I don’t know if “worrying” is the right word, but since leaving the incubator program and beginning the building phase of PARCELD, I can’t shake this feeling. This feeling is the result of crossing things off my checklist, but feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything. it is also the result of feeling like baby steps aren’t enough, like I should be accomplishing great things every day. Of course, we know this is not how companies are built.
I even have a post-it note next to my work space with a quote from James Dyson (founder and CEO of the Dyson company), that reads: “There is no such thing as a quantum leap. There is only dogged persistence, and in the end, you make it look like a quantum leap.”
I keep referring back to this quote as I sit down in front of an Excel doc and map out my heat map for brands and retailers, or create a timeline in Asana. These things don’t feel like founder activities, and this is perhaps the result of the somewhat frothy coverage of startups circulating the internet. But I keep referring to this quote because it’s true. Instagram was mediocre as Burbn, Pinterest was stuck at 10k users after almost a year, and Foursquare was Dodgeball. I’m not trying to build any of these companies, but their founders likely all had 12-hour days at cafes only to realize nothing epic happened that day, and that the next day would be similar in its lack of epicness. This is where the dogged persistence comes into play, in knowing this execution and problem solving will hopefully pay off at some hypothetical dot on a timeline in the future…and maybe not even the near future.
I’m also trying to take less “for-fun” meetings, in which I chat away with someone “interested” in what I’m doing or with someone I’m simply “interested” in, and only take meaningful meetings where the discussion is serious and either helps me and my business, or someone else and their business/life. I realized that one fun coffee meeting was taking up at least an hour of my day, an hour that is precious to me at this time. Which takes me to my next concern…
Time management. Last week I blogged about time management and my goals, and to follow up with that post, let me tell you: this is way more difficult than I imagined. This also proves I have and am wasting way more time than I had ever realized. Once I said I’d work in 90 minute chunks, and instead of turning this on like a switch, I’m working towards that. I realized I am an internet junkie, a social media glutton. If you’re someone who likes to feel plugged in to the world, try NOT opening a new tab and checking facebook, or clicking on Hootsuite when you’re bored in that excel doc. This is and has been so extremely difficult and telling. I also recently referred to a post from Buzzfeed editor John Herrman, called “How Tech is Making Us All Neurotics.” It is. It is if we don’t feel in control of our usage of it. And sometimes I don’t.
This also has to do with constantly feeling like I should be working, and by working, this usually means sitting down in front of my laptop and doing something. But I also realized that a lot of what I was “doing” was actually not doing at all, but passively consuming, which doesn’t necessarily help me as a founder or as a person. Sure, consuming the news everyday is important and a habit I feel no need to get rid of, but watching my Twitter timeline update or scrolling through my Prismatic feed only makes switching over to that Excel doc or my pitch deck feel less exciting and feel more like another task associated with my laptop.
Last night (while endlessly browsing), I did stumble upon an article in The New Yorker called The Virtues of Daydreaming. A new study claims that
Creative solutions may be facilitated specifically by simple external tasks that maximize mind-wandering. The benefit of these simple tasks is that they consume just enough attention to keep us occupied, while leaving plenty of mental resources left over for errant daydreams.
…”We always assume that you get more done when you’re consciously paying attention to a problem,” Schooler told me. “That’s what it means, after all, to be ‘working on something.’ But this is often a mistake. If you’re trying to solve a complex problem, then you need to give yourself a real break, to let the mind incubate the problem all by itself. We shouldn’t be so afraid to actually take some time off.
…We think we’re wasting time, but, actually, an intellectual fountain really is spurting
Music to my ears and the only confirmation I needed to STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.
When I went to Cape Cod for Memorial Day? I felt guilty the entire weekend. When I spent last Sunday sloth-like, lounging with friends and watching movies? I felt more anxious than ever. I was wondering the whole time how I was going to get new users to test my MVP, and how these as-of-yet unattained users will be incentivized to give me feedback. And what about the two separate build phases I now need to think through when raising money?
And you know what? Worrying about these things does no good. Neither does worrying that what I’m doing at any given time, even if it’s as simple or menial as updating my executive summary or researching customer lifetime value, is not big, grand or exciting. Baby steps are the only steps at this point. What I’m working on now is taking these baby steps in focused, concentrated 90-minute chunks, and using my free time to, well, enjoy being free. No one wants to be a slave to their company, or we’d all end up hating what we do. I’m still excited everyday when I wake up, and I want to keep it that way.