Groundhog Day Resolution Review 3/3/2012

Groundhog Day Resolution Review 3/3/2012

I can’t believe a month has flown by already! This year, my “Master Resolution” to figure out a good system for maintaining my personal work-life balance, with the assumption that this will create enduring happiness.

I’d outlined the principles of this system in the Plotting for Motivation, Part I post a few weeks ago, with the intention of immediately creating a game-like tracking system. However, I’ve changed my mind about creating the tracking system first, and have shifted my focus toward establishing context by drawing a big map.

Last year, my focus was primarily about creating more products to sell, so I adopted a habit of reviewing the numbers monthly. This helped me see that things were generally working, and that the real problem was the bottleneck actually creating new products. My diagnosis: I was having difficulty motivating myself with deferred rewards, and was also suffering from a lack of faith and impatience.

In 2012, I made to key decisions about myself:

  • Even though I don’t know exactly how to describe what it was I did, it apparently works just fine. I’m pretty happy with the combination of freelance, blogging, and sharing. It suits me. The immediate problem is having enough money so I can call my own shots 100% of the time, and continue to expand my practice of whatever-the-heck-I’m-doing.
  • I am really more of an artist than I realized, even though my “medium” is graph paper and diagrams. With that comes different expectations for productivity, motivation, and speed of execution.

Another way of looking at this: I’ve accepted my own quirkiness, and this has eliminated a the burden of subconscious doubt. My spirits have also been buoyed by the continuing sales of the Emergent Task Planner, which tells me that my work has a place in the retail market.

With this new found confidence, I want to know exactly where I am, where I came from, and where I want to go. In other words, I want a MAP so I can go exploring.

Having the freedom to explore the world while designing cool stuff is how I think of exploring. I’d like to do things that will add value to a certain kind of person. Not surprisingly, it’s people like me, who are turned-on by possibilities and practically taste the future, but haven’t yet figured out how to get there. Because I love seeing what amazing things people come up with, this creates a virtuous circle of positive reinforcement. I add value to people’s lives, they achieve wonderful things, and I am in turn inspired and gratified by the privilege of knowing such people.

By sheer accident, I have already acquired a working virtuous circle: this blog, ripened through years of writing, and the resources I’ve shared on it with the help of feedback from readers like you. It’s like I’ve woken up and discovered I had a secret machine in my basement that was capable of granting wishes, if only I could figure out what levers did what. A diagram would help me a lot, especially one that matched what I was finding!

A few days ago I made my first attempt to draw a map, posting it on my Design Process blog. I continued to work on this over the weekend, missing the Groundhog Day Resolutions Review Day on March 3rd. I just finished my first real pass at the map, which currently exists in two parts. While it is very text-heavy, it’s the first time I have been able to see my actual operation (as far as I can tell) in a relatively compact form.


Inputs I call this the “Audience Impression Routing Diagram”, because it shows the “flow” of thoughts that a visitor might have when visiting Managing this flow is important not just to me, but to the visitor as well. Most of the time, people just want to know what the heck a website is FOR. I do a terrible job of it.

Anyway, the column on the left is all the ways that people come across me, either online or in person. They hit my webpage somehow, and read a page or two before forming an impression. Sometimes, people interact with me because of work I’ve done in the distant past, or they know me through some personal contact and not my actual work.

After reading a bit about me, people tend to categorize me into one of 15 categories (column 2, “SEEMS TO BE”). If they are sufficiently intrigued, they may then wonder how “useful” I might be (column 3, “CLASSIFIED AS”). However, their idea of how I can be used can conflict with how I actually want to be used:

  • I want to taper-off the old design service work and take on new kinds of work relating to the “maker of functional stationery” persona that appeals to me.
  • A second long-standing goal has been to clarify what it is I do so people can at least figure out if they want to talk to me or not.

Basically, I’m transitioning from old work to new work. Column 4 (“HOW TO HANDLE”) is what I think of as the “DAVE CORE”, particularly the ones related to

Additionally, an overarching goal is to meet more people who are making change for themselves, and be part of that world. I think I can fit-in by provisioning tools and working as a consulting partner. That means I have to manage those incoming preconceptions carefully to establish the right expectations. Ultimately, there are just a few services I want to focus on, and those are listed in in column 5, “PROTOCOL”.

Ultimately, what I want to see happen is some kind of interaction that results in either a new idea, a sale, some billable work, or some kind of cool personal interaction. Cool personal interactions already happen by themselves, so I don’t feel the need to put it into this diagram.

Outputs and Oversight

Outputs and Oversight Once expectations are set, it comes down to living up to them. This diagram continues on from the first, showing the connection between the DAVE CORE and the STORE, which is the central focus of my 2012 operational goals.

Anyway, in this pass you can see the main product-related activities:


Furthermore, there are the oversight activities:


There are various arrows that show the interdependent nature of the process too. For example, Analytics play into New Ideas and also Predicting Trends.

I should note that diagram 2 is just one of many such diagrams that I have yet to make. In particular, concepts like HAPPY BUBBLE TIME are absolutely critical to the well being of the entire system. But I’ll explain this at a later date.

Thoughts on Using the Map

Having made the map, I’m feeling that I can see everything for the first time. And by everything, I mean that it captures a lot of insight gleaned from the past several years of doing this weird thing that I do on the Internet and observing how people interact with me. It also incorporates my current sense of identity.

This is still a very preliminary map, but it is enough to use for my Groundhog Day Resolutions as far as the store goes. I figure I might use it for the following purposes:

  • Making sure that the things I’m doing fit somewhere on this map.
  • As a reflection piece, to help decide what I want to do at a given point.
  • As a work board, using Post-It tabs to mark strategic and tactical goals for specific projets.
  • As a time allocation board, limiting myself to only a few active projects at a time.
  • As a personal identity reference, as it lists how I want to describe myself to various inquiring parties.
  • Set goals in context with effort and overall activity
  • As a blueprint for

There are three major nodes I want to further identify before printing a full-sized poster:

  • Happy Bubble Time, which is important to flow and my particular kind of productivity.
  • Consulting Process, which I’ve recently made process adjustment to because I’ve found a pattern underlying a couple stalled relationships.
  • Design Methodology, which I’d just like to write down for completeness.

That will cover 70% of my activities. The other 30% I haven’t gotten to yet; writing a book and developing software are two things I’ll eventually get to.

Concluding Thoughts

This was a major piece of organizational for me, taking about 20 hours over the past two weeks. It may not be useful in the long run, but making it was the only way to find out. To move ahead, you can’t be afraid of a few hundred lost hours. That’s the way you find your way through the creative jungle.

On a more tangible note:

  • Sales of the Emergent Task Planner pads remain steady. I may have to reorder in another two months.
  • There has been a small uptick in donations, maybe 3-4 in the last month!
  • The 4×6″ ETP StickyPads are finally available for sale on Amazon, after sitting in shipping/receiving for three weeks. I’ll be posting about these soon.
  • Al Briggs has switched to Shopify; Al is the European stockist for the A4-sized Emergent Task Planner Pads.
  • I am overbooked with work for March.

Overall, I feel things are moving along, so I’m not too concerned today about staying busy. I have a LOT to do, and a LOT I want to write about. Establishing persistent context with maps like this while maintaining targeted action lists seems like it will do the job for the time being. My biggest challenge is to ensure that all projects keep moving forward…a couple of open-ended client projects have gotten lost in the shuffle, so I need to establish firmer controls with myself to make sure they are cleared off the board even when they are quiet.

Till next time!

Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2012

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


  1. Shanna Mann 12 years ago

    What program are you using for your maps? I want one! I’m using freemind right now, but it’s not pretty, like yours.

  2. Stephen P Smith 12 years ago

    This is really impressive Dave! Even more so because I fell off the GHD review wagon this month. The end of Feb was tough for me, dunno if the SAD finally got to me but I was utterly unmotivated and completely scatterbrained.

    March is looking much better.

  3. Author
    Dave Seah 12 years ago

    Shanna: I’m using Adobe InDesign to draw all the boxes and lines by hand…it’s a general purpose page layout program. I hear you on the mind mapping software…I haven’t been able to use mind maps because I don’t like the way the output looks. I’m so fussy :)

    Stephen: I was like that in January too! Glad to hear March is lookin’ up!