash over me, but I wasn’t sure why. It took me a few moments to connect the dots between what I was feeling and a few business projects I was practically ignoring. I realized that, although I enjoy working multiple projects at once, I had a pattern of stepping back from a project when I found myself staring at muddled progress.

In the past, I had valued the time that postponing them gave me. I could use it to go inward— to feel-out my intuition, giving it a chance to tell me if the idea was still viable, and if so, what needed changing to help ease the toil. But now I felt sure that there was more to this pattern of project postponing.

Going with my sudden impulse to step away from the book case beautification, I took a quick look at one of the projects I had on hold. There had been no intuitive “hits” on this one, so it just lay dormant, waiting for me to revive it. With this fresh look, I immediately recognized what often stalls my energy and interest. The truth is, I become disappointed in, and distracted by, how “messy” some projects become.

When planning this one, and others, I had projected ahead, seeing simple, smooth paths to completion. When I’d come head-to-head with confusion, I tended to judge myself (after all, it was my idea), the project and even my abilities, based solely on the fact that things weren’t going as orderly as I had envisioned. This was a light bulb moment for me!

Armed with my new reminder about the inherent nature of creative endeavors, I felt light and inspired. I looked over my project’s process map and found myself rearranging some steps. When I was done, I felt an immediate sense of relief!

Since then, I’ve done two things:

  • Dropped my “double standard” by opening to the juiciness of jumbled creations outside of the kitchen and studio.
  • Created an “Assess My Mess” form and put some assess-my-mess dates in my planner.

I believe taking time for these project inventories is a good investment—and not just in my business. My peace of mind will carry over into my personal life, where I also plan to look to any projects that are stalled out.

I’m at home with my new approach to project procrastination. Instead of feeling I need to avoid my ventures-in-the-void, I look forward to reviewing their plans and process maps with an inspired eye— starting with the messiest one first!

Author's Bio: 

Valerie Thomson, Effortless Life Coach, and author provides doable solutions for women entrepreneurs and solo-professionals wanting to achieve, sustain and enjoy healthier, more meaningful success. Pick up a complimentary copy of her “Assess the Mess” inventory