Ground Hog Day Resolution Review Day 10: Wrapping Up the Year

Today is 12/12, the very last day of my Groundhog Day Resolutions, an experiment to replace ineffective “New Year’s Resolutions” with a system worked with my actual lifestyle. You can read about it in more depth here, but the gist is to wait until you’re settled in for the year and make your resolutions on February 2nd aka Groundhog Day. To make sure I followed through with my resolutions, I picked 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, and so on to be Groundhog Day Resolution Review Days (GHDRRDs), to see how things were going.

The full year has wrapped up for me, so I will review my resolutions and evaluate the performance of the GHDRR system. Overall I think it’s worked pretty well for what it is: I was able to remind myself of my bigger goals more than once a year. There are refinements that could be made, of course, which I’ll touch upon later. First, let me see how I did overall for the year for my personal goals.

Three Goals Reviewed

I had three main goals, all them related to making adjustments to my hybrid life/career. My understanding of these goals has changed over time and, I think, has deepened:

(1) Commit to Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff — I originally picked this goal to test a hypothesis: if I like blogging and creating forms so dang much, would I be happier and more successful if I could pursue this full time? Underlying this goal is a question about identity: Am I a writer? Am I comfortable presenting that role to the world? Am I a maker? Am I ready to present myself as such? This is a significant departure from the service-based New Media Designer / Developer niche that I’ve been in for the bulk of 2006.

{2} Build Sustainable Social Networks — In 2004, I was quite isolated from the rest of the world, wondering what I should do. Thankfully, I met some wonderful people that got me interested in the world again. I discovered that I could create my own groups, and that it really took very little to sustain them: have some experiences and things to share, be genuinely interested in sharing them, and meet regularly no matter what. Through the blog, I met some very cool people and ended up going to SXSW for the first time, which hammered home the point that meeting like-minded people face to face is one of the most energizing things a body can do. However, all that socializing takes a lot of time and energy, so my challenge for 2007 was to figure out how to make it work without bleeding me dry.

(3) Sell a Product This Year — This goal is related to (1) but tests different hypotheses:: Will people buy something I’ve made? and Will I like making and selling stuff more than I like writing and design? In retrospect, I can see now that goals (1) and (3) are really about choosing a career path. I could be a writer / craftsman of some kind working on the behalf of other people, or I could become more own enterprise and apply my skills on my own behalf. Which will it be?

Three Goals Evaluated

So how did I do?

  1. In terms of committing to being a writer / maker, I haven’t been successful in the commercial sense. I haven’t published an article, written a book, or made money through pure design. I have, however, continued to work on and improve my website, writing articles and making things that have continued to amuse myself and a few others on the Internet. And because I’ve done this, it’s been easier for the right people to stumble upon my website. I am starting to get more work from website-based referrals, and I could see this could go somewhere. The main hurdles are managing my business development activities and finding good people to share the workload. Regarding biz dev, I’ve emailed a lot of people this year, and I’ve not followed up on several promising leads because they got buried by other projects. From a relationship management perspective, I would score a big fat C minus. It’s a huge challenge for me to just keep track of everyone and still actually have time to do paying work. Each personal interaction I take uses up at least 15 minutes, though the average is probably something like 30 minutes. Regarding finding good people to work with, I had some success in meeting some good people this year through the World of Warcraft Guild Experiment, and I made a referral that happily worked out for both parties. There is much additional work that can be done in this area, for example the Freelance Network that is still on the launchpad, ready to attract a few good collaborators and co-schemers. How about the question of identity? I’ve only lately realized that I would like to be meeting interesting people and documenting their stories, sort of like a tinker, plying my design work from city to city while collecting stories and songs. In a way the blog allows me to do that, but I’d like to see where it can go.

  2. The problems I face in (1) are part of the rationale for forming a sustainable social network. Here, “sustainable” means “self-maintaining”. The ideal network exists to empower and energize all who meaningfully participate in its activities. Most social networking groups I’ve been a part of have either been (1) pretty flat or (2) a job in itself with its own agenda. Since I am finding I have less and less time, I want to make something that rewards me in exactly the way I need for every hour I put into it, guaranteed. The WoW Guild was a flawed experiment in that it required a lot of energy to maintain. While the guild still exists, we haven’t gotten together for some time. Despite the lack of a clear win in creating a sustainable network, the socializing itself has been successful. I’ve met a lot of people, and I’m involved in more groups both online and offline. It has led to a feeling of contentment that I haven’t had in quite some time, and I am truly blessed to have met so many interesting people. It has transformed my sense of purpose, because I recognized that I felt much happier when I applied my skills to express what I personally value. And what I value are moments of inspiration and epiphany, when someone realizes that an entire world of possibility has suddenly opened to them. I’d like to continue doing that.

  3. And this brings me to my last goal, selling a product as a way of applying my skills to create packaged ideas that can be physically shipped to people. I love packaging almost as much as I like making sense of things, the yin of the experience intertwined with the yang of an executable idea. I was also enamored of the idea of creating a self-running design-make-sell-ship-profit business after reading Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week. This is a good example, incidentally, how doing something new can yield surprisingly benefits. I had reviewed the book because it was the first “advance copy” anyone had ever offered to send me. It turned out to be quite an interesting and inspiring read, and it’s changed my outlook on what I could be doing with my life. As a direct result, one of my major goals for 2010 is to be completely mobile, so I can afford to work anywhere in the world at the drop of a whim. Ferriss’ blog is awesome, BTW. He’s not a spectator in life; he’s a rare combination of teacher AND doer. Incidentally, for all of you waiting for the Pre-Printed Emergent Task Planner Pads to go out, we are finally ready to start shipping them throughout the domestic United States. When I get back from San Jose, we’ll send an email blast out. One lucky person actually asked about them before I left, and I sent them to the secret preorder testing page, so hopefully they have received their pad order by now. Therefore, I can actually check off this goal from the list. Woo hoo! After we fulfill the pre-orders, the store will open up to the general public.

So out of those three goals, I have technically met just the last one. The reason that I met the last goal was that it was actually concrete: you either have shipped a product, or you haven’t. That really made all the difference. I should have known better, I suppose, since I am a fan of concrete goals, but on the other hand my other “goals” turned out to be a series of questions:

Q. Am I comfortable calling myself a writer/maker? A: Yes. Finally. Q. Can I make a living from it? A: I don’t know. Selling my design work as product, writing books, and continuing to blog as inclusively as possible seem to be the direction that’s working, so I’ll stick with it. Expanding into products, decoupling myself from the supply chain, and being able to live anywhere will help make it possible. Q. Is a network of awesome people part of the plan? A. Yes. That’s the whole point, to meet, scheme with, and be around awesome people to do great things.

Review Days Reviewed

The Groundhog Day Resolution system itself has, more or less, worked out. It helped that I entered the dates into Google Calendar ahead of time so I would get a reminder, and I never forgot which day I was supposed to reflect. That might be the best part of the system. The main problems I had with the system, as currently implemented, have to do with frequency, concreteness, and maintaining clarity.
  • Once a month is frequent enough to be aware of your goals, but it isn’t frequent enough to make them part of your daily continuity. If you’re a dilligent practitioner of Getting Things Done, you know the importance of the weekly review in making sure your projects are moving forward. With a whole 4 weeks between Groundhog Day Review Days, you are just not going to maintain the same pacing. This was sort of by design; as I didn’t want my goals to be more work for me that I would have to track on top of my every-day work. In other words, they were “bonus” goals.

  • Some of the most personally satisfyiing things I did this year, like Getting Up at a Regular Time (still doing it) and Decoding the Mysteries of the Gym (still doing that too, having achieved the level of “cardiovascular fatness” without losing weight) were not even on my list. I think there should be some way of tracking these bonus accomplishments within the system, but there is no formalized record keeping methodology. Corrie Haffly’s Monthly Goal Tracker Forms are the closest thing there is to an “officially-approved” form, and who can say no to a cheering cartoon groundhog? Only heartless bastards, that’s who! :-)

  • About halfway through the year I hit the goal doldrums, and had to remind myself why I even had these goals in the first place. So midway through the year, it probably is not a bad idea to have a goal re-assessment day around 7/7 to infuse new energy into the system. I’m not sure what it was; perhaps the onset of summer had me distracted.

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p>So sometime between now and February 2nd, I’ll hopefully be working on a version 2.0 of Groundhog Day Resolutions, complete with new forms and writeups. You can probably guess that this might be a second product to put together. I’ll probably adapt the old Concrete Goals Tracker for New Year’s Resolutions methodology, combined perhaps with some interesting props.

So that’s it for the year. Practitioners of Groundhog Day Resolutions have the rest of the year off for their resolution keeping, because we’re busy with the holidays and the aftermath of closing out the year. I hope everyone had a good year.

Happy 2008!

Past Posts on Groundhog Resolutions Day