It’s time for the last Groundhog Day Resolutions Review of the year! I’m now officially on hiatus from “official” goal tracking until February 2nd, but I will do a 2018 review on January 1st after I’ve had some time to think about what I’d like to do next year.
The goals I set last month (which are broadly related to the kickoff goals in February) were:
- Make progress on Stationery Business work for December 1, and update Amazon listings
- Continue to get comfortable with gender identity, and develop a compatible winter wardrobe
- Run the Discord Coworking Chat
- Keep Writing and Making Stuff to Share
- Stay Open to Possibilities and Act on Them when I Can
I think this past month went pretty well! Let’s get into it.
Overall Findings of the Month
Overall, I felt in control. Not every day was super productive, but each week there was overall progress. There were TWO MAJOR THRUSTS in my goal list:
Stationery Business (Branding and Marketing Improvements) – Having Brenda help with my marketing focus with a light guiding hand has helped me make some pretty good progress. I have a tighter grasp of my messaging, and I’ve updated my copy on Amazon. I think what has really worked was having her just involved in the process as an intelligent and insightful sounding board. It is also nice to have someone to give me serious feedback on my work. It isn’t cheap, but I think it’s worth paying for. I am encouraged to start contracting with more people for such feedback.
I haven’t measured it, but I feel like about 40% of my time was spent on these two activities. The rest of the time whent to various community maintenance, personal, and adult responsibilities. In the past these would have filled me with frustration because they competed with the so-called “productive” work that I wanted to do, but this time was different. I felt like I was making BALANCED PROGRESS, which is a new experience for me. So what happened?
My working theory is that I’ve figured out how to do the following:
- Picking a tiny set of FOCUS GOALS for the month that I can handle, instead of trying to deal with the entire FOREST OF PROJECTS that I maintain.
- Acknowledging that my SELF CARE tasks were the priority. FOCUS GOALS were allowed up to 15 hours a week instead of a minimum of 10 hours per week.
- NOT scheduling anything else other than the essential focus tasks if I could help it, but trusting that they would get done.
In practice, this developed into what I am calling my TWO SLOTS + AUX model of task balancing.
For my active focus, I can only handle two major work tasks (the “slots”) at a time; these are the software development work and stationery business stuff I was just talking about. Up to 15 hours a week are allocated to the software development. The stationery business tasks were driven by deadlines spaced a week apart.
For everything else—personal stuff, social responsibilities, opportunistic projects, happy bubble time—that went into the “auxiliary” slot. The auxiliary slot is actually larger than the two slots combined in terms of time, but it is deliberately emergent and only lightly directed.
To manage these tasks on a day-to-day basis, I adopted three methodologies that leveraged the Virtual Coworking Chat #accountability and #work_doing rooms.
#accountabilityI posted a “week plan” of everything that was a critical delivery, scheduled appointment, or necessary to-do along with any personal goals that I wanted to remember (e.g. lose weight). This list would be edited to show what got done throughout the week.
#work_doingI posted “short lists” of more specific tasks that I thought I would do in the next few hours. I dated these and added “morning”, “afternoon”, or “evening” to the list title. Generally I put only 2 or 3 items on each list.
I started livestreaming certain work sessions as a way to get myself moving, and started to think of myself as a kind of activity host. I got the idea from watching Melody Kazey’s writing stream, which was introduced to me by Sunwriter in our chat room one day. This was the first time I’d seen a focused coworking stream by someone who was actually writing words, and it made me feel that my own livestreams were in good company.
Using social media chat and livestreams to share the “doing” of my work went a long way to improving my positivity. I am deliberately choosing positivity as much as possible not just for personal preference, but also because I feel it is my RESPONSIBILITY to actively show that this is my choice. The reasons for this are complex and personal, but the short justification for it is I just like it and think it is better to put positive thoughts and effective action into the universe than it is to just complain about it. I still COMPLAIN MY ASS OFF, mind you, but hopefully I will always have the energy to use my frustration as the motivation to try to do better.
Lastly, there are two process takeaways that I am slowly learning to accept wholeheartedly:
Working in small chunks does work for me now. I think it feels more visceral now that there are TWO types of tracking lists: the strategic
#accountabilitytask overview list and the hour-by-hour tactical
#work_doingsession lists. Before, I only had the grand strategic list but was missing the tactical element.
It’s OK to take a lot of time to learn something, because what choice do I have? One of my overall ambitions is to develop mastery. In 2018 the specific mastery I’m focusing on is software development of a certain kind. I’m getting over decades of built-up frustration that prevented me from really going for it. I’m slow, and that’s OK, and I believe that mastery will come one day.
Up to now I’ve been a bit abstract in my discussion, so let me just list the things that I feel are noteworthy in terms of personal reflection/development.
Pork Loin Roast – I have figured out the timing for a perfect pork loin roast. Since I am on a slow carb diet, I need to have a source of good protein. At US$1.79 a pound, a pork loin is one of the cheaper nice piece of meat; it’s certainly a lot cheaper than buying cold cuts at US$5.99 and up, or boneless chicken breast at around US$2.29 and up! I just had never cooked a whole one before. This achievement contributes to my weight loss/transgender goals as part of my diet and health initiative.
Transition – Being transgender took a few years to process, and this month I realized I don’t HAVE to conform to any particularly gender expectation. I realized at one point that I am just going to have to choose to be my own authority on who I am, much as I already do with regards to my weird career path. The approach is exactly the same: (1) choose what I want to happen, (2) figure out how I can achieve it, and (3) be as inclusive and generous as I can in my pursuit of what matters to me. At the moment that pursuit is about finding really cool boots to look like a time-travelling librarian ;-) This contributes to my personal style goal.
House Cleaning – I’ve made some progress in cleaning up the basement and my master bedroom, throwing out a lot of stuff and donating what could be salvaged to charity. There’s still a lot to do, but I am motivated to do this because it fits my desire to PROVIDE SPACE for people to gather here and collaborate. My house is my FACILITY for social doings, or so I like to think. This achievement contributes to my living room cafe/social facilities goal which is part of the community building goal.
Hand Tossed Pizza Crust – I’ve been working on improving my pizza-making abilities, and I’ve got the timing down for everything now. What has eluded me was CONSISTENT SHAPING of the crust. Sometimes it’s too puffy, and sometimes it’s not quite round, and sometimes it’s weirdly uneven. I have discovered that I can get more consistent results if I merely HANDLE IT MORE until my hands warm the dough to the right consistency and the gluten relaxes. I can now sense when this is, and my crusts have come out great. This achievement contributes to my living room cafe/social facilities goal!
Desktop Applications – I finally have gotten the rudiments of the Electron framework working with Webpack. This was supposed to be EASY because there are all these tools and tutorials for it. However, none of them do a good job of teaching fundamental concepts; that’s the work I had to put myself through to get to a point where I can describe what’s happening at a system level. 4 weeks ago I was mad as hell. Today I feel I have a decent grasp of it. There are at least three major systems beyond Electron and Webpack to master in the way I want, but I think I have a new process for learning how to do that will less frustration. This achievement contributes to my development mastery goals and future app development dreams.
Nail Drying Station – I occasionally like to paint my nails pretty colors, and have learned how to do it at home. However, I went to an actual nail salon to see how THEY do it, and one of the things they have is a bench that has fans blowing over your nails to dry them quicker. I bought something I thought would work on Amazon, but it turns out that the ‘UV lamp’ I got is for a specific kind of nail polish (UV-curing) that I don’t use. I use the regular stuff. Instead of paying a hundred bucks for a salon-style pre-built, I bought some “game console cooling fans” and put them on a cardboard box…voila! Unfortunately my nails are in terrible shape at the moment so I can’t paint them until they regrow properly, but this achievement contributes to my personal style goal!
WildStar Server Shutdown – The MMORPG WildStar shut down on Nov 28. This is a game where I learned how to do “role playing” as a fictional character that grew quite close to my heart. I made several friends there. I attended the shutting-down event with my main char “Sri”, though I hadn’t been there for a couple of years and found it quite moving. I was surprised at how moved I was, and even cried a bit as I reminisced. This isn’t so much an achievement as it is a reflection of the lessons learned while playing and participating in the WildStar Roleplay forum. The major takeaway, which is related to my community building goals, is that time spent with passionate people is always worthwhile even if you don’t know it at the time. Choose to be PRESENT with the people in the room with you.
Advances in Stationery Business Branding – I have done a lot of writing on my personal stationery brand and who I think it appeals to. More importantly, I have a firmer grasp of why it appeals to ME. With the added hindsight of having done this productivity stuff for 12+ years, I can see WHERE IT CAN GO since I also have a much clearer vision of WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME. If you’re still reading this blog post, you might even have a sense of what that is. I think the insights that have come from the branding/marketing exercise will come to the fore in 2019 not only for my online marketing, but for amplifying the mission that underlies everything I do. I feel like I am on the cusp of clarity. I know I say that EVERY year, but I’m EXTRA HOPEFUL. If you look at the accrual log to see all the things I’ve noted for this year, you might see the shape of what I’m seeing.
Under 190 Pounds! – Lastly, this week I broke the 190-pound barrier on my weight loss journey through a combination of slow carb diet and intermittent fasting. I started the year at 218 pounds, and started seriously dieting in May. I’m now at around 187 pounds, and it is starting to show. I’m hoping to get to about 160 pounds (or less) and see what that looks like. The dieting is going well; the combination of slow carb and intermittent fasting seems to work well for me. As a bonus, the fasting is also helping me go to sleep earlier!
Quantitative Evaluation of Working Goals
- Week 1:
- Week 2:
- Week 3:
- Week 4:
I established that I was working UP TO 15 hours a week, and I see I’m averaging about 10. I’m starting to think that this is not enough hours; I’d like to get this up to 50 or 60 hours a month just for the increased income, but I don’t know how to make that happen unless I sacrifice some other activities. There are a few possibilities:
- Since there are no longer any Stationery Business deadlines, that means I can devote both of my slots to billable work.
- If I can schedule less meetings and responsibilities per week, I can stay “in the zone” longer.
- Or I can figure out how to keep these meetings/responsibilities from killing my productivity (because they are hugely distracting)
While I have an improved ability to “work in chunks of time” now, I find that doing high quality work requires deep focus and isolation. Any social interaction or scheduled event disrupts that. This deep work is the key to me booking more hours, and I need to figure-out how to arrange for it to happen. In the past I’ve done hermit mode and autistic mode approaches, which are “not seeing people at all” and “not responding to people outside of my work” modes of operation, but these also have a tremendous personal cost because they are forms of crunch mode. I’ve never figured out how to “lightly crunch”, but that may be a fruitful line of investigation next year.
In terms of WORK: STATIONERY BUSINESS, we are now actively trying to see if our copywriting efforts will result in improved sales. My last assignment for the year is to create a TRACKING SPREADSHEET that records metrics like unit sales, impressions, revenue, and so forth. We will be tracking this until the end of February; it so happens that I will have a lot of software development work until mid-February, so that is a time where I will likely be booking a lot of hours.
Qualitative Evaluation of Supporting Goals
I’ve already gone over quite a lot of this, but to recap the two main supporting goal categories are Personal Care and Self Monitoring.
SUPPORT: PERSONAL CARE consists of activities that are always on my mind, so I work with them and try to incorporate them into my daily activities:
- Personal Appearance
- Knowledge Capture and Management
- Groundhog Day Resolutions
SUPPORT: SELF MONITORING consists of activities that help me stay grounded or pointed in a productive direction:
- Weekly Reviews
- Weekly Accountability
- Daily List Making
- Hosting the Virtual Coworking Chat Room
You know what? I did ALL of this and I feel good. Rather than try to limit it to the time leftover from trying to book maximum hours (which never worked anyway), instead I maintained a sense of personal balance through these activities. This allowed me to bill hours and pursue mastery at the same time despite the frustration I felt. I think that’s a major takeaway, though I’m not sure how to express it. Maybe “allowing one’s own nature to be the foundation of work” works better for me than “strictly enforce the balance between work and personal affairs”?
Meta Assessments – Am I Doing Good Things?
In October I designated monthly meta assessments to help me identify what “tangible good” I have done. This is important for my sense of fulfillment.
Did I Contribute to “The Common Good”?
Yes! I maintained the Discord Virtual Coworking Chat and this is good. I shared some process on the livestreaming. I didn’t really see many friends, though, or directly contribute to their projects. However, by defining my “personal brand” as part of the Stationery Business marketing I think I have a stronger sense of how MY common good works. I’m looking forward to writing it up.
Did I Improve My Fiscal Position?
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to pay-down a lot of debt this month because I had to pay a big printing bill. I’m holding even. Christmas isn’t helping the expenses either, and I jumped on an Oculus Rift ($329 on sale from$399) as an investment into realtime graphics media.
It remains to be seen if the improvements to my product copywriting will lead to a sale bump over last year. So…no change. I do need to still talk to a new bookkeeper and put those tracking spreadsheets into place so I can tell more readily how the business is doing.
Did the Universe Respond to Me in Unexpected Ways?
Two things come to mind:
Seeing Melody Kazey’s “live at the cafe” stream and actually getting excited seeing someone else doing coworking in a pleasant and engaging way. I never would have known about her if it wasn’t for people in the Virtual Coworking Chat Room.
As I dress more “interestingly” and expand my hat collection, I’m finding that my cheerful attitude is creating cheerful responses. I like maintaining a deliberate AURA OF CHEER and pleasantness, which I feel free to do now as part of my choice to express how I am on the inside.
Did I Produce and Share Tangible Things on my Website?
I think the main delivery on the website this past month was the improved weekly reports, particularly the refine process and more-consistent reporting style. I haven’t gotten any specfic feedback except for a handful of “likes” on Facebook, but that’s still something!
Did I Create or Maintain Social Bonds?
This was limited largely to Discord, but I did have had several good interactions with retail staff. As I mentioned earlier, I am trying to express cheerfulness to people and share the cheerful attitude as much as possible. So while I didn’t hang out with close friends as much as I would have liked, I was able to establish patterns of cheer with acquaintances around me. The barristas at Starbucks seem to be more attuned to me this month, for example. They are remembering my name and smiling when they see me.
Good month. Good close to the year. I think I have talked this to death.
Goals for December 13 to January 1
There is no official goal tracking until February 2nd, but I am planning on doing the following:
- Maintain the TWO-SLOT + AUX approach
- Continue to refine the stationery business marketing, but it is now in the AUX SLOT and therefore is more emergent than planned.
- Write the 2018 GHDR Retrospective around January 1
I’ll continue to use my personal support goals as the foundation for doing the work, not the other way around. However, I’m not sure if I’ll maintain weekly reports on the blog. I think it’s important to take a complete break from GHDR until February 2nd, personally, so I don’t go crazy from all the end-of-year holiday madness. I will maintain the
#work_doing listkeeping, because that is super-helpful.
SO THAT’S IT! I think this is the best close for any Groundhog Day Resolutions year that I’ve had. More GHDR goodness in January, and we kick of 2019 goals on February 2nd!
Thanks for following along this year, and have an excellent HOLIDAY SEASON!!! <3
|MON 1/1||New Year’s Day||Start thinking about resolutions|
|FRI 2/2||Groundhog Day||Make your resolutions. Assemble your peer group.|
|SAT 3/3||March 3||Review w/ group.|
|WED 4/4||April 4||Review w/ group.|
|SAT 5/5||Cinco de Mayo||Review w/ group. Think celebratory, spring-like thoughts!|
|WED 6/6||June 6||Mid-Year Review w/ group. Optional break for summer.|
|SAT 7/7||Tanabata Star Festival||Private Review. Make Wishes. Rededicate.|
|WED 8/8||Chinese Father’s Day||Private Review. Plan for future completion.|
|SUN 9/9||September 9||Review w/ group. Three months left.|
|WED 10/10||October 10||Review w/ group. Two months left.|
|SUN 11/11||Veteran’s Day||Review w/ group. A Day to be Grateful.|
|WED 12/12||December 12||End-of-year Review. Break for Holiday Madness.|