August Groundhog Day Resolution Report – No More Tracking!

August Groundhog Day Resolution Report – No More Tracking!

Living Room Cafe Happy Groundhog Day Resolutions for AUGUST 8! It’s a day late, but it’s taken some time to figure out how to write about the month. The big news that I alluded to in the recent Fear of Losing Information post is that I’ve dropped a lot of the personal activity data capture + analysis I’ve been doing for the past couple of years. The reporting has always been time-consuming and tedious, but the insights I derived were often useful. I’ve come to realize that I’m well past the point of diminishing returns; in hindsight, many of the insights of recent years are refinements of old ones I’ve had ten years ago, KonMari-style!!!

Instead of detailed GHDR weekly tracking, I’ve started using my digital notebook (Good Notes 5 on an iPad Pro) for my continuity management (photo above). It’s a lot more satisfying and flexible, and I already have switched to using the notebook for ALL “thinking away from the computer”, replacing multiple paper notebooks with one relatively-compact device.

Before I dump the entire tracking process (and get HOURS OF MY LIFE back every week), it’s worth making a list of what I think I’ve learned from it. The result is a kind of “operating list” that I believe keep me feeling balanced.

MAIN TAKEAWAY FROM A YEAR OF TRACKING

I didn’t do a full week-by-week breakdown of all the reports, but my general impression is that the major pattern centers around my lack of discipline in scheduling and completing work. For the past 12-plus years of doing these Groundhog Day Resolutions, it’s always seems that my major problem is just getting stuff moving.

Here’s a summary of what I think all those years of pattern analysis have taught me about me and discipline:

  • My main motivation to work is meeting someone’s immediate aspirational need. My ability to internally motivate is not strong, even for things that I know are good for me. However, I can almost always immediately start working to make life better for someone ELSE. The caveat is that they have to be right “in front of me”, so to speak, with a real desire and need that I can discern. If there is no such needs available, the work is MUCH MORE DIFFICULT.

  • My ability to focus is very fragile. There is a chain of events that must occur for me to enter a focused state of mind. First I have to consciously isolate my scope of thinking to just ONE THING for the next 15 minutes, but without commitment to work any longer than that. Second, I have to turn off my emotional processing of thoughts, which is a way of keeping a handle on negative emotions and boredom. Third, I have to write an easy question that reminds me what I have to do. If all that goes to plan and I can hold for at least two minutes, then let my natural curiosity will engage and I might be able to be focused for 90 minutes. With luck I can repeat it twice, but three or more times is extremely rare unless there is a powerful external motivating force available.

  • I am easily angered and frustrated when I can not move fast. I like the feeling of speed, which is fine but I also associate speed with competence. I don’t like feeling incompetent, and when my ability to move fast is constrained by poor information / tools I get MAD. This anger is a serious impediment to my productivity, because it just makes everything harder and emotionalizes my thinking in a non-helpful way.

  • I do better work when I don’t think about time. Related to the above observation, trying to work fast is a trap born of being in project management. If the work isn’t going fast, it becomes stress and this doesn’t help me think clearly. Recognizing that I can’t estimate time for something I’ve never done before helps. I also love the expression Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast. And even in my project work, time of deliverables is quite negotiable because we’re always making progress.

  • I feel trapped by too many scheduled tasks. Unscheduled tasks, though, are fine. Any scheduled task puts a mental burden on me. I will find myself thinking about too many tasks that need to get done, which is incredibly distracting. I feel much better when I limit planned tasks to just one a day, with no actual reduction in productivity. Maintaining a single task doesn’t mean that I won’t do MORE tasks, but they can just “happen” without worrying about how long it takes (see above).

  • Any scheduled event prevents focus for 8 hours. This is a weird personal quirk, but according to my past time tracking I’m unable to focus before or after any scheduled social interaction. Before the event I am worried about getting there and being prepared, and afterwards I am processing what happened. It is impossible to do deep work on days with scheduled events, even for doctor’s appointments or meeting a friend for coffee. Therefore, I no longer plan deep work on such days, and limit them to one or two a week. This has helped immensely.

  • I absorb other people’s emotions easily and need to guard against sadness. It is difficult for me to be around negative emotions. My attention will be consumed by it, and I will be concerned or want to somehow help. Even if I can’t do anything, my mind will be processing it for hours. This is a form of distraction that strikes deeply at more core, and if a friend of mine is going through something bad I have to to balance helping myself and helping others. This was not something I did until recently, but I do have the mental wiring for it as a nominal INFP with a well-developed INTJ survival mode.

  • I can’t rely on my brain to always be in charge, so have a backup. I sometimes get “brain fog”, where I can’t hold a thought in my head for more than 2 seconds to start a productive day, much less get out of bed. After I rule out tiredness, dehydration, lack of regular exercise, and/or depression, what’s left is that my brain is stuck in a loop. I just have to trust some other part of my body to get the job done and TURN OFF my brain’s decision making responsibility. What usually happens a few minutes later is my body just gets up and wanders to the bathroom or kitchen and BOOM we’re going.

  • Despite all my shortcomings, I can always rely on my brain to converge toward a good solution, because that’s the way it’s wired. I didn’t always believe this about myself, but I know I can figure out how something works well enough so I can remember it, and that my solution will be pretty comprehensive and decent. I know how to figure stuff out so I can apply Even on the worst of days, I have come to believe that I can figure stuff out or come up with an alternative plan. What I don’t know is how long it will take or where I’ll get stuck, but at least I can trust my own rational process even on the least productive of days.

I might be missing a few insights, but I think this is a pretty strong list to work from (FOR ME, that is…your mileage may vary of course). I feel good about dumping the time-consuming (and mentally taxing) weekly analysis + report writing.

GHDR GOALS 2019 REVIEW

With all that analysis finally put to rest, how does this affect my existing Groundhog Day Resolutions for 2019? The current goals, which are divided into COMMITMENT/NOW and ASPIRATIONAL/FUTURE sections, are the same, but I’m starting to mix-in the insights I outlined above.

  1. COMMITMENT/NOW GOAL : Software Mastery – It’s only recently that I started thinking of myself as an actual “developer” instead of an “interactive designer”, so I added this goal to remind me to get serious about locking-down all the details that I didn’t want cluttering up my head. The new wrinkle is that I’ve become more interested in the positive developer culture that exists on the Internet, and am sharing.

  2. COMMITMENT/NOW GOAL : Stationery Business – I’m still selling Emergent Task Planner™ goods on Amazon, but lately stock has been running low as I’ve become burned out on it. The Software Mastery commitment has also drained me of energy, so this is on barest maintenance.

  3. ASPIRATIONAL/FUTURE GOAL : Community Building – It takes work to maintain good communities and the relationships within them. I’ve been participating in more communities not of my own making, but to keep them from becoming “scheduled events” I have not committed to ones that require my physical presence. It’s much easier to do pop-up events as I find out about them. I’ve also started hosting more physical coworking events in my house as a way to pull-in local friends.

  4. ASPIRATIONAL/FUTURE GOAL: Making Kits, Primers, and Seeds – This is where the biggest improvements are happening. The kind of EXTERNAL NEEDS that I describe above as my main motivating factor is a great prompt for making stuff that is of-use to others. I made a good code examples to help a friend study Javascript for a test, and this got me moving. That lead into making a new website with Jekyll so I could put a job listing on Github Pages so I could post a job listing for someone in my Game Dev meetup to review, which led me to realize that I could make an organization for our group and allow everyone to see and contribute to the upcoming site! All these efforts not only helped people I know, but they’re helping me build the foundation for sharing informational sources with people. That is the big win of the month, I think!

I’ll continue to do minimal planning. I’ve replaced my week planning with the digital notebook, essentially updating this checklist every week. I find it very therapeutic and satisfying to DRAW instead of TYPE. This is another huge process win for the month!


July 15 Week PlanJuly 22 Week PlanJuly 29 Week Plan

OTHER HAPPENINGS

I’ve been doing a lot of work in the SOFTWARE MASTERY side of things. I had been stuck on it for a while, but it’s getting unstuck.

A few notable projects:

It’s been a while since I’ve posted photos of the Living Room Cafe, which is just my living room that is adapted for having coworking sessions.

I had a coworking session from 12-4 on Monday, posting the event privately among my friends. While not many people showed up, it seems like there was interest in doing more of them! One of those friends was reminded that we could use the space to host a live “Piano Karaoke” night; I just need to see if my neighbors seem OK with it.


Living Room Cafe Main AreaLiving Room Cafe Coffee StationLiving Room Cafe Reverse View

One of the tricks to running a pop-up event is to make sure that you have things you’re already going to do lined-up. This not only prevents you from twiddling your thumbs wondering if anyone is going to show up, but it provides a project context to help set the coworking mood!

While I was waiting, I finally made my irrigation bucket from some parts ordered on Amazon to provide a controlled amount of water via “Olla balls” buried in the soil. I also made a custom corkboard, replacing the contents of this picture frame with a 3×2′ sheet of 3/4-inch board. Before, I had a giant GHDR STRATEGY DIAGRAM in the frame, but now it will be useful for promoting other people’s events. I also provisioned and tested my Mac Mini development backup system, since my main laptop was in the shop for thermal diagnostics. It was amusing to use the big TV as a monitor; it was kind of nice, actually, not to squint.


Irrigation BucketCustom CorkboardTemporary MacMini

Finally in the online world of Conan Exiles, I’ve been building a large mansion for my avatar Sri Nutmoon.


Nutmoon Lodge and Sri

My cousin has a private server so we have the entire land to ourselves. I like building houses so that’s what I’ve been working on. The main building consists of a large outdoor workshop area and a fairly large interior space with two bedrooms and a deck-top cafe.


Nutmoon Lodge FrontNutmoon Lodge BackNutmoon Tower

I’ve also started to build the throne room, which starts with this giant tower which is connected directly by horizontal elevator to Sri’s bedroom. You know, in case she has to escape assassins!

THE MONTH AHEAD

I don’t see any changes other than to keep pushing on SOFTWARE MASTERY as my main focus. I can trust that the other things will just happen or get done; there is no need to actively track them.

Some of the things I’d like to work on this month are:

  • Ready-to-test Web Application for our active grant project
  • Recruit help for our upcoming grant project
  • Put SEEDS/KITS/TOOL content on io.davidseah.com, which I think might replace the “works.davidseah.com” site I’ve been working on because it’s more direct than using Semplice+Wordpress.
  • Write some materials for the various communities I’m helping lead. There are a lot of things I could write; once the io site is up there will be a place to put such things!
  • Reorder ETP Full Size Notebooks.

I’m not going to plan too much more than this. I may need to resurrect the Accrual Log to collect all my works in one place, but I think the better metric will be to see how much stuff I can put on io.davidseah.com. The Accrual Log is essentially a TRACKING activity, and I want to do LESS of that as part of my day-to-day or week-to-week. The io.davidseah.com site is, by comparison, a DELIVERY mechanism that happens to work well as “proof of having done something”.

So to wrap things up: LESS TRACKING and MORE EXTERNAL MOTIVATION TRICKERY is in store for the month of August. Wish me luck!


Groundhog by Pearson Scott Foreman Here’s this year’s calendar:

DATE HOLIDAY DESCRIPTION
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.



About this Article Series

For my 2019 Groundhog Day Resolutions, I'm challenging myself to develop "gathering-style productivity" as I pursue the year's goals. You'll find the related posts on the 2019 Groundhog Day Resolutions page.

3 Comments

  1. Dani 4 months ago

    Thanks so much for posting your weekly task lists. They’ve inspired me to create an adaptation of them for myself – a very different format and approach, but a similar idea nonetheless – a single-page glance at what I hope to be doing that week. I keep coming back to it to see if what I’m spending my time on is contributing to that list. And I’ve added space to check off the amount of time I spend exercising or meditating each day- sometimes just getting to fill in boxes will keep me going for a few minutes longer.

    • Author
      Dave Seah 4 months ago

      Glad to hear it Dani! I do really enjoy them so much more than what I was doing before, which was formatted text lists in my virtual coworking chatroom’s “ACCOUNTABILITY” channel! They were pretty light-weight and easy to access, but I like the act of drawing much better.

  2. Taweesak 4 months ago

    Thank you for sharing, this is my first comment on your post but I’ ve followed you for many years already. Talking about the ability to focus issue, I’m also facing this issue for many years, and I also couldn’t write as much text as you could. So, I was surprised when I read your article and find your plan to the solution, and I think about you that have the focus issue but you still be able to manage your focus for hours and write your article. Now I’m planning to use your solution for on my own problem. Thank you very much again for sharing.