September Groundhog Day Resolution Report – Trackerless Outcomes

September Groundhog Day Resolution Report – Trackerless Outcomes

Happy September! It’s time for another Groundhog Day Resolutions Update!

To recap, in last month’s review I realized that (1) I was tired of tracking and (2) it really wasn’t delivering the results it used to. I decided to substitute MORE EXTERNAL MOTIVATION TRICKERY in place of tracking to see if “harnessing my tendency to help others before helping myself” would have positive results. In other words, I was trying to WORK WITH the following personality quirks rather than FIGHT or WORK AROUND them as I have in the past:

  • My main motivation to work is meeting someone’s immediate aspirational need. (I like helping people if I know how to help)
  • My ability to focus is very fragile. (I am easily distracted without external aids constantly redirecting my attention)
  • I am easily angered and frustrated when I can not move fast. (I am enraged by poor tools and information that wastes my time)
  • I do better work when I don’t think about time. (When I am thinking about time, I could have been doing focused productive work)
  • I feel trapped by too many scheduled tasks. Unscheduled tasks, though, are fine. (When I am worried about missing an appointment, these worries interrupt my focus constantly)
  • Any scheduled event prevents focus for 8 hours afterwards. (My brain takes time to process external stimuli and is very “noisy”, so deep work is constantly interrupted by memories of the event).
  • I absorb other people’s emotions easily and need to guard against sadness.
  • I can’t rely on my brain to always be in charge, so have a backup.
  • 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.

Instead of fighting them, I wanted to try using them in my favor. Over the past 15 years I’ve tried a lot of tracking systems and productivity tools, and they ALL work so long as you stick to them, but these quirks seem to be innate traits. I’ve developed a lot of good habits and empowering perspectives, but these traits are stubbornly rooted in my very psyche.

So here’s what I did.

  1. I found immediate needs of other people through casual interaction, and used them to kickstart my stuck personal projects for mutual benefit. For example, we need Javascript contract programmers soon, so I made a job listing on new website just so I would be forced to work on it. And it works! I talked to my friend Sid about podcasting, and this gave me a reason to rebrand and redevelop an old project that we could work on together!

  2. For collaborative projects, I am choosing to work ONLY when other people were actively participating. It’s frustrating when I feel like my efforts are going into a vacuum. So now, I only work when there are people also working and contributing to the project. If no one responds, then project progress is no longer solely on my shoulders. This is hard for me to do because I take my commitments way too seriously, but I have been rereading The Four Agreements and this helps put me at ease. In particular, the Don’t take things personally agreement speaks to me in these situations.

  3. I stopped scheduling non-critical appointments. Scheduled events exact a huge productivity penalty because I constantly think about what I need to prepare ahead-of-time. This is great for disaster planning, but terrible for staying-in-the-moment to retain a productive focus on work. As some readers may remember, I started limiting scheduled appointments to one or two days a week and that has worked wonders for my calm. What’s new is recognizing that OPPORTUNISTIC and UNSCHEDULED appointments are OK since they are in-the-moment and require no future planning.

  4. I planned only to gain enough clarity to take a next step. Another way to stay in-the-moment instead of trying to see far into the future. I still plan complete projects from start to finish on some level, because this gives me an idea of how to prepare. However, for day-to-day operations I just need to know the starting point and then I can trust my brain to figure it out. In other words, I don’t need to micromanage myself through a lot of detailed planning. While this doesn’t result in a very predictable daily output, it delivers better results with less stress over the long term. Arguably, trying to maintain steady progress with work you’ve never done is foolish to begin with.

So how did it go? Overall, the adjustment seems to be working. I feel pretty good about what I got done, though of course I always wish I could do more. Some highlights:

  • Did slightly more than 20 hours of billable work a week (my average is 10-12 hours a week), which increases revenue considerably.
  • Got my rudimentary Jekyll site deployed to WITH a new caching image server on, written from scratch. I used this to post a private job listing for recruiting Javascript developers, and this listing also helped someone else define their own job recruitment listing.
  • Started a good code examples repo on GitHub to show to a friend who is learning Javascript, whose questions helped me decide what to start with.
  • Rebranded my Patreon Page for virtual coworking, as the stationery business is on hiatus.

I think the results were positive enough that I will continue this experiment for the month of September through October 9.

Goals Update

Here’s the quickie update:

  • Software Mastery – A good month of billable work, and my overall Javascript skill level improves!
  • Stationery Business – Did barest maintenance. There are continuing issues with the Amazon Marketplace, need to move the shop.
  • Community Building – I worked when I saw other people working, and the communities I’ve volunteered for are moving slowly forward. I’m trying not to be impatient and let things just develop on their own.
  • Making Kits, Primers, and Seeds – The good code examples repo is a legitimate seeding activity! First of the year! Also, making the static site work with a caching image server is a big win!

Overall assessment: a good month! While I wish things moved faster, this is the speed that things will be operating at. A consoling thought is that I’m actually pretty productive overall, just spread over many many areas. A friend commented to me the other day, once he had gotten to know me better, that it’s funny to him how I am always on with learning and doing things and that it is a little intimidating. I had never thought of it that way, but it’s a reminder to slow down and maybe give others (and myself) a break.

What Else Happened

Here’s the digital notebook weekly planning pages for the weeks of August 12, 19, 26 and September 2. This is all I am using for current tracking, other than timesheets for tracking billables.

August 12August 19August 26September 2 I also use my Discord chat room to maintain a sense of daily continuity, writing what I’m doing from time-to-time. For my billable work, I’m also using Slack. Between all these I feel I am doing adequate tracking in a shared social context. I feel pretty good about it at the moment!

August PlantSeptember PlantThe tomato plant grew hugely in August! The greenhouse is working very well. Not only are the tomato leaves blight free for the first time in years, the plant itself seems to be benefiting from the extra warmth that the greenhouse provides when it’s zipped closed. I’m not sure if bees are able to pollinate the flowers when the door flap is loose but down, but there seem to be a good number of tomatoes.

New CW&T Pen Type-CI got the latest pen from CW&T, a cool two-person design team that I’ve been following for a while. It’s called the Pen Type-C and it’s a very compact foldable pen. I got mine laser engraved with CPT SRI NUTMOON because the design reminds me of spaceships I used to draw when I was in the 5th grade.

Experimental BrowsRed Pepper turning RedGoorin Brothers 'The Director' From the ADVENTURES IN GENDER TRANSITION department, a friend took me to Ulta to look at eyebrow stuff. I asked one of the girls there to show me how one of the pencils worked, so she drew-in some ENORMOUS BROWS. While the results were frankly terrifying to me, it was a start and I have a baseline to work from. For one thing, when I apply brow definition I need to take my glasses into account because they change the eyeline AND make my eyes look 20% smaller due to the reverse magnification of my prescription; this throws off the brows by quite a lot. The glasses here don’t have lenses yet and even then the eyebrows are very large. Eeee.

My pepper plant has a pepper! It’s turning red from the bottom-up, which I found very surprising. I thought it would turn red gradually like a tomato does, but I am new to the ways of peppers.

After booking a big month in billable hours, I splurged on hats. I had budgeted for two hats, but the day I went to Goorin Brothers in Harvard Square they were running a 50% off sale so I ended up getting FOUR HATS. The young gentlemen at the store that day, Yoel, was totally into hats and spiffed my (apparently rare) red ‘Dean the Butcher’ and dispensed enthusiastic advice and passion about hats and their care. Goorin Brothers is great, and I highly recommend the store experience with their staff. They’re not cheap hats, but they are cheaper than good wigs :-)

Goorin Brothers 'Ruby Clark'Goorin Brothers 'Dean the Butcher'Goorin Brothers 'Butch Jackson' The hats in order are The Director, Ruby Clark, Dean the Butcher, and Butch Jackson.

KODAMA watching over tomatoesNew Regular Expressions Cheat Sheet Mug from KVLLYNew Converse, my first pair! My friend Lisa made me these awesome Kodama guardian rocks to watch over my tomato plant. Given the size of the plant and its healthiness, they seem to be doing a great job! The kodama are from the animated film Princess Mononoke by Hayao Miyazaki. Lisa gleefully pointed out she had drawn the mouths and eyes to simulate the way the Kodama heads rotate in the movie; they are eyes or mouths depending on your point of view!

I noticed that Brett Terpstra had a cool new mug on his Twitter feed, and I looked into Kelly Vaughn’s “developer merch you didn’t know you needed” shop where I found this regular expression cheat sheet mug. I hate remembering how regular expressions work, but I love this mug.

A friend of mine wanted to get some leopard print Converse sneakers from the local outlet mall, but found the place overwhelming and noisy. We went together to bolster our social immune systems, and I lucked out finding these rainbow Converse high tops that I think are from a past Converse Pride Month collection. However, I can’t find a product listing showing these particular ones. And they are a bit stealthy to be “out”. As someone new to being in the queer community, purchases like this are getting me used to being more comfortable being my own delightfully weird self.

Popeye's Chicken SandwichFjallraven Kanken Laptop 15 ArtYardsale Finds If you live in the United States and like eating chicken sandwiches, then you probably have already tried the new Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich. I went to try it because I happen to also like the Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich that is the de-facto standard for fast food chicken sandwich excellence, but I don’t like the anti-LGBTQ position of the company. This is a lament that I hear come up occasionally, how we love the sandwich but can’t support the company. I was hopeful that the Popeye’s version would be a worthy replacement, and it totally is great. Of particular note is the brioche bun (nice balance with the slight spiciness) and impressive crunchiness of the chicken itself.

Always on the hunt for a better bag, I indulged in a cute Fjallraven Kanken backpack. It’s the Laptop 15 Art edition too, in Fable Blue. These are surprisingly expensive bags at $120, but they hold a lot and are super-cute. Apparently they’re quite trendy at the moment in the regular colors, but I had to get this one because it has otters and badgers on it. SO CUTE!!!

My friends Sid and Sara had a yard sale outside their art studio over the weekend, and I bought a few things from them that tickled me. Sid used to collect a lot of record store specials like this Tori Amos Lyric Booklet exhibiting classic 90’s typography so I had to have it for $3. I then got a reproduction Star Wars Poster Tin (2010) and a 1960s reprint of The Art of Jewish Cooking for a dollar apiece. I am seeking the secret of brisket and reading about the food reminds me of my Jewish friends and relatives, so yay!

The Month Ahead!

It’s going to be a busy month. This is what’s queued already:

  • Trans group restarting – writing up new procedures with other volunteers, hope to have a good first meeting in October.
  • Adapt trans group materials to SNHGameDev group and Ralph Baer groups.
  • Current Grant – October 1st deployment, many things to implement.
  • Learn to make weekly bento boxes cheap and tasty!
  • New Grant – reviewing 2014-2017 Javascript, new features, kickoff in November in Nashville
  • Write content for and write Javascript text parsers to autogenerate index pages for Jekyll for a mixed system
  • Work on brows, style
  • Work on house cleaning to make space
  • Work on house improvements for holiday season
  • Look into alternatives to Amazon, or take care of problems on Marketplace

That’s it! It’s been a good month overall, and I’m looking forward to capturing another month’s worth of experience with this “lighter tracking” model. Thanks for reading, and see you next month!

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

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.