Groundhog Day Resolutions 2012

"Groundhog by Pearson Scott Foreman" It’s February 2nd, which means it’s another Groundhog Day! It’s my favorite holiday because it’s silly and it’s also easy to remember. It’s the day that I officially declare my new year’s resolutions. I call them Groundhog Day Resolutions.

As I’ve written before, the traditional date of January 1st for making resolutions is the worst time to do it. These days, the end of the year is when we are our most frazzled. We’re dealing with holidays, family, and end-of-year accounting all at the same time. The beginning of the new year is spent closing last year’s dangling commitments, ideally followed by a period of recovery as the drama of the holidays recedes into the past. Personally, my mind isn’t clear enough to even think about the new year for a few weeks.

So, on January 1st, I just start thinking about what happened last year. On February 2nd, this day of hopeful prognostication, I declare my intentions for the year. To follow-up on these intentions, I also schedule periodic review days every month, following the pattern of 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, and so on.

Additionally, there are progress days that occur one week and three weeks after each Groundhog Day Review Day. While the monthly review is good for reflection, it doesn’t mean anything necessarily gets done. Add a minimum of two progress days helps keep things moving along. There is no particular day set for them; I just arbitrarily pick days approximately 1 week and 3 weeks after the start of the current Groundhog Day Resolution period, and schedule them into Google Calendar with everything else.

This year’s schedule looks like this:

GHD TASK DATE DESCRIPTION
Groundhog Day 2/2 Set your yearly resolution.
Review Day 3/3 Review progress.
Review Day 4/4 Review progress.
Review Day 5/5 Cinco De Mayo! Review progress.
Progress Day 6/6 Review total progress. Optional break.
Recommit Day 7/7 Tanabata! Revisit goal, adjust as needed.
Review Day 8/8 Review progress.
Review Day 9/9 Review progress.
Review Day 10/10 Review progress.
Progress Day 11/11 Veterans Day! Review total progress.
Final Review 12/12 Review year progress. Break for holidays.

For 2012, my overall resolution remains the same: create a system for self-sustaining life balance. This is really a terrible resolution, as far as achievable goals go, but I keep trying every year. And for every year, I have not succeeded in cracking this nut. However, the failures themselves have been instructive…this year I will try to address some of the main issues, forgive myself for being quirky, and then take those quirks into account as I plot anew. For the details, read onward!

Vision, measurement, and knowing what’s next are the three focii for this year’s Groundhog Day Resolutions practice. I had started to write a much longer article about the creation of goals, measurements, and so forth as a followup to Plotting Motivations, Part II, but in the interest of maintaining momentum I’m going to stick to just the goals, and post the rationale later.

The Vision

I like what I’m doing with my life right now, but would like to improve a few aspects. The main one is raising my income level so I can start funding bigger projects, pay down debt, and move 100% to doing my own design and writing work. Furthermore, I’d like my work to capture more of the spirit that I like about creativity, empowerment, and inspiration.

Let’s unpack the above statement a bit to get a handle on what to measure.

  • Raising income means picking a number. As a freelancer my income fluctuates from month to month, and I limit the number of hours so I can theoretically focus on things on blogging and designing more tools. The kind of income that would be best is passive income, which to me would be the selling of my own goods. Income from customizing and consultation regarding the work I’m already doing would also be OK, as it fulfills a social need to make new connections.

  • Having the time to commune with others is very important to me. I’m willing to accept a lower income level (from working fewer hours) in order to have the time and flexibility. I have the luxury of being single and childless, which is an advantage I am taking advantage of. However, I would like whatever system I come up with to work with almost ANY amount of available time. I think the its a matter of targeting few goals and persevering.

  • I’m not passionate about a particular field of study, profession, or hobby. I like seeing PEOPLE who are using what they’ve learned to create exceptional objects. I’m kind of a nerdy gear-loving enthusiast that loves to see excellence in practice, and being around people who strive for excellence in a warm, conscientious manner.

As I’ve written in the past, I see this as becoming a kind of store. While I was writing the earlier Plotting for Motivation posts, I was able to further define what kind of store it was, and who would go visit it. There’s a LOT of effort that goes into making a store function from supply to order fulfillment, but it’s not rocket science…I’ve made some progress on this over the years. What was missing, though, was the sense of WHO would come into the store, and whether I could predict who those people are. Having let go of the idea that passion had to be limited to the practice of a particular art, I can now define who those people are clearly: they are the self-empowered people who seek inspiration and tools that makes their life richer and laden with possibility. Basically, people like me with broad interests and an appreciation for clever design. Inspiration and Empowerment are the two reagents that are present in anything that I would possibly sell or write about. I’m now making that official.

Measurement and Knowing What’s Next

Borrowing from Role Playing Game (RPG) design, I’m going to use the INCOME LEVEL as a main indicator of success. Instead of just making it straight dollars, though, I’m going to create a series of tiers:
Level Income (Profit)
Level 01 $0
Level 02 $25
Level 03 $50
Level 04 $75
Level 05 $100
Level 06 $150
Level 07 $250
Level 08 $500
Level 09 $750
Level 10 $1000
Level 11 $1250
Level 12 $1500
To have the energy to make this work:
  • I also need to ensure that I have a steady supply of incoming energy in the form of feedback, friends, community, and creative novelty on a weekly basis. I have to be careful with the amount, though, as too much of this energy is overstimulating and keeps me from doing new work.

  • I need to produce work frequently and show it frequently.

  • I need a very specific blueprint that is capable of re-capturing my attention completely and providing direction without dictating method. I have some ideas inspired by my past life in video game development, as well as having greater insight into the way my brain functions.

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p>In addition to income level, I’m going to create PERSEVERANCE points that are earned when completing a task related to building up the income level. These are all the tasks that are related to designing stuff, creating products, taking orders, fulfilling orders, and so on. Each task can be written like a “mission” within an overall project narrative.

In addition to perseverance, I’m going to have EMPOWERMENT points (awarded for the creation of useful tools and designs) and INSPIRATION points (awarded for any feedback received on what I’m doing). All three will provide, I think, an qualitative measure of how product any particular day has been.

If I were to abstract these ideas into a general-purpose structure:

  • MISSIONS – Your task list, converted into bite-sized doable tasks that exist in the context of the overall project plan.
  • EFFORT EXPENDED POINTS – Awarded for completing a mission, with documented evidence that it is done (e.g. you showed someone the design you made or the new button you added). This corresponds to my PERSEVERANCE points, and can be measured in time or some number that feels appropriately large for things you find difficult and/or don’t want to do.
  • INCOMING FEEDBACK POINTS – Awarded for any response you get to result achieved from expending all that effort.
  • OUTGOING PRODUCTION POINTS – Awarded for something you’ve made and shown to someone
  • POWER LEVEL – When your project is able to produce the resource its intended to produce, its salient attribute is ranked by someone knowledgeable in the field. The levels are broken into ranges of points.

Next Steps

I had hoped to have some kind of mission outline available today, but I have been swamped with client work. I’ve also been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic to unwind in the evenings, which further reduces the number of waking hours I’ve been spending on this.

That said, I can write up some mission tasks right now and put them on index cards:

  • Outline store layout – will give me categories to fill in
  • Create tracking package based on ETP – first step in designing a new workflow for tracking Groundhog Day resolutions

I’m having enormous difficulty staying awake and need to take a brain break, so I’ll end this here.


Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2012

Here are other posts about Groundhog Day Resolutions for the 2012 season.