(last edited on December 5, 2019 at 2:13 pm)
Time to do another monthly progress check for my 2019 goals! The short answer is I am bad at setting goals. The longer answer is that maybe I need to repackage goals so they work with the peculiarities of my brain. Something more enticing to my natural tastes, perhaps?
Recap of Last Month
It’s proven difficult to make new things in the kits, seeds, and primers for a rejuvenated davidseah.com. It seems all I am able to manage is maintaining my current commitments. In fact, I had to reduce my commitments again because I was frazzled and angry about everything.
To recap, here are my original 2019 Strategic Initiatives:
- Stationery Business (Productivity) to provide monthly bonus income and hopefully becoming my main line of business
- Creating a knowledge resource of Toolkits, Seeds, and Primers
This proved too much. I have now condensed these into a single initiative:
- Software Mastery
- Toolkits, Seeds, and Primers as related to Software Mastery
- Limit scheduled commitments to two a week
- Accept ADHD/Introverted-induced limitations
- Accept my limits without guilt or shame
- Remember: making new works to share with people is the way
- Remember: maintaining my effective working conditions for peak productivity is time-consuming.
I’ve further reduced scheduled commitments to just 1 per week and now allow unscheduled interactions if the opportunity pops up. I try to cram as many interactions (lunches with friends, errands to the store, etc) on that day as possible, because I know that my brain takes hours to recover to the point I can do deep focused work.
The Forever Problem
What has been bothering me, though, is my continued inability to make progress on my aspirational goals. While I am better able to focus on the software mastery as part of project commitments, I run out of energy or get easily side-tracked from the work that is for my own future benefit. This is a pattern that’s repeated itself throughout my life. This past month I took a stand to guard my time and energy more zealously, but it’s been difficult to initiate action. It’s been a problem for me seemingly FOREVER.
Why can’t I execute consistently on my goals? Are they not clearly defined enough?
Well…as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think I AM defining them well enough to work with my own neurotic issues. Instead of strategic goals, I’ve done a great job of outlining my strategic desires to fit my personality and values. And this IS great, because I have outstanding clarity on what matters to me and why I want to do it. However, I’m really missing the point of a goal being specific enough to complete. While I have metrics for assessing a successful strategy and systems thinking that links results with desired outcomes, I’m particularly weak at the actual “doing” part because:
- The necessary tasks are quite boring, tedious, or require sifting through garbage to get something useful done. This puts me into a negative mood, which makes a hard task even harder to finish.
- The only person who need the task done is me or someone in the abstract. There is no compelling immediate need from someone I can talk to, and I seem to really need that so I am personally invested.
- It’s hard for me to remember the context of why I’m doing the boring task in the first place. To achieve my desires, I need to manage complex processes and skills to push through to implementation, and I can easily get distracted. I need an anchor at all times.
I’ve been long aware of the difficulties I listed, and considered these as operational difficulties separate from the tasks. However, I’m thinking now that I need to include the necessary context in each goal. Rephrasing the list above, that necessary context might be:
Acknowledge the reality that I am sifting garbage to find gold, and put limits on exposure times. Sometimes you have to hold your nose and dive into a cesspool of lousy information with terrible tools. I have a limited ability to handle it before I go nuts, so shorter sessions and hyperspecific search targets help. So does asking what-if and how-does questions that make the garbage diving more worthwhile, particularly when I know that THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW is to jump in.
Find and attach a strong personal need from someone other than myself to each strategic goal. Helping someone else so I end up helping myself is the trick; if I know what I’m doing will help someone, I’m much more motivated to do it. I have not been very specific about this.
Spend the time to capture and maintain good notes for the work in a consistent place. This is about documentation and knowledge capture. In the past I have felt that this was an indulgence, particularly on billable projects, but I am increasingly seeing that it has tremendous value for (1) project documentation that the client may not appreciate but will (2) ultimately save time and (3) increase quality of the work by (4) helping maintain my own interests because I really like documenting stuff.
Maybe the main takeaway of this month’s review is acknowledging that I am strongly driven by other people’s needs. I don’t like it because I wish I could be the self-sufficient creator that doesn’t need anyone to do amazing work. Apparently this isn’t the case. I TOTALLY need people to connect with through shared interests, aspirations, and devotion to excellence. And this isn’t surprising, given my community-oriented and knowledge-sharing proclivities.
The Now Solutions
Moving forward, here’s the list of what helped me last month:
Only one scheduled interaction per week. This includes doctor visits, hair cuts, meetups with friends, etc. However, there is no limit on unscheduled interactions if they happen to pop-up and I need a break. It’s only SCHEDULED interactions that are super-distracting. I’m told this is an trait associated with ADHD, so I should look into that.
60 minutes of cardio first thing after I wake up. This started as part of my get hotter experiment, but I’ve found that the hour has made a HUGE difference in my energy over fifteen minutes I was doing before. As that time is also spent organizing my thoughts for the work ahead, it’s a net gain in productivity rather than the loss of an hour I feared it would be.
Using a digital notebook for thinking and continuity. I used to use a regular paper notebook to scribble in because it really helps me focus…there is something about drawing/writing which makes it much easier to think. However, I’m always misplacing my notebook and it’s quite bulky. Switching to Good Notes 5 with an Apple Pencil has been a process-elevating experience.
I’m not so sure these are helpful or not, but I’m going to keep doing them until I find out otherwise:
Limiting myself to just one official strategic desire at a time – This is a focus aid, an acknowledgement of realistic limits, and a way to keep myself from feeling bad that I can’t do it all instantly. What I think keeps this from feeling oppressive is that I am allowing the unscheduled interaction as they pop up, and those can include anything. It’s important to balance the feeling of focus with the freedom to follow my curiosity. If I don’t feel that, I feel trapped and this quickly results in a productivity crash.
Sharing tools, seeds, and primers as the ultimate goal – It sounded nice when I wrote this last month, but I’m not convinced it is the driving philosophy I thought it was. It’s a great strategic principle that is the foundation of my life philosophy, but believing something is good isn’t the same as being moved to action for me. Again, I may need to bind someone else’s need to mine to reliably trigger my strategic work.
Lowering production expectations – I hate this, but for now I will apply this so I can assess my baseline production levels. I also think that THE BIG ACHIEVEMENTS have to be less frequent now because there is a lot of process and tooling I need to acquire. For example, I don’t have my knowledge base system working. I don’t have any seeds, toolkits, or primer prototypes made. This is all new stuff that will take time to build.
Refactoring Groundhog Day Resolutions Again
Let’s start from the beginning to rename/reorganize the key elements of GHDR 2019.
1. Strategic Initiatives are now Strategic Desires
The GHDR 2019 goals were big framing ideas that were HARD TO IMPLEMENT for me. They were called “strategic initiatives” before, but I think it’s more accurate to call them “desires” because emotion is what drives me.
- Software Mastery – My most marketable skill at the moment for income generation. I gain more application authoring capability and the possibility of a new line of activity.
- Functional Stationery Business – With more helpful products to sell, my “online brand” has more cool stuff as “proof of concept” for my ideas. This also provides supplemental income that some day might be a real business creating real jobs for others, one of my long standing desires.
- Making Toolkits, Seeds, Primers – There is a dearth of quality information on the Internet, and I have a lot of knowledge that I wish were packaged better to save people some time. Also, it’s a good way to build connections with like-minded people.
There are other tasks like community building which come very easily to me, so they aren’t officially part of GHDR. They are important supporting elements.
2. Strategic Goals are now Strategic Metrics
I had listed specific metrics as “goals”, but let’s just call them metrics to be clear about it. I can assess success by observing and counting concrete artifacts produced:
- Related to Software Mastery – Quality Code Produced and income derived from it! Any documented findings also feeds the Toolkits, Seeds, Primers Strategic Desire.
- Related to Functional Stationery Business – Tracking units sold and any increase in website traffic over time.
- Related to Toolkits, Seeds, Primers – Any new knowledge chunks published on the works.davidseah.com site. Includes any processes and knowledge capture tools that help streamline the publishing pipeline.
3. Strategic Goals are for Project Closure
I’m redefining Strategic Goal: Instead of it being the metrics-validated projects I had sloppily defined before, they now define a period of time that has a closure condition. This is maybe a bit too subtle a distinction for anyone but myself, but for me achieving a goal means I don’t have to worry about it anymore. That is the pertinent project management element for me. What the goal ACHIEVED occupies a completely different part of my brain and that already works very well on its own.
4. Tasks Must Embody Strategic Desire, Questions Answered, and Someone’s Personal Need
Rather than write dry task descriptions that serve my Strategic Goals in an abstract way, I need to make them meaty and salient. For me, that means ANSWERING INTERESTING QUESTIONS for NICE PEOPLE I WANT TO HELP RIGHT NOW.
Here’s my first pass that tries to include STRATEGIC DESIRE and QUESTIONS ANSWERED, but have not yet been assigned anyone’s PERSONAL NEED except for one. I think that will involve making a promise or finding people who might want to see and discuss what I’m doing.
- Functional Stationery.Amazon Procedure for Tracking Unit Sales – there has gotta be an easy way to write this down and outsource it
- Functional Stationery.Marketing Procedure for Tracking Interest on the Internet – SEO is kind of boring but maybe it isn’t…how to make it easy and also not boring – I want to know if people interact with me or want to
- Functional Stationery.Marketing Procedure for Tracking Website and Social Media Impact over Time – Same reasons as above
- Tools/Kits/Seeds/Primers WorksDS Website Sync SimpleNotes with WordPress Pages – Is it possible to easily sync docs in the cloud with a WordPress post? Because that would be cool
- Tools/Kits/Seeds/Primers WorksDS Semplice Project for Tomato Planter and other visual projects – The tomato planter is cool and an interesting story and I want to capture the experiment – It would help the works site be more diverse and interesting
- Tools/Kits/Seeds/Primers WorksDS iPad Pro Notekeeping/Drawing – the ipad as a notebook is amazing, and people should now – Alen asked me to do this for him so he can do some digital art
Next Steps for July
My desire is to make progress across all strategic desires and not feel so crappy about the entire process. I know that some of the tasks will get done because they’re part of my billable project work. Perhaps I need to maintain the entire task list as its own master tracking todo list for July?
It just occurred to me that my TASKS are mini project outlines. They remind me a bit of my old Task Order Up (TOU) forms combined with the even older Task Progress Tracker (TPT). The TOU provided minimum project context because it was for busy work environments where task switching due to interruption was rampant, and the TPT provided a task list in context with all related tasks. Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon a new way to efficiently manage my GHDR-related efforts? I guess we’ll find out next month! See ya in August!
|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.|