GHDR Weekly Review 6.2 – Compensating for External Motivation

I’ve been trying to maintain progress on my goals despite a HARD FAIL last week and losing my first draft of this report. The week of August 20 was a mixed bag. While there were several “social wins”, I didn’t make appreciable project on my mail billable tasks. It bothered me that I wasn’t able to make significant headway on them. However, a conversation in our Virtual Coworking Chat got me thinking that maybe effort toward a goal actually counted more than I thought. I firmly believe that meaningful work results only from the production of tangible works that can be shared with others. This underpins my entire creative-productive philosophy strategy! However, until this weekend it wasn’t clear to me that not EVERY hour can be attributed to the the production of a useful artifact. In fact, I was actively thinking that those hours spent producing intangible results were unpleasant inefficiencies to be overcome through process improvement and increased discipline. I have come to believe that this is wrong headed and it just stresses me out for no reason. At least, that is my working theory for the week.

I am changing my position on productive vs unproductive hours. The time spent lightly exploring without trying to nail down a tangible result IS STILL PRODUCTIVE TIME. It’s enough to just get a SENSE of the task involved without having to NEEDLESSLY FRET about whether I have a solid plan of action right away. In other words, I can give myself the space to approach a task slowly and in layers. My expectation of myself was that (1) I would instantly be able to identify and find a productive course of action that produced intermediate results and that this (2) was proof that I was not an incompetent boob.

Perhaps I can afford to be kinder to myself. I think that will be the theme of this week!


Let me backstep a bit to provide the continuity that led to this new line of thinking.

In my August 8 Review I noted that I like the freedom to ignore all other projects except one during crunch mode. I was extremely productive when I could focus all my intensitity on getting a difficult software project moving again. The downside is losing track with humanity, which if left unchecked results in severe depression. In summary, I thought I could design an approach that took the best parts of crunch mode and reweave them into a healthier process. Thus was born the idea of THEMED WORK BLOCKS, which I planned on running in 10-day chunks by focusing on the following rules:

  • Refactor “crunch mode” into THEMED WORK BLOCKS of 10 days of singular project focus
  • Elevate the sense of drama and protect my time zealously in a non-toxic manner
  • Pick just two projects, one main and one auxiliary, for the work block
  • Drop everything else: blogging, podcasting, livestreaming, socialization
  • Exception: allow opportunistic “no planning required” projects that produce a useful nugget of knowledge or utility

This seemed like a pretty good plan, but the following week did not go as hoped at all:

  • It became apparent that themed work blocks require control of my schedule and priorities. The week was full of unexpected reactionary planning for two projects. My week was shot.
  • I again was reminded that I am easily distracted and stressed when dealing with multiple project requests. It takes very little to vaporize what little discipline I can muster on a given day. This just seems to be the way I am wired as a neurotic nerdy introspective hermit.
  • As much as I tried to self-motivate based on principle, my primary motivational energy is entirely external. I do things when other people need them, or when I can provide something that only I can provide in that moment. I’ve been trying to fight this self-ascribed “character flaw” for decades, with inconsistent results.

One good thing came out of that week when I was goofing-off playing CONAN: EXILES with my cousins, building roads and camps on our private server: I seem to enjoy common good activities for a long time; this is related to my attraction to making gifts for people. I am highly motivated by common good activities, making things that other people love and appreciate because it makes their life experience better. So perhaps there was a way to (1) bind my work with others through “common good” that (2) can be used and appreciated right away that also (3) gave me the energy to power through difficult work.

So last week I defined “common good” in those terms, and hoped to do some thinking on how to define it for my current projects. Instead of working solo on esoteric and difficult tasks, if I could find an immediate jolt of the “common good achieved” feeling, perhaps that would be an adequate substitute for my defective self-motivational circuitry.


Of course, I immediately fell back into the bad habit of forcing myself to try to work because I felt there was a lot to do. I hadn’t yet had the insight I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and I saw every minute I was not producing clarity as wasted. It also happened to be a very SOCIAL WEEK for Monday through Wednesday, which left me drained on Thursday and Friday. I did manage to eke out some work on my knowledge management system, and I learned how to make an Alfred Workflow to automate the opening of project-related files from the keyboard.

Here’s how the week broke down, according to my #accountability posts in the virtual coworking Discord:

[~] request/read new grant proposal
[X] MON 1730 peer programming review
[X] .. set week schedule for work 
[X] Review D3 Use FRI
[~] Review React Best Practices
[~] Strategy for Database Unification
[+] SUN Extend state manager
[X] MON Apple Genius Bar
[X] TUE Checking Jakob
[X] confirm plans for Wednesday
[X] WED B-25 and breakfast -> THU
[X] WED Haircut and dinner
[+] SAT KM/SSG work
[X] SUN Weekly Review
/// NetCreate meeting Aug 28

LEGEND: [ ]=planned  [X]=planned+done  [+]=reactive+done  [~]=in-progress  !!!=late  ///=remember
LEGEND: { }=optional  [-]=cancelled  [?]=stalled  [.]=paused  [:]=blocked  [>]=deferred [/]=fail

This breaks down as follows:

  • FAILED: did not define “common good”
  • FAILED: did not make “impressive progress” on billable projects
  • SUCCESS: worked a little bit on KM/SSG design
  • SUCCESS: started using the KM/SSG content folders without a working system for writing content (like this post) to get into the habit of using it.
  • BONUS: made an Alfred workflow to deeply-buried folders and workspaces with keyboard
  • SOCIAL WIN: got to see a World War II airplane, the B-25J Mitchell bomber, at my local airfield
  • SOCIAL WIN: salon staff comments on improved skin, skill in applying nail polish
  • SOCIAL WIN: dinner with two old friends
  • SOCIAL WIN: several compliments on having lost a very noticeable amount of weight
  • SETBACK: lost text of this blog post, had to rewrite from scratch

The general pattern is that I had some great social wins, but this feels like it was at the expense of getting the “hard work” done. The most impressive achievement of the week, from my perspective, is writing that Alfred workflow and learning about Javascript Automation on MacOS.


This week I am going to continue to maintain my themed work block focus on:

  • billable projects
  • KM/SSG (knowledge management system)
  • opportunistic work that does not require planning

The different approach this week is to accept that not every hour has to produce a tangible shareable result, and that shallow interaction exploration is a completely acceptable and productive thing to do.

Secondly, I do want to reflect on what the “common good” is, in terms of my billable projects and KM/SSG. It’s a strong motivational force within me, but I don’t know how to harness it. I’ve made a note in my #accountability list to put some time into it.

We’ll see how this goes next week. Prepare for takeoff!

visiting a Mitchell B-25J bomber