• 2020 Challenge: Bootstrapping a New Think-Write-Publish System

    April 6, 2020

    I’ve been super-frustrated with my blogging for years because I feel there is a lot of friction between tools I use for my thinking processes and the publishing platforms where I post them. The friction largely is keeping track of everything so I can find them later, then remembering what to do next. I have been trying to think of how to fix my blog for many years, and realized today that bootstrapping the new system from the current WordPress site could actually work. To make it more exciting for me, I’m going to use my personal challenge blogging format from a few years ago; the Thing-a-Day 2014 challenge was exhausting but very satisfying.

    System Description

    So what is the Think-Write-Publish System Challenge? It’s my desire to have an integrated idea-to-production system that works the way I think and make. In general, all my thinking starts with a lot of writing. Even my visual design work starts with an essay!

    There are four main groups of writing content that I work with every day. Also, I should note that each of these stages may also include digital photos, illustrations, diagrams, tables of content, references, physical models that support the writing.

    1. The raw thinking and process logs I write in a lot of places as I’m thinking. Some good thoughts are in chat rooms like my virtual coworking chat room where I’m having interesting discussions with people. Some of them are in my project thinking logs, where I write stream-of-consciousness style in a dated entry format so I can remember what I was doing. There are easily a dozen active sites that I switch between with the help of a custom Alfred workflow, and hundreds more in my digital archives.
    2. The distilled thought nuggets. A habit I’ve been nurturing this year is compressing/distilling my raw thinking into something more portable. I don’t like rereading even my own writing, so if I make it short and to-the-point this often helps me start projects faster. This group includes documentation I’m writing for billable projects as well as leaving “how-to” documents in digital project archives. These save a tremendous amount of time.
    3. Tangible results. In my definition of productivity, what matters is showing something that others can experience for themselves. Ideas are great, but implementation is everything in my book. A huge challenge is to keep track of all the different parts, which often requires all kinds of software and physical storage space. In terms of this project, the focus is on cataloging results and related writing so I remember how it works.
    4. Packaged results and publication. This is taking what I’ve done in the previous steps and making it accessible to others. This is in the form of blog posts, documentation, emails to collaborators, social media, etc.

    It’s that last stage that I find the most challenging AND the most rewarding. While I have always the strong desire to share what I’ve learned with others because DANG IT learning is hard and I want to save people some time, this kind of production work is really time consuming. And since I’m working solo, it’s not particularly fun to slough long hours in the dark wondering if what I’m making will matter to anyone at all.

    Can an integrated idea-to-production system, as I am imagining it, make it more fun AND deliver higher quality results? One of the takeaways from 2019’s Groundhog Day Resolutions Review was (again) that I really want to be in a tribe of competent self-empowering like-minded nice people to become my bestest and most productive self. While I’ve made oodles of progress in my personal development, I have not made as much progress in creating the nurturing environment where such a tribe can find sanctuary and thrive. That means a commitment to leadership, and I think the form of leadership that comes most naturally to me is to show don’t tell through my work.

    That is the idea. I don’t know where it will go, but there are a few ground rules that I’ll apply to start.

    • It’s ok for me to update and improve my blog posts in this series. Usually I don’t make edits unless there is a big typo somewhere, because I want to “capture” my thinking at a particular point in time even if it seems silly later. However, I have just inserted some code into my WordPress theme (Dante by SwiftIdeas, if anyone was wondering) that will print last updated under the post title. I will allow myself to do big edits if that improves the clarity of what I’m doing.

    • I don’t have to make this a Daily Challenge, but I can use this series to capture any relevant work. In my past challenges, I would make a new thing every day and then publish it. I learned what my capabilities were through this process, and it was super fulfilling but also VERY TIME CONSUMING. I can’t afford to do this while maintaining disciplined focus on software development this year. However, since I am now allowing myself to edit the blog posts, I can go back and add good stuff to old posts. I think the result will be better for readers who come in later in the process.

    • This will be a transparent process. I like to share the behind-the-scenes half-baked ideas that I’m implementing; if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I like to “experiment my way past uncertainty” to get data.

    ttps:// That last point is SUPER IMPORTANT to me. Nathan Pyle’s Strange Planet captures the sentiment quite nicely. One of the operating criteria for the ThinkWritePublish system is that it support open science principles; while my MATERIAL goal is to have finished works that are readily usable by readers, my MISSION goal is to create nurturing community through sharing experience in an accessible and relatable way. This is where I will make an exception to “improving blog posts”…I will not erase failures or fruitless tangents from the record, because they are part of the process. So much media these days leaves that out, which distorts our understanding of how the universe really works to get the sausage made.

    Let’s Go!

    YEAH, CHALLENGE! I’ve created a ThinkPub 2020 Challenge Page to capture all relevant work.

    About this Article Series

    I'm challenging myself to create a set of personal publishing and thinking tools starting April 2020. The current goal is to have a turnkey system has less friction than my current process AND can be easily shared with collaborators.

    I'll be collecting all the related work on the ThinkWritePublish Challenge Page, so check that out if you want to know more!

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    Dave Seah
  • NOT Groundhog Day Resolutions for April 4

    April 4, 2020

    Not Groundhog Day Resolutions Yes, I’m still not doing Groundhog Day Resolutions this year, but I’m still thinking about it. I’ve decided to maintain the monthly reflection habit; I’m just not doing the elaborate / tracking / and / process of recent years. You can read my rationale on the official Not Groundhog Day Resolutions 2020 page, but the gist is that I am not sure it still works.

    For the second “Not GHDR Review”, I’m taking this time to reflect on what happened last month. But first I’d like to share some takeaways about 2019. (more…)

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    Dave Seah
  • Springtime 2020 for NOT Groundhog Day Resolutions

    March 3, 2020

    I’m not doing [Groundhog Day Resolutions][ghdr] (GHDR) this year, because last year it occurred to me that I wasn’t any closer to a final resolution of my resolutions than I was thirteen years ago. While I’ve amassed a formidable collection of tips, tools, and insights that have made wiser and arguably more productive, I’m not sure if anything has changed for me. In fact, the aspirational goals I picked every year were always a variation of the following three:

    1. figure out ecommerce and revenue
    2. learn and make cool stuff
    3. find like-minded people in communities around me

    And so, I decided to toss out GHDR for 2020 and see if I could come up with a different process. I think I’ve started to figure it out, and I’d like to share my early thinking on a replacement system I’m calling Groundhog Day Do-Over. (more…)

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    Dave Seah
  • Experiment: Getting Unstuck Faster

    January 9, 2020

    A perennial challenge for me is starting new project tasks quickly. My attention is quite easily scattered when I’m working in isolation, and it’s made worse if I’m not sure exactly what I have to do and what I will get in return for my effort. The trick I use to get moving is “stream of consciousness”-style writing, which works because it creates a write-read-refine feedback loop that stitches my thoughts into a clean line of reasoning. And because it’s written down, I can refer back to it when my attention wanders again.

    The real trick is remembering that writing gets me unstuck. Rather than turn to it as a last resort, I should really make it a first habit. I don’t think that even occurred to me because I write SO MUCH already; by my last count, there are about two dozen places where I write on a weekly basis. I’d like to create a focused writing habit to serve as the trigger for a productive work sprint, and I think that means I need to develop some disciplined process in my writing.

    Over the past 10 years, I’ve implemented the “one location” as a continuity journal, using many different tools and approaches. None of them have lasted more than six months because inevitably they become overgrown with too much information, which becomes distracting.

    So, let’s try to fix that.


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    Dave Seah
  • December Groundhog Day Resolution Report – Series Finale!

    December 19, 2019

    Pineapple Cakes Hey everyone! This is my very last Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR) report, as I don’t plan on doing it in 2020. GHDR is primarily a way to remember WHEN to do yearly goal setting and periodic progress assessment, but over the past 13 years it seems that I’ve not made substantive PROGRESS. At least it FEELS that way, so I am thinking this might be a good time to try something new next year. Hopefully this will bring a fresh perspective as question everything anew!

    That said, it has been a pretty good year, filled with tasty personal insights and revelations that will help me figure out what to do next. I just wish that I had more sense of closure on achieving my goals. As I reviewed the past reports for the year, it occurred to me that maybe if I got the same sense of enjoyment I get from learning how to make pineapple cakes (picture above), then maybe I would feel better!

    Making pineapple cakes was rewarding in the following ways:

    • Friendship! I made these particular pineapple cakes for the office manager at my doctor’s office, which is closing permanently at the end of December.
    • Sharing Superlative Experiences! Professionally-baked pineapple cakes are a popular gift in my ethnic homeland of Taiwan, and sharing the story and taste with curious friends to experience for themselves is very enjoyable.
    • Expanding Skills! Most people buy their pineapple cakes, but they are hard to find good ones here in the USA so creating them myself is one way of empowering myself while also learning new skills. I’d never made a pastry before, and this experience is the foundation for future baking!
    • Practicing Creativity! Creativity is a kind of muscle that is developed, starting with an idea and progressing through stages of discovery through challenging uncertainty.
    • Iterative Refinement! Ultimately I want to make great pineapple cakes, and learning to critically experiment and taste my way through failures is my preferred style of learning.
    • Tangible, Tasty Rewards! Sweet, sweet victory is mine to share and enjoy with my friends and friends to be. In my ideal world, my experiments are part of a virtuous cycle that inspires all of us to explore, learn, build, and share their creative endeavors.

    In hindsight, the way I do Groundhog Day Resolutions is based on the idea that process and discipline are the central core of productivity; if I apply steady disciplined process to my goal-seeking activities, surely progress will follow. While each attempt has yielded a certain amount of productive work, it’s always felt somewhat artificial; despite the diligent tracking and regular assessment showing that I’ve been creating things, it seemed that my strategic goals were always over the next year’s horizon.

    I’m not sure what I’ll change in 2020, but I’m thinking the next approach will be more like making pineapple cakes and less about perfecting process. There was a time when I needed to prove to myself that I had process, but at this point in my life PROCESS FALLS OUT OF MY BUTT. I don’t have to think about it…it just happens. The real challenge has always been something else: MOTIVATION perhaps, or IDENTITY+MEANING, or remnants of FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, and DOUBT regarding my ability to keep a roof over my head while maintaining SOCIAL CONNECTION that makes life worth living. I’ve explored all of those issues for years and have learned to manage them, and my gut says that there’s something else I haven’t seen, tried, or simply ACCEPTED…

    But we’ll look into all that next year :-)

    For THIS report, I’ll look at How I Did on my GHDR Goals, and then get into Lessons Learned. I’ll follow that up with Notable Insights and that’ll be it. I’m taking the rest of the year off to do holiday things and clean house.


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    Dave Seah