It’s time again for Groundhog Day Resolutions!
SUMMARY: At the end of last year, I had been feeling depressed about the lack of progress I’d made, but I’ve worked through it and am ready for YEAR 8 to begin. I’ll be making some changes to my approach, which previously was based on a “creative independence machine” built on e-commerce, but now will be considerably less structured.
Building on Past Groundhog Day Resolutions Lessons
I’ve been working on this for a long time. The first seven years of Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDRs) was an ongoing refinement of a factory-style business model:
- My energy and resources are converted, as efficiently as possible, into desirable goods.
- These goods are used to improve my status quo.
Simple enough. However, I found myself falling short on energy and motivation, which meant that the factory didn’t run very regularly. In 2013, I postulated that I could build a creative independence machine that produced $100/day in profit, WITHOUT compromising my values. And so I worked on it, and then I got bored. I was constantly frustrated, unmotivated, and impatient with respect to the feeding of the machine so it could do its job. While I did see a small increase in revenue compared to 2012, I had to admit that I was not living up to the potential of the machine.
Assessing the Machine
I’ve been thinking that the faulty component is ME because the machine design seems solid:
- Dave has an idea that he thinks other people would like enough to purchase!
- Dave has stuff manufactured, or makes digital goods for downloads!
- Dave describes what the idea is, creating marketing material!
- Dave makes goods available on e-commerce websites like Amazon and Shopify!
- Dave tells people about it, linking the marketing material on his site, which has significant Google juice.
- People see the goods, and some of them buy. Revenue comes into the machine.
- Dave uses revenue to maintain the manufacturing cycle of existing products.
- Dave uses profits to make new product lines to grow the volume of business.
- Dave provides tech and administrative for the overall operation: inventory management, accounting, customer service, marketing analytics…
- Eventually, the revenue grows to the point of $100/profit a day. Then, the machine basically runs itself.
Where the machine is breaking is in (1), (3), (8) and (9). What I should be doing the most is (3), because the marketing materials I have don’t do a good job of convincing a lay audience that I’m selling something they need. Because I’m not doing (3) particularly well, this causes me to not want to do (1) or (8), because I’m already behind in making marketing materials. And with (9), I just don’t find it very interesting.
Option 1: Hire Someone
The solution seems simple enough: hire someone to do all that stuff for me. For me to be able to afford that, though, I would have to be making more money, say $150/day profit, because now I have to pay for both myself and the help I hire. A complication is that these tasks aren’t easy to hand-off, not to mention that I AM MR. FUSSYPANTS when it comes to operations and marketing. So this option is off the table UNTIL I get to the $150/day profit mark.
Option 2: Keep The Faith and Carry On
For much of 2013, I’d been focusing on tweaking MYSELF so I could work on (1), (3), (8), and (9) moving without feeling quite so miserable about it.
What contributed to the misery, other than boredom, is that I felt I couldn’t do or blog about anything “fun”. If had a block of unassigned time, it was already spoken for by the almighty machine. And if I did do something fun anyway, I couldn’t help think that it was proof I was a do-nothing procrastinator. NO WONDER I was feeling like crap at the end of 2013.
My attitude is significantly different today. While the machine isn’t working the way I want it to, it is working. I know that it will take more time and experimentation, but I have confirmed that a trickle of profit does exist, and it is growing. This is very encouraging, when I remember to remember it. I also know there are no shortcuts around the hard work when it comes to meeting worthwhile challenges; while this doesn’t exactly boost my morale, I also know there’s no need for me to beat myself up over it. Keep the faith, and carry on.
Solution 3: Redesign the Machine
Perhaps it’s the MACHINE that is broken. Its design is based on several premises which are perhaps flawed:
- While it’s designed around my particular strengths, efficient operation is possible only if I never get tired. This is the ideal version of me, and it’s a poor assumption to have. It really is a machine that would work best with 2 or more energy inputs.
- The design of the machine presumes a project-based business workflow. It’s a familiar model to me, which is probably why I’m using it. However, the model is never perfectly applied in real life, because stuff goes wrong all the time. My engineering mindset tends to love perfection of a model, and is prone to mistaking perfection as the goal. Models are best understood as useful abstraction, not perfection as a goal, because that’s the way life is.
- When I think of the creative independence my machine, I picture a humming machine that turns 24-7, producing a small profit with every turn. This is an accurate model of how it works. However, the input to the machine (which comes from me) is highly intermittent, as my energy tends to come in bursts. And that SHOULD be OK…feeding the machine doesn’t need to be a 24-7 concern just because the e-commerce engine can handle it.
So, what do I know about myself that could lead to an improved system? Let me review my personal goals again to see if they give me some clues:
- End Goal: I am recognized for creating original works for a discerning audience
- End Goal: I am receiving all my income by selling my own work (this is the $100/day thing)
- End Goal: I have attained a satisfying level of mastery in what I do
- End Goal: I have all the time and money I need to pursue and develop my interests
These are the goals that I believe will allow me to “pursue happiness” full-time. The creative independence machine is the means by which I hope to make that happen.
After consideration, I think there are two main problems to address for this year’s GHDRs:
- The main problem with the machine is that it is confining structure. Bleagh! While I love designing structures, I really don’t enjoy being trapped by them. It is demotivating. Perhaps I can break out of that structure, and still be able to get things done. I’ve already built the e-commerce side, which runs along just fine. It is practically perfect. I can take pride in that. The feeding and growth part, though is where I am lagging.
- The main problem with me is initiating first steps. This is a major resistance, which has many sources. It applies not only to feeding the machine with marketing materials and new products, but to my personal goals and enjoying my life. Sure, there are things that I need to do that are unpleasant, but perhaps I don’t have to associate the act with future dependencies and complicated project workflows all the time.
My Groundhog Day Resolutions
1. More First Steps, Less Planning
Getting rid of excess structure is what I want to work on for 2014. The creative independence structures I had developed, which were based on factory production and project management principles, were supposed to help me be more productive. In hindsight, they were good for helping me pre-visualize how the system would work, but they were not so good for motivating me. Structure is a terrible manager in that respect.
As with any adventure, every project starts with taking first step. I could really use an attitude adjustment, and if I can reduce the friction I encounter, the creative independence machine automatically benefits!
So how will this work? Instead of worrying about the entire machine, I’m going to just try to make as many first steps happen. I won’t filter them out as being “appropriate” or not. This will be an experiment for February. To start, I’ll start a log to capture:
- all those negative reasons why I can’t start, and how I override them
- Log every “first step” situation that pops up
- See if there is any kind of improvement
Despite my distaste for being put into a structure, I have a strong tendency to structure my activities toward a useful insight or takeaway. I think this is what will prevent this exercise from being a waste of time.
2. Develop These Three Areas
I also have some general goals for the year. I’d like to see tangible results in the following areas:
- Writing and deploying software applications
- Sharing my interests with everyone to create positive energy and see where it goes.
- Creating better marketing content for existing products
I’m not going to be too specific about them. I already think about them multiple times a day. In the past, I have squashed the impulse to explore them for a variety of reasons, but with GHD Resolution 1 in effect, I’m hoping something interesting happens.
2014 is a continuation of 2013. This year, though, I’m loosening up my idea of what I need to do for ‘the creative machine’ to work better.
I’m going to focus instead on initiating first steps of every kind, as the impulses present themselves to me. I think that I’ll learn something important by doing this, but I’m not sure exactly what. My hope is that it will unlock a different kind of productivity approach that works better with my personality.
For the purposes of Groundhog Day Resolutions review, I’ll be keeping a log of all those “first step” situations that arise for at least a month, and see what patterns arise in my behavior.
There are also three areas where I’d like to see tangible advancement. I think that my “first step” situations will tend to fall toward these areas, because I’ve been thinking about this stuff constantly anyway. I just haven’t taken the first steps for one reason or another. We shall see.
So that’s my weird plan for 2014 Groundhog Day Resolutions! Check back on March 3rd to see what happened!
Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2014
Here are other posts about Groundhog Day Resolutions for the 2014 season.
- The original post about Groundhog Day Resolutions
- 02/02 Kickoff - Setting Goals!
- 03/03 Review - So Far, So Good!
- 04/04 Review - Setting Realistic Expectations
- 05/05 Review - ADD and Incremental Progress
- 06/06 Review - Trudging through the Blahs
- 07/07 Review - Limited Progress
- 08/08 Review - Unusually Productive
- 09/09 Review - Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
- 10/10 Review - Shifting Goals
- 11/11 Review - Chugging Away
- 12/12 Review - End of Year
I love that you posted this right after I came over here to see what you had on deck for the year.
Lots of other half-thoughts but the city here is in post-superb-owl euphoria now so I will save them for later. Happy 2/2!
Maybe you should redesign the machine further. Kickstarter let us learn something over the last years: sell first, produce later (if there is a market).
A machine where (2) would come after (6) might be a lot more efficient for you. You’d iterate faster between designs and would not immobilize your assets.
I would suggest perhaps The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play (http://www.amazon.com/The-Now-Habit-Overcoming-Procrastination/dp/1585425524)? He talks about just focusing on getting started, plan fun time and fill the rest of the day with work, and avoid self-talk that is negative and judgmental.
Shannon: Congrats on your superb-owl victory!
Guillaume: That’s an interesting suggestion…I wonder if I could scale it to one person. My gut reaction is that I would still have to do the marketing work, which is hugely elevated with running a good Kickstarter campaign, and successful campaigns require quite a bit of up-front work to begin with. I’ll think about it, though!
Matt: I will check it out. Thanks for the link!
Did a quick scan of “The Now Habit”, and it resonated quite a lot. The major takeaways that resonated strongly with me are the “unschedule” and “I choose”, along with the general importance of letting go of negative thoughts and working with more immediate rewards over very small chunks of time; this jibes with my own philosophy of counting positive achievements, no matter how small, than dwelling on setbacks.
Kickstarter would had some marketing overhead, but it also gives you an extra sales channel. There are a lot of other advantages -and you do not need to go through kickstarter, some form of pre-ordering would suffice-: * you will limit your required stock * you do not need to front the cost for production * you can validate your design.