Slow Down and Assess (GHD024)

"GHDR Goal" I’ve been feeling a vague sense of unease all this week with regards to my general productivity. While I technically have been managing to post something every day, I have been also thinking that I’m somehow failing to meet the “spirit” of the challenge. So instead of trying to hit something on the goals list, I took some time to write down my thoughts in a new VELA series-A2b compact engineer research notebook away from the home office. My tentative (and still uncertain) conclusion is that I should try going even slower.

Observations on Motivation and Focus

  1. To be productive in the creative sense requires periods of isolation and singular focus, which requires the discipline to (1) put yourself into isolation and (2) push away distracting thoughts. I am not particularly good at this; in fact, I react by seeking MORE social interaction (expressed usually through email, Twitter, Facebook, what have you) and MORE curiosity (“Hey, I wonder if anyone makes a special wrench for tightening knurled lock nuts on 5/8th inch microphone mounts?”).

  2. I need to commit to minimum amount of continuity maintenance in the form of writing, otherwise I feel quite lost. I haven’t liked doing it, feeling like I am stealing productive time from the actual DOING of things. However, I’m finding once more that I am most productive when I am writing about what I’m doing. This process could use a bit of improvement to meet three main criteria: (1) my “stream of consciousness” journaling as I work out problems (2) more refined “project status” journals and (3) my “knowledge capture” into useful reference. I think I’ve actually found a program that will serve all three roles, Quiver, which is a joy to use. While it’s very much like more established tools like EverNote, Scrivener, and Google Docs, it has the functional aesthetics and efficiency that I like in a piece of software. EverNote’s application design is pretty good, but a little more piggy in its use of space. Scrivener has lots of wonderful features, but I don’t need them when I’m taking notes in Markdown; it’s also a bit clicky and the text formatting is a bear to deal with. Google Docs is a capable cloud-based with a weirdly disjointed document management system that I really dislike; am I in Drive? Or Docs? Is this shared with me, or am I sharing it?

  3. I’m probably pursuing too many simultaneous goals, as a reader pointed out earlier this month. I think it’s been great to start off this year’s GHDR Goals this way by jumping right in with oodles of enthusiasm, because I had the energy. But now? Probably time to reduce the number of active projects and go back to themed weeks in March. In fact, the original plan for GHDR 2016 was to have themed months, but in my excitement I decided to just skip the discipline and run as fast as I thought I could. Now that this desire is out of my system, I feel like picking one thing to hammer at for a while. This makes it easier for me to also concentrate on my paying work, which kicks off quite soon. Before, there was the paying work and 10 other personal projects screaming for attention. It will be easier, I think, if there is one paying project and one “active” goals project on the docket. I’ll still probably randomly do other projects as they pop into my head, but for the purposes of “maintaining progress on my goals”, the reduced number of active projects might help maintain a sense of calm. That said, I am likely to still end up with a split of 50% “on purpose” work (split again between “paying” and “GHDR goal of the month”) and 50% happy bubble time play. That is the ratio that seems to work for me, as much as I try to overcome it.

Process Improvements

Another realization was that I still am not enjoying working with my blog because browsing it is very slow. The blog could be a wonderful document reference for everything, but its lack of responsiveness at the speed of my thought makes it a drag. I am going to start working on a way to rebuild it as a system that IS capable of that.

Stuff Learned and GHDR Points Earned

Today’s result is an improved sense of direction as I reflect on the past 24 days. Time to change things up! My major review on March 3rd will cover more of my thoughts about the GHDR Process for 2016 so far…it should be very interesting to those following along at home. As for points scored, I probably can claim the following:

5 Eliminated options after testing. That is my decision to reduce the number of goals pursued at a time.
3 I overcame resistance and did some tedious work to advance. Taking the time to sit and think about this was to help me deal with the resistance I was feeling.
2 Made a model to clarify decision making. That’s the Dave Unit System Architecture post I just made.
2 posted words (this blog post)

That’s 12 points. Yesterday I got 10 points. These feel low, but I think it’s probably acceptable if I want to work more slowly. Not every day can be an exciting major deliverable if I want to do this for the long haul AND juggle paying work.

About this Article Series

For my 2016 Groundhog Day Resolutions, I'm challenging myself to make something goal-related every day from February 2nd through December 12. All the related posts (and more!) are gathered on the Challenge Page.


  1. Robert 11 months ago

    Dave have you set well identified goal creating ETP? or it just happened while you were happily wandering here and there with you curiosity sitting on your shoulder? repetitive tasks kill infp unnoticeable. I don’t mean we shouldn’t set goals. we should. just to archive something else :) best

  2. Author
    Dave Seah 11 months ago

    Hi Robert! Good question! Let me think about this…

    I haven’t done pre-planning at all for my goals as in, “On Monday I will assemble a crate full of wooden blocks, and that will contribute to Goal #2”. Instead, I flipped it around: “Ok, I am going to work on Goal #2. What is something that I can do for it? Well, I need a crate full of wooden blocks.” I’ve noticed that when I have a lot of “I have to” tasks, this counts as “repetitive” and it kills my desire to work on it. The faintest whiff of “this is something I have to do” generates tremendous anti-motivating reactions…something I am trying to figure out how to eliminate or redirect!

    I think the feeling of unease is coming from that desire to achieve more, and thinking that the way to do it is to “be more focused” in traditional ways. However, the hard data is the fact that I haven’t had the energy to whole-heartedly tackle paying work, because my energy has been poured into my GHDR goals. While I originally thought I wasn’t expending a lot of daily effort on the GHDR goals every day, I think I may have been doing more than I thought. For example, when I spent time setting up my podcasting or photo gear,I was thinking that this was “easy points” for the day. In hindsight, there was a lot of troubleshooting and decision-making going on, plus physical movement, followed by testing. Overall, it probably took me 4-6 hours, and this is enough time to deplete my reserve of working energy for the day to the point that switching to an entirely different set of work would be difficult. At the same time, while the gear setups delivered a “completed” result, in my mind they were merely stepping stones to the “real” work of producing music or making a podcast, and didn’t seem to warrant “this was real work” status in my mind. I think it is that latter thinking—that this wasn’t real work—needs to be amended.

  3. Robert 11 months ago

    I know (feel) what you mean. For example I “have to” prepare electronic library of paper documents. I had a great joy in configuring new Epson scanner that works seamlessly with my Mac. It took more time than I thought but works way better than HP I had. Guess what? As soon as I finished I found myself without energy to scan this pile of doc’s. Even more my resistance to do it on the next day was unbelivably strong. Fear?, lack of joy? boredom? Wish I know. I can not delegate this task so in the meantime I’m trying find a way to overcome it. Ideas goes to find a “joy” and to focus rather on process than goal plus small steps. You know “I will only scan 4-5 doc today” like “only 15 mins of doing something”. If we know that “this is real work” or “I have to” make a mess in our heads, what about making podcast for the fun of doing this? Time will show it “that was real” :) I was laughing watching your tests. Quality was very good btw. Who said “real work” is not cheering someone? :)

    Another thing. I’ve been studying mbti function stack and what I found out was that for infp auxiliary function is Ne (extraverted intuition). It’s called sometimes exploration. It’s strong part of me that tell me to check new possibilities. No doing this in any form I feel empty. I do stop sometimes and think what am I doing reading about “special wrench”. What I found is, that this, now labeled “stupid” exploration broaden my knowledge and open horizons. Yes I know sometimes knowledge is shallow but … deep enough to direct someone in right direction when I advise from time to time. Second benefit is that having knowledge about so many different topics I can produce innovative solution to complex problems.

    • Author
      Dave Seah 11 months ago

      Heh! Oh, I had a big insight about improving the “15 minutes of doing something” trick to get over the hump, which is to find a purely mechanical aspect of the boring task to do and then say, “after I get through the entire mechanical task, I’ll have at least worked-out the process and can stop for a bit”. In almost every situation I’ve tried this, I ended up doing a little bit more and a little bit more. Once our brains are engaged on a problem, it seems to work fine for a while! It’s just that we hate the idea of being stuck in BORING LAND so much that we avoid it, and then it turns out that BORING LAND has whirling processes and odd opportunities for optimization, or maybe there’s something in it to get lost in contemplating…that seems to be working for me right now. Who knows if it will work tomorrow :D

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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