Hey everyone! Happy Groundhog Day! Every February 2nd I celebrate by starting my new year’s resolutions on this most silly of days, as I’m never in the mood to start making promises for anything in January. The way my “Groundhog Day Resolutions” work is by making resolutions today, and then following up every month + one day on 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, and so on until 12/12. It’s easy to remember when my resolution reviews should happen this way, as the very date itself is the reminder!
Of course, if you know anything about me you’ll know it’s pretty rare that I let anything stay EASY. As simple as the system is, I’ve had trouble nailing down my goals and actually achieving them. In fact, this is the 12th year of me trying to get Groundhog Day Resolutions to work! It’s not all terrible, though; read onward to see how I’m planning to resolve that conundrum for GHD2018.
Digging into My Sordid Past
11 years is a long time, and for a while I was getting pretty bummed-out about my seeming lack of progress. That said, last year saw the arrival of a couple unexpectedly good things:
- The VIRTUAL COWORKING CAFE has become a thriving community where I hang out with cool people from around the world. It’s not a large community, but it is one with a good heart. This is exactly what I needed and didn’t know I could have!
- I finally made the connection between my seemingly-endless repetition of goal setting and failing with the namesake Groundhog Day movie which was the inspiration of this ritual back in 2007. Surprise, I am living that endless loop! It’s rather ironic that it took me THIS LONG to realize it.
To kick-off the 12th year of Groundhog Day Resolutions, I decided to look back at all of the goals I’d set starting from the very beginning…perhaps there were patterns in my narrative that, like the realization that I’m living an endless loop, were not immediately visible to me. So I compiled a worksheet of links to all related posts, then copied all the “goals” into a Scrivener document with one note for each year.
In Scrivener, you can write a “synopsis” for each document (seen on the left). The contents of each document is actually the copy/pasted excerpts from each Groundhog Day Resolutions kickoff post; the synopsis is a concise distillation of what I considered the “spirit” of each year’s goals. You can watch the entire process in the gathering and analysis livestreams if you are curious what it looked like. Then I slept on it.
Before I get to the list, allow me to take a quick detour through the reason I started doing Groundhog Day Resolutions, which might help put this all in context.
What is a Resolution Anyway?
I’m defining a “resolution”, in the context of goal setting, as the desire to change the status quo of my life for the better. When I started this process of yearly goal-setting, I thought I had a pretty good handle on what that meant, but it is only after reviewing the past 11 years of goals that I have seen how my understanding has evolved.
Here’s an ad-hoc high-level description of the resolution-making process
- You recognize that your current situation could be better, or perhaps you see what parts are not working at all.
- You have an immediate notion of what you could do to change the situation through your own action.
- You pick some action to follow-through with periodically that ideally culminate in an upgraded version of yourself. The proof is in the ability to do new things, apply new knowledge, and having the means to take-on new experiences with greater confidence.
This is pretty straightforward and reasonable, right? Where it tends to fall apart is in the lack of preparedness when managing our personal foibles. Motivation and initiative is fleeting when one does not know the nature of their own heart and mind. Do you know what really makes your heart sing? What brings your heart down? How does your mind perceive the world, and what blind spots do you know of? I think a lot of the time, we are just aware that we are feeling comfortable or not; it takes quite a bit of self knowledge to persevere through any kind of resolution in the absence of an immediate outside force. I find it very difficult UNLESS someone needs something from me OR there are severe consequences forcing me to act immediately; habit change is difficult without that kind of regular coercion. It’s easier if I already love it and can make myself change (because I am already doing it). For the other stuff? Not so easy to find the energy within,
Looking back at my various Groundhog Day Resolution goals of the past 11 years, I can that I was trying to figure out what I thought would make me happy. I had discovered I liked blogging, and wondered if I could blog me way into a condition where happiness (defined as doing something neat that made money) was more likely. I had discovered that I could write what I personally thought, under my own name, and people would respond positively. Making new friends in this way was MINDBLOWING to me in 2007. I wanted to keep experiencing that, and have the freedom to create stuff and meet people and write about the experience in a happy expanding bubble of sharing. I didn’t know that quite so precisely at the time, so my initial Groundhog Day Resolutions grew from these initial three musings:
- Question: Was there a way to make a living from it?
- Question: How could I start to meet interesting people through my writing?
- Question: What was the first thing I could try to make some kind of money from it without selling out or being a creep?
The goals don’t really change that much from year to year. There’s always an element of “making a living” and something to do with being around the “right” sort of people, and then there’s usually some goal related to “making something that helps with passive income”. That’s why it seemed to me that I wasn’t really making any progress, because every year it felt like I was doing the SAME THING and not really getting anywhere. In some years I try to debug some perceived shortcoming of my methodology (such as it is) by applying insights in the form of a new productivity experiment, and in every year I gain a lot of insight into what works for me and what doesn’t, but it never seemed to resolve into the sense that YES I HAVE FIGURE IT ALL OUT. After 11 years I found this starting to get pretty depressing.
Looking for the Underlying Patterns
I had a suspicion that there MIGHT be some greater pattern lurking in all of my Groundhog Day Resolution goals, if I could only see it. So I did some data mining on my past reports; the video livestream I linked above are about six hours of copying/pasting text from the past Groundhog Day Resolution kick-off posts, then distilling the essence of each year into a concise synopsis. Only then did I feel I was ready for the synthesis phase of my review.
I spent a couple of hours turning these cards over in my hand and writing my impressions about them (this is all in the part 3 livestream). Here are my observations:
2007-2008: Getting Comfortable
I realize that I like the idea of being my own voice on the Internet, sharing what I’m thinking and making for people who shockingly seem to resonate with what I’m doing! In 2007 I dare to think aloud that maybe I can make a living doing this. At this point all I really knew is that I liked the idea of it enough to try some stuff; I didn’t see it as a grand goal to find “happiness”. In 2008 continued the push, with the added insight that I had to COMMIT to the role and do some growing. I thought of this as developing more of a reputation as a writer and designer, getting serious about finances, and developing a more proactive relationship with people. I could characterize this period as the time I was growing comfortable with the idea of being an independent content creator and making the mental shifts to see myself in that role.
2009-2011: Getting Clearer about Details
By 2009 it had become apparent that merely being an independent content creator was not generating the desired benefits. I felt the need to get a bit more specific about the CONDITIONS under which I wanted to live, so my goals became more about the VISION (live a meaningful life of individual creativity), a DIRECTIVE (be part of dreams that are larger than myself), and a concrete RESOLUTION (make a cool shop filled with things I like). These goals remained i place through 2011, with some tweaks; in 2010 I realized that that I wanted to be around people I liked/respected and that I really had to step-up the making of things every day, and in 2011 I added some product making targets. I also became aware that the WAY that I did things was important too; EXCELLENCE, AWESOMENESS, and PERSISTENCE were adopted as a metric for keeping to the right path. I’d say that this period of time could be described as sharpening the vision of what was important to me as a creator.
2012: Not as Straightforward as I Thought
By 2012, enough time had elapsed that I was starting to wonder if I was SCREWING UP badly. I was starting to struggle with all the things I thought I should be doing. I also felt that I should be more capable of doing the things I had set out for myself. I had the time. I had the knowledge. I had the means and the desire. And yet not a lot seemed to be happening, or it wasn’t happening fast enough. So, I decided to get more SPECIFIC about making and selling product on Amazon, and I also thought that if I could somehow “balance” myself and manage all the tasks on my plate I would be more productive. Ha ha ha! I would characterize this year as a critical reassessment year, when I started to sense that I wasn’t able to do what I thought I could, but hadn’t yet given up.
2013-2015: Brute Forcing My Way Through the Problems
I would characterize these years as the productivity system design and refinement phase. My thinking was that I knew what I wanted to do, but I just needed better system design. And by “better”, I meant having productivity goals that followed a sound MODEL. In 2013 I was confident that I knew what I wanted and was doing, and how I wanted to go about achieving CREATIVE INDEPENDENCE. This was the first year I did a 30 DAY CHALLENGE and it felt AMAZING. I repeated this in 2014 and 2015. However, I was starting to feel my limits. Making something new every day was very draining, and I was finding that my available energy was far more limited than I cared to admit. I tried to dig deep and find an ETERNAL SOURCE OF WILLPOWER, or at least unearth the conditions when I could extend my limited energy stores. My continuing inability to easily START PROJECTS was still a problem. By 2015 I wasn’t any better at starting/finishing projects, but I did gain CONFIDENCE that I was on the right track. However, I was BURNED OUT and also lacking confidence that I knew how to overcome my weaknesses.
2016-2017: Shattering and Rebuilding Confidence, Integrating Community
It occurred to me again that I theoretically had the skills to do what I wanted to do, but maybe I needed to make one more push. I started to see that my expectations of my performance, rather than being accurate predictors of success, were actually DEMOTIVATING and UNREALISTIC. I tried to EMBRACE SLOWNESS and TAKE MY TIME, which was very difficult because I still had the expectation that I should be FAST if I were COMPETENT. I did try to simplify the core of my desire to just two things: having a neat side business (felt more humble) and sharing what I love (recognizing that this gave me energy). I then attempted to do a 314 THING-A-DAY MAKING CHALLENGE, which was incredibly draining. I burned out after about 3 months, and canned the project in June. I had hit my limits, unable to juggle both paid contract work with daily personal projects without feeling burned-out. On the bright side, this was the period that I made CREATIVE INTERDEPENDENCE equal partners with CREATIVE INDEPENDENCE, and the VIRTUAL COWORKING work I’d been doing blossomed into a supportive community!
At the end of 2017, I was going through a severe period of existentialist depression with regards to my desire to do anything at all. It had been building for a while, starting probably in 2015 and finally hitting rock bottom in mid-2017. It was a tough year all around. I wasn’t sure what I would do next; I had seemingly tried everything and felt I had fallen short every single time. Recognizing that perhaps I was putting too much pressure on myself, I eased-up on my personal expectations, starting to entertain the idea of a taskless/timeless productivity system based on a gathering model of productivity as opposed to the “factory model” I employed during 2013-2015.
Modeling Happiness, 2018 Edition
Having reviewed the past and seen the overarching plot of my failed ambitions, I’m feeling surprisingly heartened by my progress. At this moment three things stand out to me:
Awesome thing number one: despite not having achieved success, I seem to have persevered with the Groundhog Day Habit.
Awesome thing number two: I have tried a lot of things and have kept notes on everything.
Awesome thing number three: I have not compromised my personal sense of authenticity, transparency, and authenticity. I have not tried to fool anyone or appear to be more than I am. I have managed to stay true to my identity, and have also managed to grow somehow. The crowning achievement is the Virtual Coworking Chatroom…accidentally creating this community space is, I think, the most wonderful thing I’ve done. I am finally hanging out with those “conscientious, kind, positive-minded, generous and competent people” in a little community we’re making together. This fills me with happiness, and there is nothing more I want to do than to keep it going.
I can also say with confidence that my goals are still the same after all these years, which I’ll rephrase yet again:
- Make money doing what I like and love!
- Share what I love by making and showing and being authentic!
- Be around like-minded people that I like and inspire and educate me!
- Be part of something bigger than myself!
- Figure out the Neat Side Business!
These desires have been constant in all my years of pursuing Groundhog Day Resolutions, and I think I could accurately describe them as MY WORKING THEORY OF HAPPINESS as far as I am concerned. I also have gathered enough data about myself over the intervening years to model different levels of happiness, which I’ll just dump below. They’re roughly in order of “difficulty” for me. Level I comes naturally. Level II is a bit difficult. Level III is what has eluded me in the past Groundhog Day Resolutions of years past.
HAPPINESS LEVEL I: SHARING
The following comes naturally to me; I really feel good when I can be immersed in these activities. This I where I’d like to be all the time.
- Sharing what I love about the world through media creation
- Sharing what I love with like-minded people who also share what they love
- Having the freedom and the means to pursue my interests when they arise
- Gathering the bits of the world into collections that are examples of what I love and being able to share them (product, collections of writing, making recommendations, sharing insights)
- Being around positive-minded, conscientious, kind, generous, competent people.
HAPPINESS LEVEL II: MASTERY
Becoming really good at skills is attractive to me too, but is more challenging. I’m not always up for the challenge, but I feel very strongly about spending the time to TRY to do them. This is a different kind of happiness, the accrual of mastery of any type, as well as the ability to demonstrate it. I feel some dissatisfaction in my achievements here.
- Pursue excellence, awesomeness with persistence (the SENSE OF MISSION, EPICNESS)
- Mastery of process to create excellence
- Deep understanding of concepts, with ability to communicate them with outstanding clarity.
- Engaging in pure discovery for the sake of it via Happy Bubble Time
- Share everything!
HAPPINESS LEVEL III: EGO PROJECTS
I’m attracted to doing hard things, because I can see how they work. I see these big projects as being the MOST VALUABLE vehicles to achieve “creative independence”. However, my abilities are not yet up to the task of doing these all by myself, and this is very frustrating at times. There is also an anxiety that I’m not smart/capable enough to do them by myself.
- Making proof-of-concept prototypes that illustrate LEVEL I and II qualities
- Creation of big fucking systems (BFS) that are imbued with LEVEL I and II qualities
- Being the author / acknowledged creator of BFS. There is a desire to be a solo creator, because I have not found the team that will work with me.
- Having enough money so I don’t have to do things that other people tell me to do, unless I want to do them.
- Having enough money to hire the people from LEVEL 1 at a fair wage to be part of the making circle!
My 2018 Groundhog Day Resolutions
Starting with my personal “Happiness Model” and knowing what I think I want to do, I’m declaring the following RESOLUTIONS FOR 2018:
- Resolution: Make a viable GATHERING STYLE PRODUCTIVITY system, and apply it.
- Resolution: Create a public identity built on all my disparate activities, leadership in standing for the things I love, and sharing them all as my NEAT SIDE BUSINESS.
- Resolution: Build the product mix, consolidate the store, share them widely as part of the NEAT SIDE BUSINESS ecommerce identity!
- Resolution: Swear less! Make a swear jar!
Here, I drew a bad picture of it on this index card:
- BOTTOM: These are all the persistent elements of my consciousness, what is on my mind both positive and negative.
- MIDDLE: On the right are Groundhog Day Resolutions (this system), channeling the conscious elements below into useful nuggets of productivity. On the left, though, is the unfocused stuff that just happens as a result of me just existing and pursuing what catches my eye. While this is unpredictable stuff, it still IS quite productive! Quite a lot of my interesting output (including all my productivity forms!) arose from this unfocused activity. It is therefore important to acknowledge that Groundhog Day Resolutions are NOT THE ONLY PATH to productivity! This is peculiarity of the system that is probably rather unique to me.
- TOP: The Happiness Formula for 2018 is set by this post, and feeding into it is the output from GHDR. However it’s also adjacent to the UNFOCUSED PRODUCTIVITY; this is something that already makes me happy. GHDR is, perhaps, more about LEVEL 3 HAPPINESS BIG DAMN PROJECTS that are difficult and require a modicum of discipline.
This is, if it isn’t obvious, a theoretical model of how my productivity works. I make a lot of these. You may remember this one from earlier in the year (read about it here):
Supporting the Goals
To promote progress on these goals, I think having DAILY ACTIVITIES will help keep me on-track. The following are based on the various insights I’ve had about my working style and habits over the years combined with the Taskless/Timeless and Gathering Model of productivity I’ve been designing over the past few months. I haven’t yet formalized that system, but the ideas below are part of it:
- DAILY: Actively SHARE or BUILD+SHARE or DOCUMENT+SHARE for all activities and dump into ACCRUAL BUCKET
- DAILY: Making a Thing a Day seems to be great! Just make it less demanding of time (L1)
- DAILY: Try to find the links between the small things a day that combine into emergent BIGGER things! Look in the ACCRUAL BUCKET and PRODUCT COMBOBULATOR (L1)
- DAILY: Continue to make and share via VIRTUAL COWORKING / STREAMING (L1)
The ACCRUAL BUCKET is a storage device that stores the achievements of the day. They can be completed shareable works or components that can be used as-is to build a larger work. They are intended for my personal use.
The PROJECT COMBOBULATOR is another storage device that takes what is in the ACCRUAL BUCKET and remixes them into works that are packaged for an outside audience.
An important part of staying on-track is DAILY MONITORING of the output from the DAILY ACTIVITIES. With the Taskless/Timeless Gathering system, it is the accrual of useful artifacts that is the key metric for productivity. Here are the monitoring activities I’m thinking of applying to make sure that STUFF IS MADE and put into the “accrual bucket” for counting:
- Monitor the three defined levels of happiness difficulty and refine over the year and refine.
- Monitor negativity levels and log.
- Keep the logs for the ACCRUAL BUCKET and PRODUCT COMBOBULATOR up-to-date on daily basis.
- Make them all public!
Finally, here are some negative factors, HAPPINESS DETRACTORS AND DEMOTIVATORS, to defend against. I’ve been writing about these for years:
- Negativity about time: efficiency, speed of learning, speed of implementation
- Negativity about tasks: uncertainty, guaranteed reward/value
- Negativity toward routine/boring/mundane tasks
- Negativity dealing with confusing low-quality information that impedes my critical path implementation
- Negativity dealing with poorly designed/documented tools/gear that are part of the critical path implementation
- Energy loss from dealing with social interactions of a mundane/entitled nature, particularly ones where people are not being up-front about what they want, or are being passive aggressive in their interactions, or deflect blame from themselves onto other people. BLARGH TOXIC INTERACTIONS.
Finally, it would be good to have specific metrics for success. For this year’s goals, I’ll choose some low-hanging fruit:
- Publishing of something everyday, either through the LIVESTREAM (WHAT’S UP DAVE) or the BLOG or PATREON.
- Identification of “emergent bigger projects” when digging around in the ACCRUAL BUCKET or PRODUCT COMBOBULATOR.
- Ensuring that the “accrued” elements are visible to the public in some fashion.
- Periodically noting how I’m feeling during the day. Maybe this is just for the gut-check.
Each of the DAILY ACTIVITIES are built around tangible/showable achievements, so visiting them everyday might make me feel good. It will feel good that other people can see them too, since that fits in with my overall philosophy of what being “productive” means. SHOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING SO THE UNIVERSE CAN RESPOND.
Outside of Groundhog Day Resolutions, there are other factors that may impact my performance:
- One thing I have not directly addressed are BIG SYSTEM PROJECTS, which are part of the LEVEL 3 HAPPINESS MODEL. There’s a tendency for me to feel stuck on those, and demotivated to even start. I don’t know if this new system will help within that, but I guess we’ll find out.
- I’m also concerned about maintaining life balance, since this year I do have a lot of contract work. I may not be able to spend the time I want every day to make contributions to specific personal projects, but I’m hoping that the simpler metric of just storing anything of value in either the BUCKET or COMBOBULATOR will contribute to a feeling of achievement.
- As I’m getting old I’m concerned about my physical health. Then there’s mental health, which involves being around people I like (one of my happiness criteria in LEVEL 1) and dealing with personal issues like uncovering the sources of lingering anxieties, nihilism, disconnection from humanity. I’m not sure GHDR will help with those. We shall see!
- I’m wondering if the excitement of defining yet ANOTHER set of year’s goals is masking something important, like whether there is an actual destination that I am aiming for. I suspect I am ready to accept that my destiny will be emergent, not targeted, but again we shall see.
Kicking Off the Year
It might take a few days to get rolling on this, but I am going to pursue the following with the intention of making these daily updates:
- Sharing of all kinds on the livestream
- Making the ACCRUAL and COMBOBULATOR logs public (and therefore updated daily)
- Opening the accrual+combobulator assets as a kind of “thing-a-day” challenge, though it may NOT be daily (some things just take a lot of time)
- Periodical review of groundhog day resolutions, evaluating success based on progress on the specific goals, and an overall feeling of “how productive was I” versus “what were this month’s frustrations” versus “what’s the biggest cool thing I did this month” versus “what is the surprising cool things that emerged from my activities?”
Here’s this year’s calendar:
|MON 1/1||New Year’s Day||Start thinking about resolutions|
|FRI 2/2||Groundhog Day||Make your resolutions. Assemble your peer group.|
|SAT 3/3||March 3||Review w/ group.|
|WED 4/4||April 4||Review w/ group.|
|SAT 5/5||Cinco de Mayo||Review w/ group. Think celebratory, spring-like thoughts!|
|WED 6/6||June 6||Mid-Year Review w/ group. Optional break for summer.|
|SAT 7/7||Tanabata Star Festival||Private Review. Make Wishes. Rededicate.|
|WED 8/8||Chinese Father’s Day||Private Review. Plan for future completion.|
|SUN 9/9||September 9||Review w/ group. Three months left.|
|WED 10/10||October 10||Review w/ group. Two months left.|
|SUN 11/11||Veteran’s Day||Review w/ group. A Day to be Grateful.|
|WED 12/12||December 12||End-of-year Review. Break for Holiday Madness.|
ALL RIGHT LET’S GET THIS GOING!