Daily Form: Emergence of the Multiple Goals Tracker

Daily Form: Emergence of the Multiple Goals Tracker

Day 2 This morning, I went to Starbucks and made a copy of yesterday’s Illustrator file. For today’s sketch, I transcribed the meaningful accomplishments from my timesheet, and dropped in a Concrete Goals Tracker-style week tracker w/ a draft version of generic project achievement point weights.

What I like about the silo approach is that I can scan my major tasks for the week and gain a sense of what choices are available. However, I felt an urge to have some way of encouraging progress. The Concrete Goals Tracker (CGT) handles a single goal well, and I thought perhaps it could be extended to handle multiple goals.

In the regular CGT, I identify specific areas of achievement for freelance designers and coders, and assign point values to them in a way that rewards many supporting tasks that happen frequently while really calling out the major achievement of COMPLETING a goal and SHOWING it to someone. Those are the two things that matter, in my book, when it comes to being productive. Here’s the standard list for freelancers:

  • 10 points – life-sustaining billable work! / signing new business!
  • 05 points – ship code / show design / planning and accounting
  • 02 points – new self-promo materials / blog post / biz dev (networking) activity
  • 01 points – meeting someone new / talking to someone you already know

The basic premise behind this: billable hours and new business sustain your business. Everything else should help promote that; they’re listed in diminishing point values. Showing something you’ve done is a more concrete way of selling yourself than self-promotion/networking, which in turn is more concrete than just talking to people to keep yourself top-of-mind.

For the Multiple Goal Tracker (MGT), the point value list has to be less specific but still build from small supporting tasks up to major accomplishments. Here’s my starting list:

  • 10 points – major result completed! / showed major result to someone!
  • 05 points – a step completed! / showed step result! / applied needed asset!
  • 02 points – creative progress / admin chore complete / planned next step
  • 01 points – explored possibility / told someone about project / acquired asset

It’s up to me to define what is a “major result”, a “step completed”, and so forth. While this may bother the beancounters who are looking for an impartial reference, I don’t believe it’s strictly necessary to have one. While the way I score my tasks may be different than yours, I’m counting on consistency within my assessment, which is not an unreasonable assumption to make. What really matters is the day-to-day and week-to-week difference in points.

I spent a couple hours screwing around with the form layout. I’m printing these on my black and white laser printer, so I’m avoiding color and not worrying too much about fonts, colors, and proportions.

The big thing I need to remember is to look at this more than once a day. My home office is kind of a mess at the moment, so I need to clean up the space so I can at least keep this screen up on the laptop, within view of my main workstation. In a way, this is an interesting way of prototyping a digital version of the planning tools. With all the WordPress customization I’ve been doing on the side, I’ve been getting more familiar with the use of databases to store and retrieve data, so who knows…maybe something will come of it!

10 Comments

  1. Federico Figueredo 9 years ago

    I like the thinking behind the points system. One thing that comes as an inquiry is: how do you measure the creative process? I’m often faced with a similar problem and have not yet come to a happy solution.

    PS: After reading the headline moderate eating I can certainly relate to both the idea and the (potential) hassle. I’m doing Ferris’ slow carb diet myself and the first few days without sweets have been killers. Good luck on that one ;)

  2. Christine(@isekhmet) 9 years ago

    You’re right, I’m intrigued by this too.

    I like the way you sort information, it is really helpful as a starting point for my own work. I wish you had an e-book or something else I could buy to back up my written support with actual cash. :) Can I send you a donation via paypal in return for the great downloads and for intriguing me with these posts today?

  3. Author
    Dave Seah 9 years ago

    Federico: Measuring creative process…that’s a doozy! May be worth an open discussion! As for “moderate eating”, I tried this once before and know that it produced results. I also tell myself that I’ve eaten well for the past 40 years, and I can survive for six months eating less :) It also helps to eat, on your days where you are allowed to, the most excellent gourmet foods that dazzle your tastebuds. Then, everything else you’re likely to find convenient will just not seem worth the effort. I suppose you need to be something of a foodie, though, for this to work. As it is, I start craving terrible things like Chinese All-You-Can-Eat buffets and Big Macs.

    Christine: I wish I had an ebook too! If you write an outline of what you’d like to see in one, I’ll try filling it in! Then I can put it online and you can download it :) I don’t have a donation system set up yet, but I’m planning on fixing the international version of the “digital download Compact Calendar”; you can purchase a copy of it then for support if you like! Thanks for the lovely offer, though…made my day!

  4. Federico Figueredo 9 years ago
    Measuring creative process…that’s a doozy! May be worth an open discussion!

    True. I often start thinking it’s one of the banes of the creative worker. There is so much that happens behind the scenes, often while you’re doing something completely different (like browsing a Flickr account or flipping through a magazine.) Still, it is true that eventually we need to produce something tangible; I just find that measuring our progress solely by the (visible, actual) things we can churn out can be deceiving. I really like that your sheet acknowledges the existance of that creative process as a valuable part of our work.

    RE: Eating I’m going to give that a try. I’ve never been a foodie though so we’ll see how well that works. I just miss how convenient it was to have a latte with a couple cookies in the morning/afternoons. I might not be getting as many calories as I need, I guess.

    PS: I second the request for an international version of the calendar. To be honest I don’t think I’d use it nowadays but it’s a cool way to give you a thank you note (in the form of some money =D) Would it be possible to purchase a source file version? I might want to add something of my own to it (for personal use) and having the *.ai version would be perfect.

  5. Author
    Dave Seah 9 years ago

    Some thoughts:

    To be creative, if I take the word literally, is to create and to make. Taken more generally, it can describe a certain mindset that is associated with creating. In its most thinly-spread form, creativity can be described as an appreciation for those who are creative, an openness to innovation, and an acceptance of imagination as part of our daily life.

    There are two parts of the productive mindset: the input (what we might call inspiration) and the output (what we create). Linking the input to the output is a process we might call synthesis. I think this entire system is what we could label “creativity”.

    Measuring it? Perhaps a conversion ratio of inputs to outputs over time. It’s important for me to measure what has happened by demanding that we show what we’ve made to a pair of eyeballs other than our own. If you do not show what you make, then the world does not participate in your act of creation, and it is unchanged. CHANGE is what matters to me, and I think also to the people who profess creative aspirations, unless they are doing it for their private amusement.

    Regarding the calendar: I’ll consider selling a source file version! Unfortunately, I’d have to make it with different fonts, because my license for Proxima Nova precludes the sale of its embedded use in editable documents.

  6. Moose 9 years ago

    Liking the look of this form! It looks like the current 3 trackers I use combined! Ace. For some reason I also LOVE that it’s landscape and having the goals set out across the top like that kind of says “this is me, this is what I want to achieve”. I think this may be your best yet!

  7. Amanda 9 years ago

    Ooh, pretty! I love it. Where’s my copy? (Seriously, Dave, you haven’t figured out yet that we all want to download everything you make?)

    Re creativity: Asimov wrote an awesome essay on creativity that might serve as the outline for some kind of form. Taking “creativity” to mean “identifying and elucidating a connection between two widely disparate “bits” of pre-existing stuff” He said that the creative man (he wrote this in the 60s, so you have to give him some leeway) will have 4 characteristics: they must be widely educated because you have to have a certain number of “bits” in your head before you can assemble them in unexpected ways. They must be intelligent, which he defines as the ability to combine various “bits” and recognize the consequence of those combinations. They must be intuitive in the sense that no one can pursue every possible combination of all the bits in their head: a creative person has to somehow recognize which combinations are worth pursuing. They must be courageous, because if your idea really is creative, it will by definition be different, and people tend to be conformist, and it takes courage to say “I’ve got a better way”. (Full essay at http://www.briarpig.com/q/asimov-creativity.html)

    So if you have a nifty idea but you’re honestly not sure how to do it or even whether it’s feasible, then your problem is in education. Points could be awarded for doing web research, reading books, talking to experts in the field, fiddling with prototypes, and so on.

    If you have enough information (possibly too much information), but you’re still not sure how to put it together to get what you need, then your problem is in the combination steps of intelligence and intuition. Points could be awarded for brainstorming, fiddling, doodling, mind-mapping, drafting/rewriting, etc. This is probably the most frustrating one to measure, because often the most helpful to-do at this stage is to go for a long walk, or take a nap, or go see an action movie (Asimov’s preference). But walking/napping/watching movies might also be procrastination, and how do you tell the difference?

    If you’ve got an idea, but you’re not sure how to ship it (as Seth Godin would say), your problem is in courage. Points could be awarded for assembling a proposal/blog post/prototype, talking your idea over with someone, seeking feedback online, performing a focus group study, etc. And LOTS of points for ignoring the fear and actually shipping it.

    It’s not an answer, but hopefully it will provide some useful ideas for brainstorming and discussion about what a creativity-meter might look like.

    • Author
      Dave Seah 9 years ago

      Moose: Cool! Which 3 trackers do you use, btw? Are they PCEOsystem?

      Amanda: You’ll have to wait until it’s fully baked! :-)

      Re: Creativity – Thanks for the Asimovian perspective! The model seems fairly sound in the generalities. I think the interesting question is why people would want a creativity meter in the first place. Part of me wonders if it’s an excuse-o-meter in disguise!

      In my personal view, you either made something new, or you didn’t. I recognize that it takes time to make something new, so I try to recognize that individual effort. The gut-check is whether the effort I’m spending is oriented toward shipping or just feeling good; some so-called creative people really just like the feeling of exploring possibilities, and don’t actually produce. I don’t want to be in that category myself, though I was for years.

  8. Amanda 9 years ago

    I don’t like waiting. It makes me cranky. :P

    I think it would be easy for it to become an excuse-o-meter — when you trying to prove to your boss that you are working when you’re really not, or trying to prove to yourself that you’re working when you’re really not. But I can think of a couple of legitimate uses:

    1) You’d like to track your productivity, just like office workers do. It’s a perfectly legitimate desire, although it’s much harder to fulfill. Especially for longer-term projects, you may not have something new to show at the end of the day, but it doesn’t mean you weren’t productive.

    2) You want to limit the amount of time you spend on those items that are sometimes productive and sometimes not. During the education phase, surfing the web really is legitimate work (depending on the sites you’re visiting), but during the correlation/intuitive phase it’s procrastination. Doodling is vice-versa. By keeping track of where you are in the process, you can possibly help keep yourself better focused.

    3) You tend not to do creative work because you tend to think of it as unproductive. In this case, a little bit of excuse-making is OK, if it gets you to do any of the creative work, and a form that convinces you to count research and doodling as “useful” will help with your ultimate result.

    What I don’t know is how to be useful for tracking the creative process and productivity without becoming an excuse-o-meter. I played around with it this afternoon, and made a (really ugly — sorry guys) form as a really basic starting-off point. If anyone’s interested, I posted it at http://www.amandapingel.com/spreadsheets/creativity. I welcome feedback, comments, and especially modifications and improvements.

  9. Federico Figueredo 9 years ago

    So many things to talk about =P …

    @Dave

    My (conscious) emphasis is on shipping… which doesn’t mean that the other (bigger, badder) part of my brain doesn’t do a lovely job of trying to lead me through different paths. You said…

    It’s important for me to measure what has happened by demanding that we show what we’ve made to a pair of eyeballs other than our own. If you do not show what you make, then the world does not participate in your act of creation, and it is unchanged.

    This is super important. I’ve tried to establish a sort of community of designers (or would-be designers) and foster an environment where we’re not afraid of shelling ideas (not people) mercilessly. I’ve found that, every time that I’ve plugged a third party that can take a look at my work and give me perspective things have turned much better.

    I think the interesting question is why people would want a creativity meter in the first place.

    I, personally, am not so much interested in a meter as much as a way to making sure that the creative action (or whatever…) you are taking now actually contributes to shipping something down the line. The meter is good for statistics and serves as an added bonus =)

    RE: Calendar – That is a super weird license (I’m assuming here the -obvious- problems is that you can’t covert them to curves and send them like that.) If you can find a less problematic font that works please let me know.

    @Amanda

    You said…

    You’d like to track your productivity, just like office workers do. It’s a perfectly legitimate desire, although it’s much harder to fulfill. Especially for longer-term projects, you may not have something new to show at the end of the day, but it doesn’t mean you weren’t productive.

    Exactly. Though sometimes you kind of really weren’t productive. For me it’s not always clear which thing actually happened.

    You want to limit the amount of time you spend on those items that are sometimes productive and sometimes not (…) By keeping track of where you are in the process, you can possibly help keep yourself better focused.

    Oh this sounds super intriguing. I’m going to try this out as soon as I have the opportunity. I’ll try to have a look at your forms later but I’m still kind of stuck on the excuse-o-meter concept. I know it’s not rocket surgery (tm – Steve Krug) but I’d like to know exactly what you guys have in mind with that.

    Cheers!