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Which Systems Do You Need To Fix First?

If you are in a complete and utter mess, putting a system in place makes things manageable and doable. Marina Darlow, an expert in systems, joins The Next 100 Days Podcast for the second time and discusses how emotions and systems interweave.

systems, systems and emotions, business systems, adhd and systems

Marina has launched a new course and set up her own podcast.

Better at Business. Listen to Marina here:

ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Marina works with visionaries who she often finds are somewhere on the ADHD spectrum! Most of her clients have diagnosed or undiagnosed ADHD. They are all creative, active and visionary. Enough to start a business and make something of it. Yet, on the other hand, they are often the people who struggle with systems and linear processes. As Marina is expert in systems and linear processes, they are attracted to her.

She loves them. They are the most fun, inspiring and unpredictable people you can think of.


Graham mentioned mentoring a young man who is very likely to be on the ADHD spectrum. As part of the volunteering, the authorities offered training in Mindfulness. Fascinating experience, provided by a lovely lady called Barbara – who sat the volunteers down. Sitting down the volunteers were walked through a technique. Close to hypnosis, completely calmed and centred. It was like that moment when you drop off to sleep. An unburdening exercise.

Would a young person react to this training environment. Marina thinks mindfulness is catching up from elementary schools to prisoners (Graham scurrilously said he’s a mixture of those!). She cautions to be clear about who you’d associate with in this space as there is a ‘ton of woo’ stuff. This was a technique to clear your mind. One where you focus on a specific or even nothing at all. These kinds of techniques, can be effective on multiple levels.

Marina cautions that these techniques may have their audiences – corporate CEOs? Maybe, maybe not. Tree-huggers – probably. Graham is neither. Allow yourself to be open to the techniques. Don’t be too scientific. They are worth pursuing.

Systems and Emotions

Marina puts systems in place for people. Which means, she tells them how to track their money, and she goes into the depths of their cash flow. She creates a systems plan with them and reviews their accomplishments over time. So then, she will look into their CRM and see if it is working. And finally, Marina discovers if their data is organised.

You’d think it’s a regimented, boring, linear job.  When confronted with our own mess, we react emotionally.

Cash-flow. Marina will look at their income streams and expenses. Then clients realise they aren’t making enough money. They also might be spending too much money.

People don’t react well to the fact that they are NOT solvent!

Her client had two businesses and wanted more time to be devoted to painting. Marina helped her organise her time. To deliver her services so that she hit her financial goals. It only left 2 hours to paint! Marina’s client went into a tail-spin. It was like a 3 year old’s tantrum!

“I’m not going to let go of my painting. I need it for my sanity.” (Sound familiar?).

Marina’s task was to persuade her client that she needed to forgo things in her life. They discussed how the client could meet her financial goals in fewer hours per week. They raised her prices.

It’s THAT moment. When you realise how hard it is going to be.

Monitoring Systems

You need to check in with your systems on a regular basis. It’s the only way to keep things in check. Checking allows you to catch things when they are small.

Marina often finds that her clients have no systems. At least, they have no good systems. A good system puts everything in view. It gives you a true picture. When people see the true picture, tantrums happen.


  1. Put the system in.
  2. Look at what that’s revealed.
  3. Put it right.

With step 1, we have talked about MONEY and TIME.

What sort of systems do we need?

With money you need systems for cash-flow, budgeting and sales.

Time is your calendar and reminders (micro) and managing your projects (macro).

A great place to learn HOW to deal with where you start is Marina’s FREE COURSE:

Sign up for the free course here:

Free Course - Systems

Sign up for the FREE COURSE on Systems right here!

It’s a mini course, it walks you step by step into systems for every aspect of your business.

Marina’s Recommended Tools:

Smartsheets –

(a smart way to cheat time!)

Google Calendar – (Marina sets up reminders on her phone)

Asana – (actually her clients like it, but Marina is not a fan, because she prefers the visually of Gantt charts.)

Trello – (not her thing, because it is hard for her to see dependencies, but plenty of people like collaborating with this tool)

Microsoft Project – (got Marina her first job!)

How to Get From Funk to Good to Go?

Marina is practised at taking a mess of ideas and usually put them in order. Tease out a step by step from point a to point b. Maybe from conception to launch. Do I need kickstarter, or alternative funding, what are my alternatives? Marina unravels the ball of wool.

It takes systems. She systematises mess. Taking a pile of ideas and structuring them.

Apps and programmes – an app is a tool that you’d build a system around. Says Kevin. A system has 2 key components. One is a tool or a container and the other is a procedure to use this container. If you have an app to record you getting fit, and you don’t work out several times a week, the app itself will not help you get fit. If you don’t run or make yourself go to the gym, the tools will not work. Your system cannot work without a procedure.

Finance software tool too. You need emotional commitment. Marina meshes emotion with systems. Marina points out that it can work both ways. Sometimes systems can help emotions.

The Rock Climbing System

Marina described the early stages of attending the gym. The system in this process can help you make your emotions more positive. As she kept going her skills improved. Gradually she started to see improvements.  You call your friend, get in the car, do your warm up and cool down. Every time you do something the system shows you that you are good, you don’t suck as much.

In rock climbing the degree of challenge are known as routes. A baby could manage a 5.4 route. The most elite climber might manage a 5.15. Gradually, climbers get through these numbers. Every route is a victory. A clear metric exists to show you where you are at. You are in control and you can change things. A system shows you what you have accomplished.

Great article on rock climbing terminology here:

From Despair to Hope

Before people are able to deal with their problems, things get worse first. Be prepared, at first for a while things get worse. After a while, you need to ask yourself have things get easier. Book a date next month and ask yourself whether things are still so bad.

You need a buddy. A mastermind could be useful here. This will help you to get over the initial period. A friend helps you. Especially, someone you respect.

Entrepreneurial Stress

Are you unnecessarily innovating? Could you find new uses for existing products.

Adjacent boxes. Here’s the adjacent boxes, otherwise known as Deloitte’s Growth Framework.

Growth Framework - Adjacent Boxes

Deloitte’s Growth Framework

The burden of inventing what is not their core idea is too great. There is a huge number of variables that can lead to potential failure. Re-inventing the wheel is so hard.

Avoid the stress!

New Year’s Resolutions

99% of them don’t work. People who follow through on their decisions do not need a New Year’s Resolution. Going to lose weight? Yet you’ve probably just got a load of chocolate for Christmas presents. Planning to throw that away?

Marina advises you should set small steps. That’s because they don’t come with a system.

Marina has a Business Coach

She is called Naomi Dunford. Here is how you can learn more.

Take the Short FREE COURSE

Expect to execute on systems. You’ll identify where to get started.

The Next 100 Days Podcast is brought to you by Graham Arrowsmith and Kevin Appleby