Fishing in a Bottle

I was told to put fish in my office.

I don't want to give away too many trade secrets.  My sister said it was good for feng shui and encouraging abundance (money).  She said that I should get Betta fish because they are nearly indestructible.  So I got two, just in case.

The point being that sometimes running your life can be just about as scientific as a Ouija board.  In this case, I'm ramping up for business.  Economic disaster or not, I'm convinced that there are folks out there who want and need websites and databases.  And really, why shouldn't they?

Organizations are in the business of managing information.  Little bits of it.  I can see it moving.  Comes in through the phone or Internet, and sometimes the mail.  It needs catalogued, responded to, mail merged.  It wants analysis.  It needs to get used.  I'm in the business of taming information: whether it's going into a grant application or being used to open up a new market for your pink widgets that bark when the toilet leaks.

This isn't to say that I would prescribe a streamlined organizational information system in every instance, or that databases are the only way to store important information, or that a good website will get you noticed in a way that a poor one can't.  I prefer solutions that work, and appreciate checklists and notes notes written on diner napkins as much as the next guy.  I am a relatively sophisticated connoisseur of technology, but if you came into my office at this point, along with the fish bowl (and a computer), you'll see that a lot of my best thinking goes down on the analog world of white boards that cover my walls. 

In purchasing the fish and the office furniture, even if unscientific, I understood, on some level that I was making an investment in my own future.  It seemed at first gratuitous, until I sat myself down and asked some hard questions.  How much time do I spend in this room?  How much of a difference does it make in my day to have my surroundings feel organized and clean?  How important is Swedish design?

The trick is always to take the long view.  This isn't just a political reference to the Udall brothers in Colorado, but a real survival strategy.  Money is a rate, not an amount.  If I spend it on something that will help keep me organized now, won't it set me up do be more effective and efficient (and better poised to do good work, and get good work) in the long run?

Same rule applies with a lot of my clients.  Although laying down $3000 (or more) on a website or database might seem like a big price to pay for some fancy machinery, when you weigh it against the costs over time, you might see things differently. The costs of using a talented staff to spend 3 days trying to get a mailing together from spreadsheets (OVER and OVER and OVER again) - of eventual burnout and frustration (and retraining) - of overlooking the grants, funding and adjacent business opportunities that tend to get missed when your staff is buried in trying to calculate outcomes with a manual calculator - likely outweigh the burdens of a larger expenditure now. The loss of a good chunk of MULA now might be relatively insignificant compared to the benefits over time of having your database (instead of your fingers) do the walking.

Speaking of fingers, mine are tired.