Do you "RAISE MONEY" or "raise money"?
Today’s guest post is written by Nathan Anderson, Director of Operations here at Patron Technology.Getting Things Done and Merlin Mann, who hosts the podcast Back to Work on the 5×5 Network. This post is inspired by their work. If you care about why work is hard, I recommend you read the book and listen to the show.
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During a recent business trip, a colleague and I met with clients and discussed a “day in the life” of their organization. We were there to help them use our technology as a tool to solve their everyday work problems.
When we asked the development team “What’s the hardest thing you do?” the answer predictably came back as “RAISING MONEY” — that big “capital letter” issue we know so many organizations struggle with. Since we were there to help with technology, the answer brought some laughs as something we could conceivably do anything about. But, after the chuckles died down, we said, “Let’s go with that. How do you raise money right now? Talk us through it.”
“Raising money” is not a simple problem to solve. Like many of our responsibilities, it’s layered and potentially complex. But what would happen if we made all the tasks that surround the goal of “raising money” easier? What if we knew that every step we took along the way to finally getting that signed check was the right step, taken at the right time, in the right way? Isn’t it possible that one of the reasons “raising money” is SO hard is because your time and attention are constantly being diverted, instead of staying focused on actually… raising money?
Only once you start being honest with yourself about the real scope and makeup of your work can you begin to effectively manage your priorities, and give yourself permission to implement a system that will let you control which things are taking up your time and attention.
What I have below is a starting point for acknowledging that there might be a better way to do the things you need or want to do.
When’s the last time you considered how you do the hardest thing you do? Actually, forget the “hardest” part of that sentence. When’s the last time you considered how you do anything you do?
Troubleshooting is asking yourself tons of questions. Question everything you do in a day that feels rote, out of place, or like a speed bump. This thing that takes you five minutes every day? What if it took 30 seconds instead? Better question: Do you even know how long things take? These are the kinds of questions we started asking when we were told “RAISING MONEY” was hard.
What else bounces around in your brain? Your grocery list? Your squeaky desk chair? That stuck “E” key on your 15-year-old keyboard that you don’t really like anyway? Those things are diverting your focus and getting in the way of you doing what you theoretically want to be doing — the place where you want your time and attention to be.
Troubleshooting allows you to specifically consider what it is you’re doing now, so that you can eventually either change it or come to peace with it.
Your troubleshooting will likely lead you to actionable items and projects. You then have to integrate those items with all the other inputs you receive daily. By “inputs” I mean tasks from your boss, your family, your colleagues, your email inbox… you get it. Allocate those items into what David Allen would call “context-specific” lists. Meaning: You can’t take out the family trash while you’re at the office, so you need to be reminded of “take out the trash” while you’re at home, not while you’re at work, where being reminded to schedule the annual fundraiser meeting is what’s actually important.
Raising money is hard. So give your brain a way to treat it with the attention it deserves. Don’t let it frolic with the bananas on your grocery list.
After you’ve done some troubleshooting and allocating, you then have to DO something. In order to do things, you must know what things there are to do, or else you won’t do them, and you certainly won’t improve how you do them. Good systems will allow you to see what you need to do and where you need to do it.
By “systemize” I mean acquire the combination of a tool (like a “to-do” list app or a CRM system) and a philosophical method (like “Getting Things Done”). There are endless ways to make sure you’re doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. Just keep in mind that any system needs to be at your service. It shouldn’t require (as Merlin would say) constant “fiddling.” It should be easy to manipulate and easy for your brain to understand. You don’t want your tools and your methods to be the new thing your time and attention are going to!
We have so many inputs, and our brains think we don’t have enough time for output. Well, our brains are wrong. We just have to tell them what we care about. Good systems will facilitate that.
Back to David and Merlin
David’s “Getting Things Done” system will help you troubleshoot and allocate if you commit to it. Read the book. It’s a system, not a weight-loss pill — and it’s not for everyone, but if you’re at all interested in rethinking the way you work, it’s worth a read.
On his show Back to Work, Merlin goes into (seemingly) all the problems (both literal and philosophical) that any one person could possibly have while working. He may not fix what specifically ails you, but he will absolutely get you to consider that what you’ve been doing isn’t working, and yet: there’s a tremendous amount of hope for you. I always recommend starting with episode #5: Chigger Bites on the Bus Driver.
We want to “work smarter,” but more importantly, we don’t want to be confused by what work we have to do. If you feel you’re not in control of your own work life, or you simply want to get better at it, David and Merlin might be helpful for you.
So… how do you raise money?
In the end, “RAISING MONEY” should be “raising money” without all the stress and anxiety. You will notice that the work is still there to do. So, if the hardest thing you do is raising money, make sure the problem isn’t about how you do it. And then, if you just don’t like it… well, that’s an entirely different blog post.
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