Productivity Reboot: An “Open Notebook” Goal Framework

I’ve been trying to accept that I can’t work on more than one or two things at a time, and that my progress is going to be frustratingly slow. I decided that this was OK, and I would learn to temper my expectations and stop being so negative about it. My progress slowed to a crawl while I was in Taiwan for extended family visitations, but this led to a new insight that I could reframe the competition between all the different things I want to do as a single activity.

To compare, let’s look at my current goals/interests, which all compete for my time and focus:

  • stationery business
  • blogging
  • billable software development
  • community development
  • software development and programming mastery
  • practical knowledge management for workflow
  • workflow and productivity processes
  • collecting, synthesizing, and sharing new knowledge from disparate sources

I think I can reduce this to a single task:

  • produce and post useful primers, toolkits, and seeds

If you’ve been following my Groundhog Day Resolutions, you might recognize this single task my third strategic initiative for 2019. I haven’t yet made any progress on this goal, and this lack of movement has really bothered me. As is common, I found my time being consumed by EXISTING commitments that helped me maintain the status quo but did not contribute to a better future.

So…I am going to try flipping the script by making my third strategic initiative into the umbrella directive.

Flipping the Formula

I am doing a lot of interesting work that is not in an “easy to share” format. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years of blogging, it’s that I love sharing tidbits of knowledge that are not only interesting but also empowering. I feel kind of dead if I’m not actively filtering and disseminating information, and I’ve come to think of this as Happy Bubble Time: an essential activity that is the basis of my personal well being. I am just weird like that. A long-standing goal has been to increase my levels of Happy Bubble Time (HBT), and this is the reason I have Groundhog Day Resolutions in the first place: I want to become self-sustaining so I can AFFORD to spend a lot of time in the undirected explorative state of mind that characterizes HBT, which gives rise to serendipitous discovery. The challenge is to convert serendipity into a physical form that is more than just a cool idea. From 2016-2018 I worked on a systems concept I called Gathering-style Productivity to make the physical artifacts that make HBT more than just a fun way to pass the time, but ultimately it did not result in appreciable gains. And here I’ve been stuck.

Here is the flip:

Rather than try to “afford” HBT by creating “sellable stationery products” and “billable hours” that generate revenue, why not focus on generating shareable pieces? In other words, creating “shareable pieces” becomes the singular working goal, and the revenue-generating activities are a PROMPT. The way I measure a productive day then changes to “make good share pieces” every day, which might be more satisfying!

There are a few reasons I think this is worth looking into:

  • I already do a lot of writing every day just to stay on top of my work. I’ve been finding that it’s been helpful to take extra time to reflect upon my work to write concise how-to guides so I can recreate it later. It is some extra work to make them publicly viewable, but it may not be that much more time.

  • I am already refining my knowledge management workflow because of my journaling needs. I’ve been trying new documentation systems that help capture, recall, and support my knowledge work. My two main goals at the moment, revenue-wise, are (1) to increase my mastery of software development and (2) run an efficient and increasingly-profitable online stationery business.

  • I already feel intense desire to curate and share good stuff. Feeling like I didn’t have the time has been a source of frustration for the past many years, so perhaps acting directly on the impulse will improve my mood.

Workflow Changes

Now, I still have to do this billable and online sales work, and I still need to schedule time to do it. What is new is taking additional time to unapologetically package and share my work. Furthermore, I need to ensure that this additional step produces very concise works of quality so people will actually want to use it.

Here’s what I am planning to do:

  1. Create a new website at works.davidseah.com that will have quite a different writing style that this blog. It will be uncharacteristically direct and concise, designed so visitors can quickly tell if my material is relevant to their interests.

  2. Identify and create the share pieces that deliver knowledge or how-to capability: tools, primers, and kits.

  3. Maintain two concise blog streams on the works site: new releases, updates so people know what I’m making.

  4. Create “in-progress” open notebook-style pages that capture the non-product knowledge in shareable form.

  5. Maintain my “working continuity” in Typora or Visual Studio Code, both of which work with directory trees that can be used to feed a static site generator like Hugo or possibly my own document processing system.

  6. Create highly-polished informational product pages that present each piece of knowledge or downloadable kit in an attractive context. I’ll start by moving the Productivity Tools here.

  7. Ruthlessly refactor both workflow and systems as I go, dozens of times if necessary, until the design is robust and clear. This means possibly trying different website approaches and recreating many assets, but this is a necessary part of refinement.

  8. Use Discord for my community sharing, microblogging, and task management system. I am in there all the time already, and I can eventually write bots to automate some tasks.

Timeframe

My next immediate task, after finishing this blog post, is to get the first five parts going today, with the goal of posting or updating something every day. I expect to spend a couple weeks trying out this concept, so stay tuned for updates!