Resolution Review #1: ETP Notebooks, Games, and Living Room Cafes

It’s time for my first Groundhog Day Resolutions review of the year! On February 2nd, I made several general goals, rewritten slightly from the original ones:

  • Eliminating Time-based Thinking
  • Reduce Possessions and Responsibilities that sap energy
  • Build full-time stationery business by end of year
  • Find will to create and share more
  • Build health and strength

This year I’m evaluating my goals by whether they fit these and/or one of my 10 year projects. Details follow!

Goals, Reviewed

The five general goals are really “desirable outcomes” with which I can compare my actions of the day. If what I’m working on fits one of these criteria, I can then think of the work as moving forward productively. For example, if I feel the urge to work on my website, I can ask myself which criterion, if any, is met. If I can make the argument for it, then it’s worth doing. This is my lazy way of working on big projects without doing a lot of planning and estimating, trusting that motion begets results, in a way similar to using The Concrete Goals Tracker without having to actually track points. Unlike the Concrete Goals Tracker, these goals are states of mind or states of existence. They are desirable, but they are felt not seen.

Since tangible things are what I want to make, I also have the six 10-year creative goals:

  • Making a Video Game
  • Illustrating a Book
  • Composing Music
  • Achieving Creative Independence
  • Making Thinking Tools
  • Fabricating Things

Each of these goals has a tangible result that can be seen by other people, which is important if you want to feel like you’re actually making progress. If what I choose to do on any given day resonates with both the “desirable outcome” and “tangible creative” lists, then I figure I’m heading in the right direction. Given that these are all challenges of uncertain composition, the most I can do is commit time to try to meet them and see what happens without planning too much in advance or expecting greatness the first time. This attitude, incidentally, resonates with the goal of breaking time-base thinking, which subtly encourages people to measure falling short rather than how far they have gone.

Major Accomplishments of the Month

So how am I doing? Let’s review in pictures!

ETP NOTEBOOK PROTOTYPE

ETP full size The full-size ETP journals move slowly forward with the arrival of the first four prototypes. There are adjustements to make to paper size and margins and binding tightness, but we’re on our way. The next steps are to design the rest of the packaging, do a final costing, and then make a test run of 250 or 500. This achievement is related to stationery business and creative independence, and also making thinking tools and fabricating things…+4 points, let’s say!

TESTING OUR SOFTWARE AT UCLA

UCLA test In late February, testing began for the second phase of the multi-year educational software development I’ve been part of. Monitoring a classroom full of second graders with our tracking software and remote cameras was gratifying to see; this is the first time that I think we’re getting a feeling that the system is working well enough for the research to take a big step forward.

The goals that align with this are not as direct, but breaking time based thinking was an instrumental approach that allowed me to make good progress. Before, I was really thinking about how slow I was at coding solutions, and feeling bad and then impatient. This attitude did me no favors. I’ve been instead facing the code challenges in the moment, rather than thinking about how this might screw up the schedule. I believe that choosing the former emphasis over the latter is one of the keys that will allow me to achieve “flow” on a regular basis.

THE LONG WINDING TRAIL TO SIT-TO-STAND DESK NIRVANA

Stand Desk Up After many weeks of delay due to the port laborer’s strike in Oakland AND my shipment being returned due to damage by FedEx, I finally got my new sit-to-stand desk. As shown in the Stand Desk kickstarter video (and much to my relief), the desk is fantastically solid AND a joy to use. I only put it together a couple of days ago, but the entire process of preparing for it took far longer because of several prerequisite steps:

  • I needed space for it in the living room, which meant I had to move a filing cabinet and some additional storage cabinets.
  • To move the filing cabinet, I needed to take out the bills I’d filed there. I decided to keep only the last five years of bills, so I went through them all (some 20 years worth) and made huge bags of stuff to burn.
  • To move the storage cabinets, I had to remove them and the full-size speakers that sat on them. In fact, I didn’t have a place for the speakers afterwards, so I decided to order some inexpensive speakers that can mount on the wall and provide surround sound.
  • To move everything downstairs, I had to clean and reorganize it so there was space. That meant consolidating all the bills-to-burn storage, filing the knick knacks that had been in the cabinets, throwing stuff out, donating stuff to Goodwill over five trips.
  • I also had to rewire my network, moving the wifi router to a shelf I installed high-up on the way and rerunning the gigabit hardwired ethernet for my file sharing / backup system.
  • Taking down the old desk, I saw that there were several huge gouges that needed patches and repainting. Fortunately I have the old paint for 6 years ago and it’s still good, but it still took another chunk of a day to spackle, sand, and repaint.

After a few weeks of prepping for this, I’m finally sitting at my desk, and using the nice office chair I bought a year ago. The area has been significantly decluttered, and the next step of putting in the hardwood floor takes me a bit closer to my dream of having a nice private coworking space, the so-called Living Room Cafe Project. Setting up the standing desk is the first milestone of my living room transformation! The goal this touches on is reduce possessions that sap energy.

MY VIDEO GAME PROJECT

Project 1401 One of my ten-year goals is to make my own video game, and I spent a couple of weeks on it to make more progress, and I’m still feeling good about how I’m establishing a solid foundation on which to build quality code. I’m right up to the point where I can start writing graphics and game behavior code! And this is where it gets a little scarier, because now I have to make something that looks good and have it be vulnerable to judging by others. This is something I hadn’t expected, but in hindsight it’s obvious that I often hit a barrier when having to transition from “build the foundation” to “be expressive and creative”. That makes this activity a good match for the goal finding the will to create and share. I was able to push this far, so by next month maybe I’ll have pushed past it. I’m exciting, and a little anxious for it to turn out well!

Activities Not Shown

I’ve been working on yet another new davidseah.com website, using a different WordPress theme template that I think will be more efficient and more flexible. The theme I’m using now, a modified version of something I bought on ThemeForest, was coded inefficiently and bugged me. There were small problems here and there, and it was awkward to update. The original developers also completely dropped support for it, and it’s no longer for sale. Such is the story of buying themes on the open theme market. I’m hoping for better luck with the new one, which has been continuously supported for the past couple of years. Moving the website to a new theme isn’t easy because of the custom functions that I have coded, but I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve made. When I have the new site up and running, I’m hoping this will encourage me to create and share more. Right now, the little issues with the website make me not want to write a lot.

Lastly, a major action taken was getting dental surgery on a rotted-out tooth and getting socket reconstruction done, so sometime in the future I can have an implant put there. It’s expensive, but I figure that I want to enjoy eating as long as possible. 30 more years of chewing without working about dental appliances falling out is worth it. This certainly goes with the goal of building health and strength

Conclusion

It’s been a pretty good month. One of the most effective changes I’ve made in my attitude is breaking-away from my obsession with how long something takes. This has helped me deal with the resistance I feel when facing a tedious uncertain challenge. Also, by not engaging thoughts of speed/efficiency/impatience, I am instead wholly focusing on the really small exploratory steps. This has been my gateway to finding flow.

In the coming month, the challenge will be to make continuing progress on the living room cafe, getting my taxes done, getting the ETP journal into production, and developing the video game further. There will probably be some surprises as well, but for once I think I’m ready to handle them with flexibility and maybe even some grace.

We shall see!