I am ashamed to admit that in life I am entirely unorganised.
I am the mother who never has spare clothes, babywipes or nappies with her, let alone luxury items such as tissues. I am the daughter from whom gifts are always late and cards are always ‘winging their way’ during the customary birthday phone call. I am the partner who never remembers the household staples but always remembers the scented candles and hoisin sauce. And, regrettably, I am the friend who never has paracetamol and is always beginning each communication with an apology for forgetting to communicate in the first place.
It would be easy to think that my life must be in utter chaos but actually it’s far from it. You see in life Darren seems to naturally have it covered for both of us. Whilst I would of course get through the day without him, his seamless organisational skills lead to less scrapes and inconvenient happenings.
It begins with our morning routine. Somewhere in the time I manage to go for a run, get ready, chat to the kids and ignore the very concept of breakfast, a vitamin tablet and glass of juice find their way to me, the kids are fed and looking relatively clean, Darren is ready and still prompting me to grab breakfast as we dash out the door.
Although often effortlessly on my part, our day-to-day family life generally runs like clockwork; organised and perfectly managed. Our cupboards are continually stocked with the typical family staples and our fruit bowl is overflowing, none of which I can take credit for. Even on a recent child-free camping trip where I spent the journey intermittently panicking over small necessities I hadn’t had the sense to think of at home, I had the resounding reassurance that all was taken care of. This from the man who once told me he was unorganised!
What I didn’t expect was that in work this would be entirely flipped on its head. It seems I save every fibre of my organisational skills for the workplace, whilst Darren is acutely aware of how unorganised he is that he puts his vested effort into life itself (I refuse to believe his side of the story – that he has had to become more organised since I blustered into his life). I spent our first few weeks working together anxiously trying not to say anything if I felt he was starting to go off-piste with what we’d agreed to prioritise. As I worried about structure, lists and generally ticking off what we had to do, he would randomly go off on a tangent of new ideas. Exciting and creative but worrying to the one who knew Freshspace wouldn’t last two minutes if her own chaotic flakiness took hold.
To me his sudden and random exploration of new opportunities through a rapid series of googling, matched the chaos of my own inability to select the correct shopping list out of the scores of old ones which are preventing my bag from being able to close.
On the face of it things had looked good. He had a number of organisational tricks set up from the off including Trello, Dropbox, Evernote, Toggl…I could go on. Prior to diving in with both feet I’d been nervous about replacing my trusty notebook and ‘Will Do’ lists for what I considered to be unnecessarily complex technology but as I got my head around it I could see how this would really work for us.
Well, that was until I realised that even with structure and lists and a whole bunch of organisational tools, sparkle and excitement still dragged my business partner away with it on a frequent basis. So I bit my tongue, aware that the night before he had come home to blow out yet another candle I’d left burning in an empty house, and that morning he’d probably remembered the keys which I only thought to ask about once the door slammed shut behind us. I was in no place to question someone else’s organisational skills so I would soothe myself with the knowledge that he had been self-employed before so likely had a greater handle on this than me and that actually, in the midst of the chaos the standard of work being produced and level of client satisfaction was exactly where we would want it to be, if not better.
Nevertheless there is a reason one of life’s key lessons is not to bottle things up and I am nothing if not a good student. Not to mention a project manager so I couldn’t let this chaos go on, albeit organised chaos. As far as we recall it was a relatively civilised discussion and I don’t think there are any repressed memories of shouting, glass throwing or hysterical crying. What we do remember is from that point everything changed. Our day finally had the structure that helped me sleep better at night but with room for creativity and productivity. This was not about being overly disciplined but getting the absolute best out of ourselves and Freshspace.
The level of structure exercised is not necessarily focused on the 8 hour day as a whole but on the way our day begins, setting us up for a more productive day and a hopefully successful future in the longterm. Our morning now looks like this:
Trello List Update: With coffee, and sometimes a pastry, we run through our respective Trello lists. A 5 minute job. For those of you who are the slave to the notebook like I used to be (and secretly still mourn), Trello is in my mind, an online ‘to do’ list but spans so much wider. We prioritise for the day, agreeing an appropriate order for the list, and prompt each other about anything which should be on there that isn’t. It’s our way of keeping track and being sure that we’re getting things done. Now that it is accurately updated and followed I am so much more relaxed. Plus I’m achieving my aim of not nagging – both voices are heard from the off.
Emails: We quietly disappear into ourselves as we check and respond to emails. The bizarre spam we receive deserves a mention although the detail is probably best avoided.
Freshspace Website: Something that got lost in the noise was the redesign of our temporary website to something which was more substantial. We both agreed that this was crucial in demonstrating what Freshspace is about so we became more disciplined. We section off exactly 1 hour every morning where we focus solely on identifying who we are, where we’re going and how we want to come across. What we worried would get in the way of ‘real work’ is actually enjoyable. We exercise our creativity and remind ourselves what we’re all about.
To Work: And then we crack on.
We decided Freshspace would be stronger if we did it together with what we consider being complimentary skillsets. Initially we thought this was solely our work experience but as it turns out, it is much more than that.
It’s not as simple as he’s organised in life and I’m organised in work. In fact there are elements we both get right. Darren could tell you everything you need to know about the precise status of Freshspace when it comes to invoicing and cash flow. Meanwhile having spent almost 5 years in procurement under the ‘Finance’ banner, I am happy to keep my hands off and leave it to the expert. Yet our spreadsheets are all up-to-date with status notes, not because we’re both remembering to maintain the basic admin, but because I’m hounding him to make sure it’s done.
Our skillset is certainly complimentary. How either of us got this far solo I’m not sure but now it feels like things are in order and it’s sorted.
And if you ever do spot us in the supermarket – him dashing around business like with a trolley full of cereal and kitchen roll, me wandering around with a crumpled shopping list and swinging a basket full of obscure but luxurious items – just remember that all is not what it seems, I know exactly what we’re having for dinner over the next three nights while he’s still trying to figure out what to do for lunch.