GHDR Review 3: Getting Through the Commitment Chain

GHDR Review 3: Getting Through the Commitment Chain

Happy May Day! It also happens to be my father’s birthday, and he has been here in the United States visiting for the past two weeks. This visit also happens to be the last part of a long chain of domestic chores: tax preparation, top-to-bottom house cleaning, room reorganization, furniture adjustments, and activity planning. I’ve been complete mush with my entrepreneurial projects, but it was more important to set aside the time for Dad, who is 84 years old today.

Still, one must stick to the Groundhog Day Resolutions Review schedule! And, even more importantly, one must be kind to one’s self. My report follows.

Significant Achievements of the Last Month

I’ve done very little for my website or projects. The key visible achievement was seeing the new bound half-size ETP Notebooks appear on Amazon.com. The work, though, was handled by my commercial printing partner Papergraphics.

So far, the initial run of 480 notebooks has sold-through about 40% in the first full two weeks. That is very promising, and it’s made me rethink the reason why I’m selling products in the first place. I had originally started selling products on Amazon is because I don’t have to do anything to handle orders or ship; I thought it would be cool to have them available and make a bit of money on the side. I’m slowly starting to realize that this original thinking was very limited; I now know that these are products that people buy because they work for them. That may seem like a big DUH statement, but originally I was thinking more of it being something cool to do, a kind of personal experiment. Now, with three distinct form factors of products available, I understand what it means to be an product designer: product designers make products that sell! Before, I was just playing around with commerce like it was some kind of amusing toy, not a real job. That has changed!

On a different note, this last month I also seriously took-on Javascript and jQuery, with a greatly-improved attitude. Instead of regarding Javascript as a toy language with unbecoming qualities, I have started to accept its hip-hoppy baggy-pants ways into my unfunky structured approach to programming. It’s a little painful, but improved abilities in this area will yield positive results in new website features and (hopefully) future web and mobile applications.

Significant Observations of the Last Month

My friend Brad and I stopped doing the “715AM Morning Ritual” after I missed three sessions at the end of April. No blame was flung around, but we agreed that we could use a break.

It’s been over three weeks since we stopped, and we will revisit it in the future. In the meantime, it’s been interesting to compare the successful run from December to March with recent weeks. I have some tentative takeaways:

  • 715A is really early for me. I think it’s the dramatic difference between waking early and waking late that helped kickstart the ritual, but I think 815A or even 915A might be better for long-term maintenance of the schedule. In the future, I would probably limit the 715A waking time to at most two-three weeks just to make it seem more of a commitment.
  • There’s a limit to how long I can maintain any heightened sense of urgency in a task before I need a break. 3-4 weeks appears to be the limit before I start risking a total crash. It appears to be related to how much energy I am getting back from the task. If I’m in isolation trying to make something, then 2-3 weeks is the max before I go nuts from lack of meaningful feedback. When there IS feedback, then the time I’m in elevated mode can stretch to about 3-4 weeks. If there is great feedback, then the duration can stretch maybe 3-4 months, as it did when we first started the 715A Ritual.
  • I suspect that it’s not the length of time or the ritual itself that matters as much as its daily execution. Looking for what can be continued from yesterday’s efforts, with the intent to deliver something tangible, creates a sense of progress and accomplishment. In other words: daily continuity! I also think it’s also important to put myself first, first thing in the morning, because I am prone to let other people’s needs override mine.

Another long-time ritual, the “Wave with Colleen”, has also quietly wound-down after three years. It has lasted two years longer than we thought, but these past few months our personal missions have diverged. When we started, we were both bloggers figuring out what that meant to us. Now, I’m thinking commerce commerce commerce, which isn’t where Colleen is. Plus we’ve both been very busy. The Wave is now running in a kind of maintenance mode, so we can still leave notes in it, but we’re not checking it as frequently.

The Month Ahead

I’m itching to get back to my projects now that the three big commitments of April are almost over with. Foremost on my mind:

  • Past Content Audit and Content Collation: Finding chunks of yummy articles on the website that I think are worth reading.
  • The World of Forms: With the apparent success of the new notebooks, I’m ready to start defining just what ALL of my forms are supposed to accomplish. The 7-year beta testing period is over. Let there be a grand relaunching!
  • Products Products Products: I’d like to get back to the Product-A-Day commitment as well. That was totally fun, and I liked having the clarity of doing something every day. The scope of the products may be much smaller; I reserve the right to make small and crappy products, and include PROMOTION as a product as well. This meshes well with my two-factor criterion for being productive: make something, then show it to someone.
  • Index Card Blocks – Now that everything is cleaned up downstairs, I’m ready to restart the production process. It’s also warm outside so I can open the windows and let the finish fumes out instead of getting nauseous.

On top of this, I’d like to embark on some serious brain upgrades in the following areas.

  • Game Programming – Putting together some big systems to play with. I’m thinking of using HeroEngine, a cloud-based MMORPG platform, to shortcut the engineering process.
  • 3D Modelling – It would be nice to get back into modern programs. There are several free ones (Blender) and commercial licenses (Modo) that I have access to.
  • Music Composition / Piano – This is something I feel very strongly in my head, but it is unstructured and untested.
  • Learning Chinese – It’s time. I was able to mime my way through Dad’s visit, but it would be nice to be able to converse more naturally. Some of it has come back, but I never had a strong vocabulary. Josh Kaufman’s upcoming book The First 20 Hours and of course Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Chef have me thinking about learning again, and I wonder if I can be more efficient in this pass.

These are all complicated challanges, and in that respect they’re pretty daunting. However, what I learned from my Index Card Block project is that using a simple-but-immediately useful project to refine to perfection is a good way to start. The index card blocks, which are simply wood blocks with slits cut in them, were probably the simplest interesting project I could have started in the area of “fine woodworking”. Sure, they’re almost too dumb to consider a real project, but after figuring out how to make the block I’ve been progressing well. First I learned how to sand it to tolerable levels of perfection through trial and error. Now, I’m taking baby steps into the surprisingly broad world of wood finishes. Because it’s relatively easy to make blocks, I can iterate through the finishing process quickly and learn. If I’d chosen something to start with like bookshelves or even a step stool, the iteration speed from start to finish would have been much slower. I’d like to come up with satisfying mini projects for each of the three challenges I’ve listed. Since I hate arbitrary learning exercises, the mini-projects have to have an adult Dave-approved used.

Meeting Last Month’s Challenge

Last month I basically said I wanted to increased opportunity, and I think the notebooks count as that. My goal of making $100/day through sales of all types is getting closer! The last two-week period of payment from Amazon is about double the prior two-week period. Digital sales are very slow, but they could be easily perked up with the addition of more products and better visibility. I know how to do that; I just need to apply the effort daily and keep refining the web experience. I also could stand to reach out to other websites and let them know what’s going on, though I’ve never been very good at it.

Concluding Thoughts

After May 15th, I’ll have completed the chain of commitments and will be ready to embark on the list of projects I’ve listed about. We’ll see how it goes! My overall feeling is that I’m on track to having a productive year, though I have to also remember that doing this work is lonely and time consuming. Maintaining optimism and a good attitude through the work is essential!

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading!


Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2013

Here are other posts about Groundhog Day Resolutions for the 2013 season.

  • 02/02 Kickoff - Setting 30 Products in 30 days.
  • 03/03 Review - The Aftermath of 30 Products in 30 Days; What's Next?
  • 04/04 Review - New Website, Increasing Opportunity
  • 05/05 Review - Winding down a long chain of external commitments, getting ready for a hopefully-productive month.
  • 06/06 Review - Reducing Friction from internal struggle, picking the winning attitudes and tasks that produce tangible assets.
  • 07/07 Review - Mid-year Review, Focusing Process
  • 08/08 Review - An unexpected vacation for me, Relaxed Progress Made
  • 09/09 Review - Slow progress made, but that's OK; I'm accepting the slow and mindful way!
  • 10/10 Review - After a month of experimenting with early rising, I realize that prioritizing my mission of creative independence might actually be what I need to do. Duh.
  • 11/11 Review - Not much progress made on Creative Independence, but I have attained a sense of surety and calm about what needs to be done--and how to approach it--while maintaining balance between external commitments and personal goals by accepting that they take time and that's OK.
  • 12/12 Review - The year ends without closure, but looking back I see that I've made progress. More importantly, I believe that I'm generally on the right path.

1 Comment

  1. Federico Figueredo 6 years ago

    I really appreciate the check-in, in particular since it’s usually so easy to get sidetracked when seemingly urgent matters want us to pay attention to them. Best of lucks, especially with the financial goals (which tend to me the ones most susceptible to external factors.)

    Read you soon and good luck with the Chinese. PS: How realistic is to ask for feedback on the tools / setup / materials you’d be using for learning the language? I realize it might not be something most of the audience will be interested in so I’m willing to come up with some arrangement to make it worth your while =P