“Got more done than I thought I had, thanks to the obsessive journaling I do. I am so weird, but somehow I seem to be managing…fingers crossed!”
Read on if you want the hoary details!
Groundhog Day Resolutions Review for February 2-March 2
At the beginning of Groundhog Day Resolutions on February 2nd, I said I had three goals that I believed will lead to an improved state of personal existence:
- A neat side business! I’m imagining something like a “Olivander’s magic wand shop”, except selling neat stationery and productivity tools. My personal role models for how to do it are Paul Smith and Jack Conte.
- Make progress on 2024 goals! There are a bunch of goals I’ve established for 2024, most of them requiring skills/experience I do not yet possess.
- Share what I know / what I love! The motivation here is to make connections with other people that click with me. If I don’t share this, how would people even know that we share interests?
I feel like I’ve made some progress, mostly of preparatory nature. I don’t feel I’ve scored any big, targeted wins, and my focus might be characterized as a hopeful shotgun blast at my lists rather than a methodical plan. A reader pointed out that I might be “spreading myself too thin”, implying that I might be undermining myself by not being more focused and deliberate. This is quite possible, and a bit depressing. However, I just made the list of things that happened in the past thirty days; my thoughts continue after the lists.
- 300 Groundhog Day Goals Challenge kicked-off
- Music Composition project kickoff
- Game Project re-kickoff
- Editor Project kickoff
- Serious Software Development kickoff
- NSF grant “PLAE” project work kickoff
- Server Transition planning kickoff
- Soft-open of the Living Room Cafe
I started a lot of projects this month, more so than I realized. I feel pretty good about all of them, actually, though I suppose you could say that my attention has been split. On the other hand, knowing myself, I’m probably lucky that I got anything done at all.
To maintain continuity, a critical improvement I’ve made to my workflow is adopting [Quiver: A Programmers Notebook][quiver] as my main journaling system. Combined with OS X 10.11 “El Capitan”‘s screen-snapping feature and the “bring Quiver to front” hotkey sequence, I’m able to journal as fast as I can think. If you’re already using EverNote or Scrivener, those products work in a very similar way. Quiver, however, is more oriented toward programmers who want to insert syntax-highlited code snippets into their journal (a critical feature for my work). If you are a fan of using Markdown as I am, then its Markdown support is fantastic, as is the ability to apply different formatting rules to a “cell block”. For me, it is far less clunky than the ancient text formatting conventions used by Evernote and Scrivener.
Environment & Equipment Improvements
- Restored: Multi-mic podcast recording studio setup
- Improved: microphone stands, pop filters
- Restored: Desktop photography radio-triggered lighting restored
- Tested: Multi-platform screencasting software+hardware
- Researched: Living Room Cafe furniture: side tables, chairs, storage
- Reorganized: files for all design work for the past 12 years
- Adopted: Quiver as main journaling tool
Quit a lot of setup too, preparing equipment, configuring software, and vetting workflow. At the time I was doing this setup work, I was thinking that it was non-productive and mundane stuff since I tend to consider “published, packaged work” as real accomplishment. And that attitude is 100% true IF I don’t take advantage of all this gear I’ve just set up and produce. That said, I now have ** a very capable digital production studio** that should not prevent me from creating high quality media in print, video, podcast, or web. And, all of this gear is available in a private co-working space that I control…wow. I think this counts for something. I’ll feel terrible next month if I don’t actually make something, though. All of this is in support of all three goals!
Media Platform Improvements
- Improved: WordPress graphical post thumbnail appearance
- Improved: WordPress body font FF More Pro, replacing Rooney Web
- Fixed: WordPress comment subscription system failures
- Made: guidelines for future posts for better audience
- Restored: Productivity-Only RSS Feed
- Restored: Personal Tumblr for silly posts
- Cleaned: server in preparation for server move
- Cleaned: YouTube channel settings
- Restored: Lightroom publish-to-Flickr workflow
- Restored: Google Plus for Groundhog Day Resolutions
- Implemented: Premiere publish-to-YouTube workflow
- Implemented: Camtasia publish-to-YouTube workflow
- Implemented: Screenflow publish-to-YouTube workflow
- Restored: Flickr account for more photo collections
A ton of social-media platform improvements, all of them fulfilling a different role in the Dave Seah share what I love and know empire, improving an existing experience, or reducing the friction of publishing so I can do it faster.
Interesting Things Made
- Made: Sleeve Garters
- Made: GHD Tracker Form
- Made: A Hypothetical Model of My Motivational Circuitry
- Made: Updated ETT Prototype
- Made: Rendang Beef Curry (third time is the charm)
- Made: GHD Resolutions Tracker Posters
- Made: Screencast Test Videos
- Coded: Bookmark Scanner utility
- Repurposed: old SEAH MICRO logo as new “Dave” brand
- Interviewed: Provided interview about remote working to “My Remote Office”
Until I made this list, I didn’t think I had done very much in the “making” department, but I was wrong. I’m most proud of the Sleeve Garters because they’re something physical, but a lot of these other “made” things have a tangible presence in the world that are like trophies awarded for overcoming resistance. These are small achievements in the grand sense of the world, but grand achievement is BUILT ON SMALL ACHIEVEMENTS. I can see how each of these results can play into a greater Dave strategy; perhaps this is where I can be more focused (but then again, I know myself…more on that later)
Mysteries and Discoveries
- Rediscovered: Indigo Kelleigh 8-bit Tarot
- Obsessed: music from “The Bird and the Bee”
- Purchased: music from the new KNOWER album
- Splurged: Litter Robot automatic cat litter machine
- Mystery: Mysterious packages arriving!
- Arrived: CW&T Pen Type B
There are probably more things that I’m forgetting, but these are the ones that come to mind. My mind thrives on encountering quality, novelty, and uniqueness, and this is what helps keep the curiosity engine primed and happy.
One a side note, I’m wondering if I should be writing about these kind of things more on the blog. If you have an opinion, let me know in the comments!
Reaction and Knowing Myself
Looking at that list, I’m suddenly thinking that I DID do a lot. The journaling every day certainly helped, because it gave me the ability to review what I did.
I also see that a lot of the accomplishments were unplanned or opportunistic. This is just the way my mind works. Call it ADHD, Applied Procrastination, lack of focus…this is just how it happens. The model of productivity that works for me is like harvesting fruit from a wild orchard rather than managing a factory production line. After years of thinking that my productivity was broken, I’m starting to embrace it as described in John Perry’s The Art of Procrastination. Figuring out a system to be productive without following the traditional model is one of my holy grails.
That said, there are times when deliberate action would be wonderful to have. I made a model of my motivational circuitry that, while tongue-in-cheek, is scarily accurate. It essentially recognizes that starting is the hardest challenge when it is something that (1) I “have to” or “should” do and/or (2) is tedious/stupid/unclear.
Much of my productive-enhancing work is designed to provide positive feedback that keeps me moving, but overcoming the negative reactions that prevent me from starting are psychological, and require some mental discipline. In my case, discipline comes in the form of tricking myself into avoiding the psychological blocks by appealing to my obsessive qualities. For example, here are three tricks I use (when I detect I am resisting):
- Reframing “I have to do X” as a question like “How long does it really take to do X?” or “I wonder what happens if I try doing Y?”
- Recognizing that it is my FEELING SIDE that is raising all the fuss, trying to find motivation (a feeling) or a good rationalization (also a feeling, disguised as logic) to initiate action. Actively suppressing my emotional response to a task is a trick I can occasionally manage by telling myself to hush.
- The very smallest bit of action on a task, started with the help of the previous two tricks, will often break the Resistance. I used to tell myself that I’ll either work for just 15 minutes and stop if I want to; it turns out that even 30 seconds of focused work is enough to get the juices going because it taps into my obsession to know what happens next.
- I am easily offended by shitty work or shitty attitudes, especially when they are directed toward me or happen in my presence. I’m learning to take a deep breath and not take it personally, and maintain a self-contained cheerfulness. Easier said than done, but essential for maintaining a productive positive mentality.
Sometimes these don’t work at all; I have to still be in a somewhat good mood, and I have to also not feel like something is hanging over my head. A good mood killer is knowing I have to be somewhere at a certain time, or when I am recovering from having been somewhere. This is, I think, my introverted high-sensing nature recovering from the mental overprocessing I do when I’m engaging with other people. It is exhausting, and no manner of prodding can get me to self-initiate action. Thus, energy management by guarding my schedule zealously is an important support strategy.
It’s amazing I get anything done at all, isn’t it? If I can figure out how to turn this into a practical method, I’ll make a zillion dollars! :)
Process Observations regarding Groundhog Day Resolutions
A big part of the Groundhog Day Review is the journaling aspect of the work. The insights above are all taken from thousands of words of reflection I kept in Quiver or wrote about on the blog. To this point of the article, I’ve spent about FOUR HOURS trying to make sense of it in my first draft.
Making the data capture easier is always a goal of mine, and originally I thought that my Groundhog Day Goal Tracker would be the tool that would keep me on track. After the first two weeks, though, I started tracking points exclusively on the daily blog post. This doesn’t mean that the Goal Tracker form was a completely failure: it just a duplication of effort. If I wasn’t already blogging my progress every day, then the tracker form would have served well in the daily reflection role. I ended up using the poster version every day, both in a desktop form and large wall-mounted form. The important qualities of a GHRD tracking system, I currently believe, are (1) reliably record what you did on a particular day to (2) connect it to the specific goal you have so you can (3) assess how much it contributes toward it. The devil is in the details, and how committed you are in maintaining the record. I happen to be obsessed with documentation and data, so it’s hard to STOP me from doing this; your mileage may vary.
That said, I’m planning some adjustments to the tracker form to improve its utility. Some of the other participants in the GHDR Review Group have already independently made similar modifications!
- Reframe the goals rewards as two types: goal results delivered and supporting success habits practiced. I’m going to adjust the goal results list to award many more points (50 points instead of 10) so they feel more like accomplishments.
- Split the form into two separate pages, one for the goal rewards lists, and one for more detailed multi-week tracking. I think the latter form will work better horizontally too.
- Add space for daily points summary and more annotation space for remembering “what was done” on a particular day.
- Add a goal spree marker for when a goal was worked on for consecutive days. That is probably worth a good 10 points itself.
Breakdown by Day and Type of Action
It’s interesting to look at what I did each day too. Here’s a breakdown by the day:
|DAYS||TYPE||GHDR TASK OR ACTIVITY|
|001-006||PREP||GHDR Tracker Forms|
|007||PREP||Steps to Music Composition Goal by gathering stuff|
|008-009||PREP||Podcast Gear Setup, GHDR Process|
|010||FOCUS||Process and Breakfast|
|011||MAKE||Sleeve Garters (1406)|
|013||SHARE||Desktop APM (LOVE)|
|014||PREP||PCEO File Reorg, Mysteries|
|015-018||PREP||Thinking Software (1405) Code, Resistance|
|019||PREP||Screencasting Setup (1404, KNOW)|
|020||PUSH||Editor Experiment Kickoff|
|021||PREP||Resurrect Product Photo Rig|
|022||REACT||Handling Unexpected Problems (comment subs)|
|023||SOCIAL||Eric visit, GameDev Meetup|
|024||FOCUS||Slowing Down, Assessing GHDR Approach|
|025||PREP||Incremental Music Preparation|
|026||REACT||Web Graphics and Process Tweaks|
|027||PREP||Music Song Lists for Music Composition|
|028||FOCUS||Clarifying Website Focus|
|029||SOCIAL||Rebecca visit, Garage Band Play Day|
|030||FOCUS||Combining Ops for Game Making Goals|
And this is the breakdown by type:
|PREP||18 / 60%||Tracker, Gear, Software, List making|
|FOCUS||04 / 13%||Evaluating GHDR process|
|SHARE||02 / 07%||Rants, software mention|
|REACT||02 / 07%||WordPress problems/tweaks|
|SOCIAL||02 / 07%||Eric, Rebecca, GameDev, Music|
|MAKE||01 / 03%||Sleeve Garters|
|START||01 / 03%||Editor Project|
Over 80% of my GHDR time was spent doing support work, whereas actual “making” and “pushing” was well under 10%. This time doesn’t take non-GHDR tasks (such as household chores and working) into account, but it’s an interesting datapoint. I’d like to increase the percentage of “making” and “pushing” for next month, but it’s possible that this is the way the creative and knowledge-based work just is. There is a quote from J.C.R. Licklider or Vannever Bush or possibly Douglas Englebart (pioneers of knowledge-augmenting computing systems in the 40s and 50s) about how “clerical work” consumes much of the knowledge worker’s time before they can actually synthesize the result they have been pursuing. Or, you can perhaps draw a similar conclusion from Thomas Edison’s oft-quoted “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”, or even make the leap to the Pareto Principle of “20% of X produces 80% of Y”.
I guess we’ll find out in a few months whether my work fits a similar pattern. If it does, and I still feel like I’m producing work with reasonable efficiency, I might be able to better manage my own expectations by recognizing “hey, things take time, so don’t worry about it.” More likely, I will want to just focus on the 20% that produces the 80%; this is in fact one of the design principles behind my concrete goals tracker, which is the direct parent of the Groundhog Day Resolutions tracker. Finding a happy middle-ground between both interpretations would be nice.
Considerations for Blog Readers
A big part of this year’s Groundhog Day Resolutions was to take the challenge of working every day on them, posting the summaries here. I originally thought that the daily summaries would be similar to the euphoria I experienced when doing the November 2014 New Thing a Day challenge, and would be interesting to blog readers.
I’m not sure if that has come to past for this round of challenge posts, to which I’ve committed to until the end of Groundhog Day Resolutions on December 12. I’m trying not to worry about it, as that would make me second-guess my process and create some anxiety that does me no favors. Still, I’d like to strike a good balance between the personal musings while providing SOMETHING of general usefulness in each post.
It’s possible also that this type of challenge is more of a marathon than a sprint. The nature of the November 2014 Challenge was to create something new every day. These were just ideas that popped into my head. The nature of the Groundhog Day Goals Challenge is to make persistent progress on goals that have been defined ahead of time. In other words, this is a MARATHON, not a sprint. Expectations have been adjusted accordingly.
I’ll continue to adjust the blog content as I wrote; in the meantime I’ve created a separate Productivity feed so readers who want more targeted, less frequent updates can switch over to it.
Decisions Made and Personal Challenges Engaged
When it comes to personal development, the normal business definition of “productive” doesn’t apply. In the business world, measurement and metrics are used to justify actions that are implicit in a well-modeled process that produces bottom-line results. While I’ve incorporated metrics into my own process, the interpretation of these metrics serve the purpose of making me feel productive. This is really what most people are concerned about, I believe, that they are assured that they are doing the best they can.
This section of my assessment highlights some of the decisions I’ve made that I either reinforce my sense of “doing right” or provide aspirational guidance:
- I outlined a “Music Composition vlog format” for the music composition goal that I think will work. The idea of making a video log is kind of terrifying, but through this growth will occur; actual death by embarrassment is highly unlikely.
- I declared a strategy for producing future blog content with an accompanying mission declaration. As I alluded to above, the idea is to still provide “takeaway value” early in blog posts while serving the process/personal development audience, as that is where I believe my heart is.
- I’ve decided that daring to be more expressive of my likes is an important personal growth area. I like positive-minded weirdness in the people around me, and if I want to be part of that I need to let my interests out. Otherwise, how will we find each other and make our tribe?
- I’ve committed, intellectually if not whole-heartedly, to the idea that I can be satisfied with slow progress and partial achievement than insta-gratification. Grumble.
- I considered setting up a Patreon page for form releases as another way to make a living from my design work. The hard part is ASKING for that kind of support. Fortunately I’ve recently read The Art of Asking, which is a lovely book about wholehearted giving and receiving…something to aspire to! Amanda’s TED Talk is worth watching if you don’t have time to read ithe book.
- I’ve accepted that I am a competent developer, at least in some ways. I’m fighting imposter syndrome when I declare that, but keeping myself down just limits me from taking opportunities. In a similar way I probably can say I am a competent designer too, though I cringe everytime I say that out loud. I tell myself that it’s OK not to be the uber-developer/uber-designer, having limited specialization in certain things, but it’s hard to overcome the feeling that I can’t do everything well.
- I am really trying not to take negative reactions personally by being super mellow and accepting, recognizing that other people’s attitudes exist independently of my sense of self. I happen to be hyper-sensitive to other people’s emotions, and it is a battle to maintain that barrier.
- On a similar note, I aspire to be cheerful, though I mask this because of prior beliefs that it’s somehow unbecoming of a man. I’ve decided that this attitude sucks, and want to correct that. I bought an iPhone case with cat ears as a symbol of being cheerful in public.
Expanding on the super cheerful aspirations, there are specific traits that I wish to acknowledge.
- I LIKE CUTE THINGS, SO WHAT? The cat ear iPhone case is the current expression of that. Carrying it around in public is a test of my ability to not be somehow embarrassed or self-conscious about it.
- I like nerdy stuff too. I am super nerdy in my interests, to the point that many people don’t really relate to me. This is disappointing, but I don’t want to change. Embracing it seems more true than burying it.
- I like my unbounded exploration time filled with variety. I don’t like being bound by anything or oppressed by boring stuff. This is an essential part of my personality.
- I am obsessed by documenting what I see and learn. I think by now I can say that it’s unusually strong and kind of weird, but embracing it seems to make me more powerful. This is particularly true when it comes to journaling for continuity. I have a massive capacity for it.
- I process emotion a lot, and despite my obsessive intuitive/analytical qualities I recognize they are in service to my values and my desire for good things to happen. That said, I need to be conscious of when the emotional side needs to be taken out of the driver’s seat when I need to get stuff done. This means conscious monitoring of my mental mode (inquiry, analysis, feel), flag self-indulgent thinking, and recognizing when I am over-processing negative reactions.
- I thought I was unproductive, but it does look like I got a lot done AFTER reviewing my logs.
- I might want to try doing more focused work for March, maybe choosing only a few projects at a time rather than shotgunning the whole list.
- I am having a lot of personal insights about the nature of who I am as I tackle these goals and handle the uncertain feelings that arise from them.
- I am feeling out of my comfort zone, but I think pushing myself out there is necessary for personal growth. But man…do I feel isolated and alone. If I make it through this though, I’ll have some experience to share.
At this moment I am feeling satisfaction sprinkled with a heaping scoop of uncertainty and vulnerability. The feeling is that I am somehow screwing up, even though my modus operandi is to PURPOSEFULLY put myself in that position of “not knowing but acting anyway”. I’m not very good at it yet, as my own brain is really good at imagining what a waste of time it is. I’m better than that, I hope. In the pursuit of my crazy weird goals, perhaps I will find out what I’m really made of. I’ve put many of them off so long. I am nervous and elated at the same time, and at least I got through one month of continuous applied energy.
I think I will treat myself to a hamburger from “Five Guys” tonight. Thanks for reading along!