Groundhog Day Resolutions Review Day 3

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:

  1. Commit to Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff
  2. Build Sustainable Social Networks
  3. 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

STATUS: OK

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

STATUS: OK

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

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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.

THE PLAN

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! :-)

11 Comments

  1. Corrie 10 years ago

    Nice work, Dave! I like your idea of setting a specific date in the very-near-future for those “new-behavior” project-like goals. I ran into the exact same problem with one of my own goals, and I think your solution of scheduling action will work for me as well.

    I just finished filling out my cheering groundhog form and came over (ahead of Google Reader) to see if you had posted an update… you didn’t disappoint! :)

  2. sarah 10 years ago

    Thanks for the update! My biggest problem with this month’s review was that I didn’t set smaller goals during the past month and so my progress on one goal (that was left too vague) was, well, nothing. Which is why the whole vague New Year’s thing never worked for me, I think! So that will be my adjustment for the next month, too, setting small weekly goals again to keep myself on track.

    So…if you fulfill goal #3 before the end of the year (which it looks like you definitely are going to!), will you just carry on with the two original goals? Refine/expand the original goal? Or bring in a new smaller one?

  3. Bill Peschel 10 years ago

    Sounds like you’re on your way toward building a process that works for you: come up with measurable goals with a deadline, and spend time on Deadline Day analysing your successes and failures.

    This reminds me of trying to lose weight, and the process of weighing yourself. There are two ways to do it: daily or weekly. Daily can work if it keeps you mindful of your goal throughout the day, but some plans advocate weekly checks so you don’t get depressed if you find yourself going up or holding fast. Plateaus are to be expected; if you hold steady to your eating and exercising plan, your weight drop will continue.

    I did some adjusting last week on your CGT sheet, the one I had modified previously. I figured out that I had about seven tasks that I wanted to make sure they were completed daily (add 1K words to the novel, read 100 pages for a book review, add a post to the site). I tried to estimate how much each task would take during my morning, plus build in time for coffee and stretch breaks.

    The result was a chart listing the tasks, the time allotted to them, and spaces to record when I began and ended that task each day. It’s trying to be a combined todo list and daily calendar, so I can keep track of what I did. I’m hoping it will keep me focused and also record exactly what I’m doing each day for later reference.

    One thing that really helped: recording my top 20 work days (using your scoring system) and my top weekly scores. That’s the video game idea. Sometimes, I’ve stayed an extra 15 minutes and typed in an old book review (part of a longterm project to get my reviews online) just so I can add another 5 points to my total and push the day into record-breaking territory. Finally, a lever that gets me excited to push!

  4. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Corrie: I really love the cheering groundhog! I think he (?) should have a name. Milton? Chester? Santiago? I just caught up on your updates and was impressed by their breadth! I can see why you need a whole groundhog tracker for it! Makes me dizzy looking at it.

    Sarah: Regarding early fulfillment of a resolution…I haven’t thought that far ahead! No.3 is part of a longer-term strategy of learning how to create products and sell them. The next refinement might be to develop and manage several products PROFITABLY, and grow it from there?

    Bill: You’re really going to town on the self-monitoring analysis stuff…that’s really cool. It reminds me of when I was on the Hacker’s Diet, which emphasizes logging and using a weekly window for examining weight loss (daily fluctuatations, as you mentioned, tended to vary and not give a clear picture of what was going on).  I love the idea of top-20 work days…that’s a FANTASTIC addition! I’ll have to use that myself!

  5. marcia siegel 10 years ago

    i really like the way you think.  i also like your unique ideas and plans. also your honesty.
    seems like your plan nelped you accomplish a great deal.

  6. Cynthia 10 years ago

    I’m a recent fan of yours, Dave, and really enjoy the GHD reviews each month (as well as numerous other articles). Your honesty and outgoing personality (at least in your writing!) are such a breath of fresh air!

    Bill wrote that he used your “scoring system” wrt his top-20 productive days.  Can you tell me how to find your scoring system and in which post it is located?

  7. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    marcia: Thanks! It might look like more accomplishment than it really is, but I certainly have made SOME progress. That’s better than nothing! :-)

    Cynthia: Hey, thanks for dropping by, and for your kind words! :-)

    The “scoring system” Bill’s writing about is probably the Concrete Goals Tracker, which is part of the overall Printable CEO series of productivity forms I’ve been making. Bill has made his own custom mash-up of the various forms, but you might find this article about using the CGT for new year’s resolutions to be most applicable.

  8. Bill Peschel 10 years ago

    Dave, that’s absolutely right. In fact, I used your customizable CGT form as a basis for my system. (Cynthia, this is a pdf file where, if you click on the goals to the right of each score, you can type in your own goals! The only thing you can’t do is change the point values.)

    My modified form can be found here. I can schedule my work for the morning, save a list of one-off jobs, and keep track of multi-task jobs For example, book reviews require reading, note-taking, 1st draft, 2nd draft, publish on blog, publish on amazon. Each step in the task can be checked off as done.

    I’ve since modified the form but haven’t put that up yet.

  9. Really like the specific dates and putting them into the calendar!  Let us know how May 12-16 go!

  10. kevin 10 years ago

    David, where’s the book ;)

    If you authored a book, I know about 10 people easy who would buy it, or I’d buy it for.

    Keep it up…inspiring!

  11. Jon 10 years ago

    Dave, great write up and as per my email, great to meet you!

    Jon

    PS I am very happy to scheme!

A message from Dave:

I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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