It’s time for my fourth progress report for Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR) 2019! In my last report and its followup I wrote about “flipping the script” to focus on making interesting knowledge artifacts that I thought would be more true to the kind of “genuine feeling of expressive freedom” I want. I’ve been back from vacation for about three weeks now trying to put the new script in action, but I’ve been finding it very difficult to get back into work mode. I’ve spent a day thinking about the problem, and think the problem is my need for singular focus and activation energy to overcome the natural deficiencies in motivation that I have. I am personally rather annoyed by this, but in the spirit of assessing and moving onward I’ll break it down as best I can. On the positive side, I’ve been using an iPad Pro with Good Notes 5 to help think through this problem; it’s a game changer! I’ll write about that some other time.
Revisiting “The Hard Path” Goals
At the start of my year, I defined an entire model of my productive activities, dividing them into what came easy to me and what I found difficult. I made the focus of GHDR 2019 on the difficult stuff, calling them the hard path. There are two such goals: software development mastery and stationery business. They are hard but not impossible, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. I find them hard because I don’t really like doing them and find the work tedious, but the RESULTS of this work are my best opportunity at creating works of high value that can help fund my ambitions. That ambition turns out to be making a community of positive-minded people who share my values, and for that to happen I need cash and expertise. Or so I believed.
Fast-forward to today, and I am feeling very dissatisfied with my achievements so far with regards to the hard path goals. I keep telling myself I should be better at this, but maybe I haven’t truly acknowledged just how hard it is for me. Everyone’s version of hard is theirs alone, after all; there are factors that prevent the common wisdom from exploding into productive growrth when planted in the shallow soil of my brain pan. Let me look at the failure with this in mind.
I have two old hypotheses about my lack of ability, but it has been a while since I seriously considered them. Let’s start the analysis with these:
1: Limited Ability – Perhaps my capacity to do hard work is by nature extremely limited. I thought limiting myself to just three things a day was a start, but it might actually be one thing. This doesn’t make me happy, but maybe I should work with it and see what happens.
2: Unseen Demons – Perhaps my capacity to do hard work is limited because there are still undiagnosed mental/emotional issues siphoning my energies away. This doesn’t make me happy either, because I have done a LOT of self-diagnosis over the years and frankly I’m tired of making excuses for myself. But as much as I hate this idea, I have to consider that this is true.
As annoying as these thoughts are, I’m going to try just accepting them as experimental fact and not make a big deal out of it. I’m not going to berate myself or think of myself as diminished, because that doesn’t help me. I want to keep moving and get a detailed sense of why my productivity is so low in the face of the hard path tasks. In other words, I know it’s hard, but I want to know why.
It also occured to me as I was writing that there’s a third hypothesis:
- 3. I am Stressing Myself Out – I take my goals very seriously, particularly GHDR, and I am making the error of comparing my output with the faster/better/sexier/stronger version of me. I will always fall short and feel behind, which describes how I’m feeling at the moment pretty well!
On a funny side note: I already know that negatively comparing myself with other people is not a fruitful path and avoid it automaticallly now. However, I never made the connection that the imaginary version of myself also counted. DUH!
A fourth hypothesis arose from talking with Susan in the Virtual Coworking Chat Room. I was describing the feeling as a kind of rage that made me want to disconnect from the world, but was also afraid to do so. She related some of her own experience (emphasis mine)
Susan: Every once in a while, I start to realize that my social web (i.e. the social connections I’m maintaining and their “closeness” in terms of regularity of contact and amount of shared experiences) is no longer reflecting my direction or desired direction.
It always starts as this subtle feeling of pulling rather than just being with people…and can build to anger or resentment if I let it.
Most often, given my fixer compulsion, this is because I’ve let the web be strongest and most numerous to “lost puppy” nodes (people who need lots of help/care/mentoring from me but can’t propel me forward or provide meaningful support), and my peer/challenger/mentor nodes are drifting due to my own inattention.
I found this highly relatable. I have been increasing the amount of connections I’m maintaing with people doing interesting things, as I’ve maintained existing connections. Each of these connections pulls energy out of me, because I am neurotic about maintaining clear lines of communication and scheduling. ANY scheduled event creates time anxiety in me because I don’t want to forget or be unprepared. The stress level rises if I am supposed to be contributing something to the event as well. I think I am just naturally this way and there isn’t much I can do about it other than (1) recognize it happens and (2) limit the number of events that create these stresses.
The fourth hypothesis is this:
- 4. I am holding too tightly to commitments and connections. Not only am I maintaining more of them than usual, I take them very seriously and this leads to anxiety about failing to mantain them in a competent manner. The intense desire to do a good job in fulfilling my promises causes me to stress constantly about them. I have noticed that this intensity is generally not returned or expected, so perhaps I can let it go. I’d rather be more chill, I think, as in hypothesis 3.
Refining Strategic Goals
From the four hypotheses, I am establishing a new template for June’s GHDR-related activities.
What isn’t changing:
I’m still doing the GHDR hard path tasks of software development mastery and the stationery business, because I am already commmitted to them. They are just not the main goal anymore (see my productivity reboot post).
The GHDR main goal is making of seeds, primers, and toolkits and publishing the supporting knowledge chunks on works.davidseah.com. This goal uses the hard path tasks as sources for producing useful chunks of know-how. I will assess my productivity by counting how many chunks are produced and published.
What is new:
- The rephrased GHDR strategic objective is recognizing that my desire is being part of a self-sustaining community of shared values, and that I believe that I have to make a model community so people recognize what it is that I’m doing. I’ve written at length about my values and interests before, so I won’t go into detail here.
Imperfectly Implementing Strategic Goals
Im my four hypotheses, I’ve outlined the ways in which I fail to be productive. Primarily, I am either bored or stressed by a handful of conditions:
I am easily distracted or bored by anything that is mediocre. My brain does not work when it is not “sparked” by either (1) other commited people facing a mutual challenge or (2) a novel question that I want to know how to answer myself.
I am stressed by time commitments and maintaining my promises, to the point I can not function efficiently. The stress comes from thinking about being prepared enough and anticipating problems in the face of uncertainty, and then having to make MORE promises. These constant distracting thoughts prevent me from doing hard work that requires a lot of uninterrupted time (e.g. software development).
I am drained by the energy requirements of maintaining tight connections with various communities. This is related to the above point, as creating community strong bonds requires making time commitments and promises for the good of everyone. When these connections fail to return equal or greater energy from other equally commited individuals, then this breeds resentment.
In the face of the above conditions, I find it impossible to stay focused and am therefore always behind where I think I should be, as compared to the imaginary better/faster/strong version of me.
I’m going to implement the following practices for June to see if they help:
Loosen the tethers and Be chill with other commitments, connections, and events. I’m willing to take the hit in reputation as the “person who knows how to do things so we’ll ask her to do them for us”. Likewise, I will expect less from the connections themselves and commit less. People may think I’m flighty or less reliable than before, but having fewer responsibilities might help me focus.
Choose only one thing to do day. Previously I was using a three slots of attention per day model as a way to feel more like a winner at finishing lists. After trying this for several months, I think three slots is more than I can handle, so I’m reducing it to just one. There are still other things that get done during the day, but they are things like doctor appointments, maintaining my home and work gear, and responding to requests for my input.
Accept that the one thing may take several days. Another contributor to stress is the time it takes to finish a simple-seeming task. For example, writing this blog post has taken about two days. I thought originally I could finish it in about half a day and then start doing billable work. NOPE. This is how long it takes. The time invested, though, helps set the tone for the entire month, so I should be OK with that. And for June, I am declaring that I’m OK with it so I don’t feel like I’ve fallen short of the imaginary better/faster/stronger me.
Remember that the work is not hard when the ideal inputs are available. These inputs are (1) working directly with someone to solve a challenge we’re equally invested in and (2) the challenge/question is related to my particular set of obsessive interests.
Remember when the ideal inputs are not present, the work is REALLY REALLY hard and will take a long time. That’s just the way work is when I’m working by myself. I find work especially slow and tedious and boring, particularly when I’m working with mediocre sources of information, self-limiting attitudes, and unimaginative approaches.
I don’t want my work to be hard. I want it to feel like FLYING. This is why my GHDR Strategic Objective is to build a community, as my ideal community directly addresses the boring/tedious aspects of doing stuff:
- Instead of settling for mediocre sources of information, we compile the best information for all to share.
- Instead of dividing a shrinking pie with minimum risk to ourselves, we seek to broaden our attitudes and capabilities to match to grow the pie for everyone.
- Instead of doing what other people have always done, we explore, learn, build, and share methods that deliver better experiences for all.
Since I don’t know anyone near me that is doing something like this, I see it falling to me to at least define what I think what goes into building my ideal community:
A nurturing community is the medium for positive personal growth and achievement of the kind I wish to achieve. Engineering this community into existence is therefore the general goal.
As the de-facto leader of said community, I need to understand what roles contribute to various positive aspects, so the values that are important to us are incorporated into the very culture of the group.
I have to be purposeful in working to sustain myself by exchanging the products of my labor for money, resources, and expertise. The quality of my life (and by extension, my ability to nurture my community) is proportional to the quality of the goods and services I provide.
I can not do it alone, but I have to carry it alone for now. Keeping a lookout for people who fit the two ideal inputs I mentioned above (e.g. mutual commitment, interest).
The Month Ahead
I think that’s a good enough start for now. I’ll update the GHDR pages with the new JUNE reframing. To recap my new strategic objective: I’m making a cool community for me and people like me because many good things (I think) will flow from it. On a pragmatic level, this is what will make my own work easier. On a personal level, it will be what gives my work meaning.
I’ll be maintaining the following habits publicly, as usual:
- Do big picture planning in the Discord
- Do daily planning in the Discord
- Do a weekly report summarizing the production of artifacts, to be posted here in the blog.
works.davidseah.comas the main publishing platform for seeds, toolkits, and primers that are produced daily. This is the main metric!
That’s enough planning for now! Wish me luck!
|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.|