GHDR Review 9: Defining the Groove I am Following

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really bad at making tangible resolutions like “quit smoking” and “play the guitar”. I think it’s because I don’t find these goals very interesting in themselves; I’m more interested in achieving a state of being.

I don’t know what a resolution based on a state of being would be called…maybe the correct term is FANTASY. If that’s the case, my particular fantasy is to become financially self-reliant through my own applied creativity. That’s not a resolution at all, in the typical sense of the word. It’s more like a framing context within which I’ve been working.

So, let me officially restate that becoming financially self-reliant through my own applied creativity has been the framing resolution, and that figuring out what that means has been the main activity of the past four years. I think it’s only now, after some 4-5 years of doing these Groundhog Day Resolutions, that I’m getting comfortable with the idea. Funny that.

With these thoughts in mind, let me mine the past month of activities to see how much closer I’m getting.

What Went Down

Last month, I made a commitment to making software, because I see this as the next step in the evolution of my productivity tools. Plus, no one is making tools that suit my needs. So, learning how to program using today’s tools has been my priority. It’s also teaching me how to learn effectively, as I’m using my own insights about productivity to streamline the process.

I also got into a groove with work, balancing the creative with the practical and managing the personal work with the client work. For once, instead of feeling like I wasn’t spending enough time on everything, I have accepted that things take time and am fine working on things in small chunks.

The reason why I’m feeling good about the process now is because I’ve also given myself permission to be verbose in my writing. I’m writing way more, and also getting more done because of it. The writing captures my thinking and documents my day, which provides a sense of tangible accomplishment. A good example of this are the Web App Code Journal Entries, where I’m indexing all the programming entries on learning how web application development works. Although I don’t have anything working yet as a finished application, I do have process documented that measures my progress. It also allows me to look-up what I’ve done, so I don’t have to relearn from scratch. And, it gives me something to share, albeit in a rough form. That’s a constant theme in my work.

I’d describe the work as this:

  • Target something interesting
  • Investigate
  • Deconstruct -> this creates a collection of resources
  • Distill and Synthesize -> this creates original information value
  • Test through Practice -> this creates tangible value
  • Share -> this creates community value

If I can do this every day, I am loving my “job”.

Let’s take a look at some of what I got done within the context of this lens:

Revenue Related Activities

The “financial self-reliance” part of my GHD Resolution is to create income from product sales, though it also includes client work.

  • Collaborated with Al Briggs to get the WP-Ecommerce plugins installed on davidseah.com
  • Kicked off half a dozen new client projects that came in out of the blue.

Not much done, here, as far as products are concerned. But some progress is being made.

Blogging Highlights

Blogging is my primary sharing mechanism, and it is also my “beacon” on the Internet. People find me through the content they stumble on here, so it’s in my interest to keep growing and improving it.

  • Posted various gear-related asides
  • Started a new “Letters” section
  • Theorized a way of collecting “effort”
  • Standardized part I of “big picture construction”
  • Had an epiphany about the main difference between business people and artists (haven’t written this one up yet)
  • Started a review of “Thinking with Type”, and took a picture of the book using the prototype lighting setup.
  • Wrote up the process of recovering a dead HD in my IT blog.

There were two major content hits: the article about the Blackwing Pencils, and the article about Fast Book Outlining. What’s notable about thee two entries is that they have overlap between “what I am doing” and “what people want to do, better”. This could be a good formula for writing more broadly-linkable traffic in the future.

Projects

Projects produce the bulk of “tangible” value. They either bring me closer to making something I really want, or they lower the effort of making something in the future. Not just physically, but psychologically and cognitively as well. A logo design is a good example of a psychological device for setting forth a vision that people can see with their own eyes, making it seem more “real”.

  • Made a baseline grid CSS template
  • Conceptualized “The Tiny School”, made a logo, and ran it by my friends
  • Made a simple customization system for the baseline CSS template in PHP
  • Looked into 4×6″ Sticky ETPs
  • Finally made four new ETP translations
  • Gathered the materials for my table-top shooting studio, worked out how the lighting setup should be.
  • On the programming side, several core concepts now implemented: data initialization, data saving, draggable UI elements. Plus, I developed an improved knowledge of Javascript object-oriented programming techniques.
  • Made some new logos for Barcamp Manchester, which is coming up this weekend.

People

It’s important to have people around, and since I’m not in school or working for a company it’s up to ME to make sure I don’t fall into a hermit lifestyle. My tendency is already to hole-up by myself, which isn’t good for creativity or inspiration.

  • Got to meet Colleen Wainwright at Boston Logan Airport!
  • Recorded a podcast with singer Amy Petty, who is awesome
  • Recovered a friend’s dead hard drive, for which he was very grateful
  • Hung out with friends I don’t see as often as I’d like.
  • Continued the Salem-Nashua Coworking Connection
  • Checked out an Open Mic at Studio 99
  • Hung out all weekend at Artwalk Nashua 2011
  • Attended the opening of a letterpress shop
  • Had a fondue night with guests

Maintaining a swirl of people around me is a tricky balance. Too much input, and then I need a lot of time to decompress. Too little input, and then I tend to lose motivation and drive.

Chores

These are things that make improvements in my day-to-day operations.

  • Cancelled Skype, Hello Google Voice
  • Stayed “cancelled” on STO
  • Officially saved $50 per month with the pay-as-you-go phone plan I switched to (though I just undid quite a bit of savings by talking too long with a friend a few weeks ago)
  • Reclaimed a foot of space on my desk through use of a clamp
  • Cleaned up the basement, found the missing backups from 1996.
  • Cooked a lot more lunches at home, saving money
  • Sanded some pine boards

This doesn’t include things like doing the dishes, vacuuming the house, and so on. Those activities are good for clearing my head.

Qualitative Assessment

One overall pattern I’ve noticed this month is that maintaining an improved attitude toward the work has helped me start more projects. This builds partly on two realizations from last month:

  • Having a positive mental attitude actually gives me energy, which helps me push past mental barriers.

  • Genuine mental fatigue can be controlled through eating and napping.

New this month:

  • The “defense in depth” approach to productivity, as opposed to “tidal wave of change”, is more my speed. By creating multiple blogs for my copious writing, I’ve created a system for capturing my effort while maintaining continuity on progress.

  • The main difference is between an “Artist” and a “Business person”, as far as I’m concerned, is this: having the ability to do work that isn’t interesting to reap a benefit. An artist can channel this by not tying one’s self esteem to the work.

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p>The net result: reduced friction between me and the work that’s getting done. This has created the feeling that I am doing what I want to do, and for the first time I feel I can say that I’m doing what I want to do, the way I want to do it. The feedback I’m getting from clients and friends seems to support this.

Quantitative Assessment

It’s time to do the numbers, starting with the financial side. Incomewise, they are holding steady from last month:

Product Projected Revenue Actual Revenue Notes
AdSense $70 $170.61 October 26 payment. About 150 bucks every 8 weeks. Not great. Should drop even more, since I killed AdSense on all the inner pages
ETP pads $400 $780.28 Week of October 17 saw a lot of orders. Not sure why.
PDF 12-pack Cals $5 $5 Wow! Someone bought one this late in the year!
PDF A5 7Task ETP $20 $40 4 orders. Up from 1.
PDF A5 5Task ETP $10 $30 3 orders. Up from 1.
Donation $10 0 BUPKES.
Simple Websites II $100 $0 One signup, stalled…need to check in.
ETP Pads EU ??? €150 Estimated monthly. Most sales were in June, but we don’t have consistent promotion yet.
Gun Safety 11×8.5 ??? 0 Stalled on marketing. But I did sign up for a class where I can see instruction of this type.

Overall, I’m seeing that the ETP pads are holding steady in sales, and are even rising. This has encouraged me to think about new product. It’s still tough to bootstrap new products from existing revenue, but perhaps with a second product that will change things. I’m curious to know how many products it will take to get to the point where I can launch new ones more frequently from incoming revenue. It takes about 16 months to bring in enough revenue now, assuming it doesn’t end up paying for bills, to launch something new.

I’m a little surprised to see the small spike of digital product sales. I’m in the process of moving from e-Junkie to my own hosted solution, because I don’t like the way eJunkie’s store looks.

This Month’s Web Traffic

Month Pages Uniques Notes
June 92K 26K From Mint
July 85K 25K From Mint
Aug 104K 30K From Mint
Sep 114K 34K From Mint
Oct 107K 33K From Mint

A dip back to August levels. Statistically significant? It’s a net difference of 7K pages. This might have been due to the spike from a Polish productivity site, or perhaps in September there were a LOT of people looking for new calendars for the school year.

So, let me look at Google Analytics for October and September, using their “compare” system. As far as I can tell, Monday 9/19 and Thursday 9/29 had some higher-than-average traffic. Drilling down, 9/19 was when I posted “Faster Book Outlining”, which got passed around a bit. 9/29 was when I posted the “Palomino Blackwing” pencil review. So I think the difference was based on content that was passed around. These were interesting posts, unlike my more personal ones (like this one).

As far as traffic is concerned: packaging makes a big difference. Both those posts were written to SHARE. Posts like this one are really more for me, and people who are curious about how I approach things. That’s not a very big demographic, comparatively speaking :)

The Coming Month

This is the last month for Groundhog Day Resolutions Review, as the final day is 12/12. I don’t think I have any specific tangible goals, though there are a few things I want to get done that relate to the overall resolution to generate revenue from my creative endeavors. I’ll list ’em here:

  • WP Ecommerce for EU and USA Markets
  • WPML PCEO Subsite
  • 2012 Calendar PDF Package
  • Get off of eJunkie
  • Launch a new 4×6 ETP Sticky Pad Product in Amazon
  • Launch an experimental monthly sounding board service for real
  • Placement of affiliate ads for products I LIKE on a few pages
  • Write an eBook Template (stretch goal)

If I got all that done, that would be a good foundation for 2012 improvements. Software development is still going on, too, but my expectations for how fast I can do this have been adjusted.

2011 Groundhog Day Resolution Posts