Recap: I’ve been testing a system that I call Groundhog Day Resolutions. The basic premise is that everyone’s too stressed out to take the time to craft decent resolutions on January 1st, so you should take a break and wait until February 2nd. This is of course also Groundhog’s Day, one of my favorite holidays and favorite movies. The second point of Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR) is that you revisit them on 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, etc., for periodic review.
There’s been a few other people who are following through with their GHDRs today; here are mine:
- Commit to Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff
- Build Sustainable Social Networks
- Sell a Product This Year
This is one of the more interesting reviews so far, at least for me. Read onward!
1. DERIVE INCOME FROM WRITING AND MAKING STUFF
This resolution, when I first made it, was about shifting my career focus to areas I am strong in: writing and ideation. The challenge has been how to sell that, because the market tends to emphasize tangible goods and commodity services.
In the past, I have derived income primarily from a service perspective: interactive design, management, and programming for hire, at either a package or hourly rate, to implement someone else’s scheme. This resolution represents more than just an expansion of my service offerings; it is actually a directive to put original Dave Seah thinking on the market. Another way of putting this: let my own personality color my work unabashedly. If I don’t let my personality into my work, I’m not going to succeed in the way I want to.
A second insight has been that my writing is not a service offering. It’s my process. Whether I’m doing design or programming, the writing is my way of packaging my thinking before starting the work. Writing is just another delivery medium, like my design and programming work, for my thinking.
To sell packaged thinking, I need to know who actually needs it. My friend Senia turned me onto a concept called the “Hottest Undeniable Benefit” (HUB), which is a clear targeted statement about what you specifically do for a very specific market. My HUB statement is currently this:
I work with decision makers to express critical business insights through clear writing and outstanding visual design.
This past month I’ve picked up a few jobs that are in alignment with this, and am feeling my way through them. This is not bad progress, considering I finalized the statement only a few days ago. I can see what kinds of supporting material I need to create to further define my market niche.
A second change has been to print cards with the title investigative designer on them. I’ve handed out two of them, and it’s too early to say whether it’s a move in the right direction or not.
2. BUILD SUSTAINING SOCIAL NETWORKS
I’ve been actually fairly social lately, which isn’t bad for someone who tends to be more introverted. I think the secret has been to realize that my shyness came from being unsure about myself and what I wanted. Now that this is clearing up, I tend to be more outgoing. Here’s what I did:
- I ran a local Meetup after-work sushi dinner. I’d say it was pretty successful judging from the feedback rating and what people said to me afterwards.
I did Speed Dating for the first time. I met several interesting women, and discovered that I now can hold a conversation with people I’ve never met. I’ve made a few friends in the process, and introduced a number of people to the local Meetup group.
I know the staff at the local coffee shop a little better, as I’ve continued to go there in the morning to do my daily planning after my 2 week experiment in waking up early (albeit at 10AM now instead of 7AM…I’m no Pavlina when it comes to sticking to stuff :) I find it fascinating that one can create rapport by just showing up at the same place everyday and having a daily interaction. Very cool.
I took up an offer to work off-site at buddy Scott’s company, Mediastream, up in Manchester, NH. He has some unused office space, and I’ve found the change in scenery to have positive effects on my perspective. To expand the network, you must hang out with different people over a period of time. It’s that easy.
Commentary: Maintainable versus Sustaining Social Networks Working off-site has forced me to commute, and it’s put some repeating structure back into my day. Having repetition, I think, helps maintain social networks. However, I just realized I’m not really looking for “sustainable” networks: I want the sustaining kind, so I am re-energized. I’ve had two important insights this month regarding the creation of a sustaining network:
- I am looking for co-schemers first, collaborators second. A schemer is passionate about shared motivations. In comparison, a collaborator is passionate about the project. To catalyze myself into action, I need more co-scheming in my life. Or Collaborative Scheming. Or to be in a Scheming Collaborative.
I know where to find the right people. Dane Petersen, an energetic and very awesome fellow I met at SXSW for all of 5 minutes, called me out of the blue and we chatted about some project work he was starting and wanted some extra perspective on it. So we had a great conversation, and I thought holy cow, it’s this easy. I never think of actually calling other people because I used to be afraid of it when I was a kid (long story). There are dozens and dozens of cool people out there to contact, and all I need to do is say, “Hey, I’d love to chat about something. Do you have some time?” I’m so dumb.
3. SELL A PRODUCT THIS YEAR
p>STATUS: NO PROGRESS
This has been my greatest mis-step for the month. Theoretically, it was the easiest thing to do: create something and sell it on the Internet. Heck, I’ve already got things created, yet I have slacked and slacked on this project:
A short PCEO pamphlet for the Concrete Goals Tracker that distills the best parts into a single process. I’m guessing this will be about 24 pages. I may offer it immediately on Lulu.com or something like that, and I’ll also have something that can be shown to various small presses that might be interested in running it themselves.
I haven’t written it. I’ve thought about writing it, starting it, or getting moving on it many times. There is absolutely nothing in my way. Instead, there was always something more pressing to do. Or I was too tired after a long day of work and felt the need to veg out in front of the TV.
FAILURE ANALYSIS: Too much time allocated, too-abstract a goal chosen.
One month and one day is a long time. It’s appropriate for GHD Resolutions because it’s just long enough to allow you to dream freely without being too worried about how you’re going to get it done. It seems possible because you (1) said it out loud and (2) you gave yourself enough time; such is the allure of resolution making. Of course, this lack of specificity is also the great weakness of resolutions, because the discipline to actually get things done is not part of the framework.
So here is the change I am making to my GHDRR Process Framwork:
- On Review Day, you must schedule at least one action with a tangible deliverable that will occur in the next week.
- Make it doable in one sitting, and make sure that it produces a result that you can either see, hold, or show to someone else.
- Schedule a specific work date and time into your regular work week.
- Do it.
- Reassess, and optionally do it again.
Incidentally, Corrie Haffly made a monthly goaltracker with a picture of a little groundhog on it that might be suitable for your review day tracking needs. It’s very cute. I’m probably just going to use Google Calendar for now, since it sends me alerts.
ACTION ACTION ACTION
Having made this correction, I don’t feel so bad about having blown my last month. So what happened?
I did not make a distinction between “internalized” and “new behavior” resolutions.
- Habit resolutions are the ones that seek long-term behavior change, and they can remain pretty nebulous if the imprinting has already been done. My resolutions #1 and #2 have already been internalized, so all I need to do is just say I’m doing them. Resolution #3, however, requires discipline, effort, and measurement like any project; failing to take that into account ensured that nothing got done. My other resolutions might have failed too, if they were not internalized.
The solution: create habit-enforcing reminders and define progress deliverables.
- The interval of scheduling that feels about right to me is one week away, or between 7-12 days from the GHD Resolution Review day.
Why not make it an immediate action?
- My rationale is that I want to go through the anxiety of anticipating the looming date to weigh on my brain, so it sticks. If I did it right now, then it would be done and I’d forget.
- By inserting that 7-10 day waiting period, the brain will steep in its own anticipatory juices and be perhaps changed. Mind you, this is just another one of my unsupported hare-brained theories. The particular hare I’m thinking of, though, is Bugs Bunny.
Why not two weeks?
- I can’t really visualize what’s going to happen in two weeks, because there are too many variables in my life with clients, projects, and random life encounters.
- It’s important that I set a date that I can hold in my mind and weigh with immediate life factors, because I want to be mindful of my resolutions.
- If I set a date way out in the future, I will just forget about it and let whatever external notification system interrupt me when it’s time to switch gears. Responsible? Yes! Mindful? Not so much.
Here are my one-week-out goals, chosen between 7-12 days from now. If I was really busy, I might schedule only one resolution-related goal per week, but for now I want to just see how it works with all three resolutions running in parallel:
1. Make Money from Writing and Making Stuff – Put the HUB statement on my current website, on a design services page, on Monday, May 14.
2. Build A Sustainable Social Network – Create a “Potential Co-Schemer List” of people I have never talked to. Talk to one person on that list on Wednesday, May 16.
3. Sell a Product This Year – Select and “package” the Emergent Task Planner for a printer on Saturday, May 12.
I just put these into my google calendar, and already I am feeling a huge wave of anxiety and anticipation…excellent! :-)