Social change work is hard and frustrating and wonderful and terrible; it is also, at times, funny, quirky and just plain fascinating. With this blog we hope to capture all that goes into what we do at Capital Good Fund, and we invite you to join the conversation!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Empty Inbox And Calendar - What To Do?

Photo Credit: John-Morgan
On most days I barely have time to think.  The hours pass by in a procession of emails and phone calls to respond to, checks to sign, reports to file, proposals to write, meetings to attend; and by the end of the day I am both exhausted and have the unshakable feeling that I "never got to work on the important stuff."  So I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in the office this morning and see virtually nothing on my Google calendar and very little in my inbox.  "Finally," I thought, "I can get caught up on bigger projects."

Well it's now 5 PM and my pleasant surprise has turned into surprising displeasure.  It appears that I've become so accustomed to always having an immediate task in front of me that I become lost when a window of time opens up.  I think we forget how hard it is to log out of your email, close your office door, turn off your phone and work on a longer-term initiative. In my case, for instance, I'm working on writing a prospectus for a Direct Public Offering (DPO), the goal of which is for us to raise funds by borrowing money from individuals, religious endowments, foundations and financial institutions.
The creation of this prospectus is of critical importance to me, as I view it to be the only way we'll ever raise the funds we need to get on a path to significant scale and, eventually, financial self-sufficiency.  We can talk until we're blue in the face about solving social problems, but we're kidding ourselves if we think that serving 1,000 people per year is going to do it (for more of my thoughts on the importance of scale, check out 'Make That Investment Now' and 'The Math of Social Change').  In any event, the fundamental is why, then, have I spent the last few hours twiddling my thumbs and then writing about it?

It's Like Candy!
Photo Credit: Lapolab
I believe there are two primary reasons.  First, we clearly all love the instant appeal of a text message, Facebook like, retweet or email.  In fact, I bet an fMRI scan would show certain parts of our brain lighting up with each notification--probably the same parts that go nuts when we take drugs or have sex.  Slowly working through a prospectus can hardly compete with that!  Second, and tied to the first reason, is that long-term projects are just plain hard: you don't get that satisfaction up-front, and it can therefore be difficult to motivate yourself.

The only answer I can think of is to break down the task into smaller, more manageable chunks.  For me, this will mean saying that tomorrow I will generate all of our portfolio performance data, and on Friday I will write an overview of the competitive landscape in the consumer lending business.  I find that listing out the tasks in a way that allows you to check off a box when they are complete can be quite rewarding.  Also, there's a lot of research showing that peer pressure works wonders at holding you accountable (I highly recommend reading 'Join The Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World').  Simply telling others that you are going to do a marathon in August or complete a prospectus by September can make a big difference; after all, once it's out there, you either do it or look like a putz (and as I wrote in my previous post, you definitely don't want to look like a putz!).

Do you have any other pieces of advice to share?  How do you break down large projects and get them done on-time?  Any tips for how to stay motivated?

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big believer in taking walks and letting your brain do free association. It's amazing what answers pop up. Dickens walked hours a day and kept all those complicated plots in his head.