Daily Form: Concluding Thoughts

Daily Form: Concluding Thoughts

Daily Journal January 31 Here’s last Sunday’s concluding tracking form, ending two weeks of mindful productivity tracking with the new “multiple goals tracking (MGT)” form. And I’ve had about enough of it. While I like the idea of it, I believe the form is trying to do too much, so I’ll have to address this in the next iteration. Thoughts follow.

Rah Rah Me!

Let’s look at the numbers first: week two ended with 92 points, compared to the previous week’s 113. There was a drastic drop in points toward the end of the week, which corresponds to my growing increasingly tired of tracking points without having accomplished anything that felt conclusive. Memory is so fleeting, though…let me list the major accomplishments of each week:

WEEK 1: Did finishing touches on a client’s website, and invoiced for it. Checked out some new e-product ideas, Added new Amazon product, posted a screencast, took care of my house insurance for the next year, created a whole new form, and made some significant progress on other WordPress sites.

WEEK 2: Wrote several blog posts, updated thumbnails for the CGT page, researched XNA and Flash Player integration, kicked off Cardio Time and Water drinking, installed Internet in Sid’s studio.

Looking at this, I can see I’ve been busy, but I also am not feeling like anything got completely finished, in the sense that I could climb into something new and drive it away under its own power. There isn’t anything completely new I can point to that feels like a new asset, with the exception perhaps of the CGT page improvements. This is something I need to address in future application of the MGT.

Maintaining That Sense of Completion.

The tracking form made me aware of how much work I was doing, and how much time I spend actually being in what I would call “soft productivity” These are activities that fall in the 1-2 point range, which are related more to future possibilities than current deliverables.

Toward the end of last week, I started to feel mentally fatigued from spending so much time thinking about what I was doing to be more productivity. By Thursday evening, I was kaput. I spent the next few days sleeping and watching TV on Hulu. My mind did not want to engage. It was difficult, in fact, to get out of bed this morning and start planning, even though I knew there were many things I could start working on.

And perhaps that’s the problem: there are TOO MANY THINGS. Leo Balbuto says in his “Zen to Done” book that one should work on only one thing at a time, and I’m inclined to believe this from the perspective that it’s a more efficient use of one’s attention. Of course, my problem is that I have an unruly attention mechanism, easily distracted by the inherent possibility in everything that my gaze happens to fall upon. Secondly, there was a LACK OF MEANINGFUL FEEDBACK in week 2. No new website traffic. No new products. No affirmations that the path I’m on is the right one, or is even leading to something more fruitful. This is not conducive to maintaining good morale.

Peace of Mind

The daily forms did do one thing well, particularly in the first week: it gave me the peace of mind that I had captured everything that was important to me that week. That gave me a baseline of desire against which I could measure actual achievement. Toward the end of the two-week stint, it became obvious that progress was going to be very slow, and I would have to recalibrate my expectations. This was demoralizing, and whatever peace of mind I had before was replaced by the sense that I was falling behind, not fast enough, and that my efforts were not paying off as quickly as I wanted.

To move forward in the evolution of this form, I think I need to split it up. I’m envisioning keeping the silos as an overall “what I want to do” form, and then a daily tracker that lists only a specific task in each area. This reminds me a bit of the approach taken by Agile development teams, particularly the SCRUM approach, where one maintains a “product backlog” and a “sprint backlog”. The product backlog is just a list of everything you’d like to see featurewise, and this corresponds to what I’d like to do with my life. The sprint backlog is the list of things you’ll be doing in the next chunk of time (the “sprint”). What I like about this is that one can stop worrying about the big picture and do the implementation; the deeper introspection is deferred for a week or two.

I’m going to take a break from the form for a few days and move back to a very targeted list of just two items:

  • Groundhog Day Resolutions Post
  • Website Copy

All other ideas will remain on the 1-30-2011 journal form. After that, I will review my overall list and refactor the Multiple Goals Tracker form next week.

Viva la Evolution!

Past Articles in the Series


  1. Avrum 13 years ago

    “Leo Balbuto says… that one should work on only one thing at a time”

    and Barbara Sher encourages the opposite with “Refuse to Choose” Stephen Covey says to work on one’s Roles, yet Tim Ferris implores us to work only 4 hours a day Tony Robbins believes it’s stupid to not have an outcome and purpose for every role/project while Mark Forester encourages “little and often” David Allen thinks everyone else has a mind UN-like water, and preaches lists, rules and weekly reviews

    Each author has the audacity to believe that their system is a panacea to worry, aimless drifting and procrastination. Some position their system as an urban form of Zen.

    I think there’s a kernel, a small one at that, in all of them.

    Most of the time, I think these systems, and the time we dedicate to them, are convenient distractions from the things we fear doing.

  2. Author
    Dave Seah 13 years ago

    That’s a great point, Avrum. I wonder how one could interpolate one’s own personal truth from each system. There’s a continuum of thought-to-action (or action-to-thought for others) where each insight injects itself. My own feeling is that overall mindfulness, which is paying attention where we put our attention, is the general principle. How to achieve that mindfulness is where all the various systems come into play, and I imagine that the success of an individual system depends on what is most needed.

    I think any of these systems, when followed as their designers have indicated, work when followed to the letter. The friction in the system (i.e. the time spent following them) is a necessary overhead cost of production. The trick is to reduce it while maintaining high standards of production which yield a profitable increase in the quality of life. Most books I’ve read on the subject, which is admittedly few, seem to focus mostly on the system and not as much on the definition of “standards”, “profit”, and “quality” in terms of the life experience. It’s just listed as a necessary step, and the rest is either implied by the system designer’s world view or glossed over.

    This isn’t really a direct response to you, but it’s as good a time as any to reflect on some of my recent thoughts…thanks for the opening!

  3. Avrum 13 years ago

    “….interpolate one’s own personal truth from each system”

    I think it’s important to be aware of what you’re hoping the system will offer you. Another way to think about this would be: “What do I lack that a system can fulfill?”. The answer to this question can be found in our family of origin i.e. How did my parents live their lives? What motivated them? If you can distill the best, and discard/replace the worst, you might have the seedlings for a system.

    “How to achieve that mindfulness…”

    A great question. I took a 4 month MBSR course. It was fine, sometimes helpful. But true to form (in the mental health arena anyway) the benefits are WAY over hyped. Worse, out of a class of 13, only 2 were able to maintain a practice 1 month after the course was over.

    “I think any of these systems, when followed as their designers have indicated, work when followed to the letter”

    I would agree, but would attribute the benefit to the placebo effect. Too much tampering with a system removes the “magic” behind the madness. In my world (therapy), when a psychiatrist prescribes medication, s/he should do it with authority. It seems to work better :)

  4. Author
    Dave Seah 13 years ago

    “Another way to think about this would be: “What do I lack that a system can fulfill?”

    This is first-order thinking, and it makes sense, but I think this is built on a premise that we can find out what those things are through some form of inquiry. It is the inquiry process itself that I think needs systemization through some kind of experiential process. I guess that system is therapy, now that I think about it…is there a systemic process of inquiry that therapists use to get at the root of these questions? Maybe I am looking for the equivalent of “positive psychology” in therapy, focusing on the identification of that which actually does bring fulfillment through several stages of growth. It reminds me of teaching people how to program computers: there are a number of key insights that can not be gleaned without actually going through certain problem solving exercises under particular conditions to shape future habits. Some of the ones that might not immediately come to mind are: (1) the overnight group hacking session (2) the ability to infer intention of code by knowing the programmer(s) who wrote it (3) the rise above syntactical glue as programming (4) seeing the world as code for the first time and (5) synthesizing patterns from all these observations with the goal of completing the hidden sequence within. These all require certain combinations of experience, challenge, and social environment to cause the “right” habits to take root. And I think they are requirements to become a real A-level programmer of a certain type.

    Maybe put another way: what is my system? Then one can infer what areas are lacking, if one choses to see a lack of capability in any particular area as a weakness. It would be very cool to have a system to map the system.

    “I would agree, but would attribute the benefit to the placebo effect”

    I was thinking about a different effect, which is that any effort applied in a physical process tends to produce results. Let’s say Company A makes clocks, as does Company B. Company A enforces some kind of total quality control program, which leads to incremental improvements that Company B does not make by doing the same thing it always has. Company A has therefore made a gain in its ability to produce. That’s just looking at it “by the letter”.

    However, if one looks deeper, there are so many variables that affect performance that the “by the letter” incremental gain is the most laborious way to effect it. And I think people intuitively know this, which makes it even harder to do, so we look for shortcuts or tricks to convince ourselves to stick with the program OR find some other way to do it. The former is more related to the placebo effect, perhaps. The latter I would call process re-engineering. Common to both of them is the amount of friction that has to be absorbed by human understanding, which can be manipulated through many means. In the former, it’s the authority that backs the belief. In the latter, it’s probably novelty and temporary relief from boredom in the average case, driven by the promise of increased productivity and constant energy input from other sources (consultants, bosses, reinforcing stories of success).

    • Avrum 13 years ago

      “is there a systemic process of inquiry that therapists use to get at the root of these questions”

      The closest would be some form of psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy.

      “Maybe I am looking for the equivalent of “positive psychology” in therapy”

      Positive psychology digests well, as does Mindfulness, and can be done with a book/CD . Again, I think many of these quick-fix (though Mindfulness practitioners will tell you the practice is anything but a quick-fix) therapies say more about HMOs than efficacy. As a Family Systems therapist, I’m biased towards growth over symptom reduction.

      “It would be very cool to have a system to map the system.”

      Which is why I thought it would be cool to understand the motivations, the psychological dust, behind the makers of productivity systems. From there, one could try and match personality style with said system. For example, atheists have trouble with the underpinnings of 7 Habits. As a practicing Jew, I could not imagine divorcing elements of spirituality and family from my system.

      ” it’s probably novelty and temporary relief from boredom in the average case, driven by the promise of increased productivity”

      Nicely put! I need to remember this the next time I ignore my guitar to improve my weekly review.