• 2019 Groundhog Day Resolutions Kickoff Part I: System Modeling

    February 4, 2019

    Ok, let’s officially kick of this year’s Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR), which is my yearly attempt to make broad improvements to my life. It’s taken quite a number of years for me to figure out what was important to me. When I first started doing these in 2007, I focused on supposed weaknesses like “lack of discipline” and “lack of internal motivation” and tried a lot of different ways to kick-start my productivity. In subsequent years, I embraced my so-called character flaws and looked for alternate metrics where they would be assets.

    This year it occurred to me that I could draw a detailed theoretical model of how I work, and use that as a base for making my GHDRs. Here’s what it looks like:

    2019 System Modeling of Dave.Sri The diagram incorporates a lot of insights about my desires, ambitions, interests, and productivity tricks (many of which are summarized in last year’s kickoff) Let’s get into some of the details!

    Segment 1: The Core Identity

    Core IdentityStarting again from the left side is a working definition of my “essential nature”. I’ve refined this model over the past 12 years, and I have a high degree of certainty about them.

    • Baseline State of Happiness (EMOTIONAL/INNER CONTEXT): A set of conditions that contribute to my sense of well-being and fulfillment. This is my emotional center, and it’s very active. I ignore it at my peril!

    • How I Want to Relate to the World (RATIONAL/OUTER CONTEXT): These directives are at the heart of how I collaborate with the people around me. I strive to live by this set of principles, and they have served me well in establishing strong interpersonal and professional relationships.

    These two sides of me are in constant communication with each other, and one of my self-discipline tricks is to figure out which one should be in-charge so I can tell the other one to be quiet.

    Segment 2: Gathering Productivity Model

    Core Gathering ProductivityNext is the first of two productivity systems: the Gathering Style Productivity model (see this section). The elements shown here are:

    • HBT is HAPPY BUBBLE TIME, the unstructured time I spend exploring and indulging my curiosity. It’s an essential need of my emotional core, otherwise I get bored and grouchy.

    • GATHERING-STYLE PRODUCTIVITY is the act of collecting the artifacts of HBT that might actually be useful in the future. For example, I might design a logo or read about some software that might lead to future work. It’s undirected and unplanned, but like walking around in a wild orchard you might see a juicy fruit ready to collect. Opportunistically grab it!

    • The ACCRUAL BUCKET is where the fruits of Gathering Style Productivity are stored. It is a public spreadsheet.

    • ELBS is EXPLORE-LEARN-BUILD-SHARE, an approach to personal productivity I wrote about in 2012 (link). This is formalization of how I approach experimentation: asking interesting questions, learning the answers and forming theories, building a test case, and then sharing what I discovered with others to create a virtuous cycle.

    Segment 3: Factory Productivity Model

    Core Factory ProductivityThe output of ACCRUAL BUCKET and ELBS flows into this section, producing more “finished” work.

    • FACTORY-STYLE PRODUCTIVITY is what I call any managed process that produces work. It’s the typical iterative design process. It’s setting goals, breaking them down into smaller steps, and making regular process. It is a more rigorous version of of ELBS in that deadlines and deliverables exist outside of my own needs.

    • The COMBOBULATOR is what collects goods for public consumption. There are two sources of such goods: the results of “gathering-style” productivity via the ACCRUAL BUCKET (rough work, low value), and the output of FACTORY-STYLE PRODUCTIVITY (polished work, high value).

    The output of the COMBOBULATOR is available to show to the world. I firmly believe that if you want to change the world in any way, you’ve got to throw something of yourself into it. The original Concrete Goals Tracker (CGT) uses this as a basis for its point system; this old 2007 article on using the CGT for goals gets more into my theory about how this works.

    Segment 4: Pillars that Matter

    2019 System PillarsThe output of the COMBOBULATOR in Segment 3 goes to two different places:

    • THE COMMON GOOD – A desire to make things that help everyone grow opportunity instead of dividing it. I made the logo quickly just to have something more visual in the diagram.

    • THE UNIVERSE – The serendipitous return that may result from showing ANYTHING to ANYONE). These are two of four such entities on my diagram. This is another stand-in logo that could use some improvement.

    THe other two are part of my inner core that are both the INITIATOR of action and RECIPIENT of feedback from the world. Without feedback, life is super boring!

    • SEAH MODEL FOUR/3 – The logo represents my deeply personal inner-self, with all its peculiarities. It’s what makes me UNIQUELY me. I’m using the SEAH MICRO logo from an earlier personal system deconstruction. I’ve adjusted the colors to reflect my ongoing gender transition adventure, as it’s much on my mind.

    • THE COLLECTIVE – This is a repurposed logo that represents the high-quality interactions with people that I have. I think most of the relationships in this category are strongly influenced by the attitudes I have about learning, sharing, and learning by example.

    That’s all the main system elements. There are some additional notes on the diagram which you can read if you expand the diagram.

    Mixing-In GHDR Goals

    As I mentioned, this system diagram is a working model of how I work; my big insight for this year is that GHDRs can map to a subset of the system. I’ve highlighted the critical GHDR path in yellow in this version of the diagram:

    2019 System Model + GHDR Critical Path GHDRs are for improving some aspect of my personal productivity, and the overarching wish I have is to transform myself into someone who generously provides useful ideas and goods. The highlighted areas emphasize the pathways that are related to producing such things so that my baseline happiness and relationships values are fulfilled.

    It’s also worth paying attention to what is not highlighted by the GHDR path. While the GHDR path will require learning a lot of new things and struggling to produce polished work, everything ELSE on the list is stuff that has becoming deeply-ingrained. They are all things that give me strength, power, and ability. This is the first year I’m looking at my GHDR path and think, “hey, this might be doable”.

    I didn’t hit me until I finished this diagram, but I have solved a HUGE number of challenges related to personal productivity, time management, self-motivation, self-acceptance, and community building since 2007. There is personal truth powering every box, arrow, and line of text. 10-plus years of experimentation and self-analysis have gone into the making of this diagram, and I can speak at length on every aspect of it. I have all kinds of tools and tricks that will help me produce the goods that my business mogul role will need. It might seem odd that “business mogul” is even something I want, but I see the ability to make money as being important for funding future experiments and fueling the growth of THE COLLECTIVE and THE COMMON GOOD. I want to learn how to CREATE AN ACTUAL JOB and help grow the pie for everyone. It’s an interesting problem that’s outside my experience. But first, I need to figure out how to support myself in such a way that I still have the freedom to practice my gathering-styled, happy bubble-filled trans-femme experience and produce bad-ass tools that people love using.

    So that’s the general state of my Groundhog Day Resolutions now! Tomorrow, I’ll come up with the actual list of GHDR projects and detail the processes that will be used this year.

    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.
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  • 2019 Groundhog Day Resolutions Warm-up

    February 2, 2019

    Groundhog Day Resolutions Context Map Happy Groundhog Day! It’s time to start my yearly resolutions this February 2nd! While I’m not quite ready to write a massive report for the year, I did finish making this diagram (ABOVE) that distills the past 12 years of resolutions-making into a concise system model of my desires! I’ll be going into it in more depth on Monday Feb 4.

    PreparationOutlineSimplified Diagram

    Also this year I will be documenting more of my Groundhog Day Resolutions practices to create some kind of guide. I have a lot of materials (ABOVE) that other people may find interesting.

    For 2019, I’ll be doing largely what I was doing at the end of last year:

    • writing software
    • making products for sale
    • improving my online media presence

    There are specific long-term projects that will benefit me, but requires a lot of effort beyond what I can usually muster. Basically, the effort all falls into the yellow areas outlined below:

    Critical Path The yellow areas are difficult for me because “slow and steady work” drives me bonkers with boredom. And yet, to achieve software mastery means being comfortable with learning all the time from ANYONE.

    I’m really looking forward to talking about the diagram, but I’m ridiculously tired so that’ll have to wait until later!

    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.
    Read more
  • The 2018 Groundhog Day Resolutions Omnibus

    January 27, 2019

    GHDR 2018 Omnibus


    As part of my preparation for February 2nd’s Groundhog Day Resolutions Kickoff for 2019, I’ve prepared an archive of the 2018 posts in one omnibus PDF.

    The collection is not a step-by-step guide that you can follow. Instead, it is a candid record of my struggle through the year to achieve a handful of abstract goals. I uncover and test hypothetical approaches to improving my productivity, identify personal principles that I think relate to my personal happiness, and take stock of what actually got done. It’s not edited at all, and is probably hard to follow in places, but if you’re a personal journal process nerd like me, it might be fun to flip through!

    As an experiment in publishing, I’m making the 2018 GHDR Omnibus available as a $1 PDF you can peruse (or even print) at your leisure. Or just read the posts online. I’ll be using the PDF sales to evaluate whether there is actual interest in a short guide that people can use to structure their own yearly goals. That said, I’m a highly distractible and soft-hearted freelancer that doesn’t conform to the expectations of everyday society, so my approach to life may not resonate with yours! ;-)

    The remainder of this post is copied from my 2018 Groundhog Day Resolutions Challenge Page, with some rewriting to make it more suitable as an introduction to the omnibus. Links are underlined, but if you want to click them you will have to go to the corresponding post on my website. Each page has the URL on it so it should be easy to find!


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  • Business Cards and Transition, Part I

    January 7, 2019

    Business Cards of Yore The other day I made the acquaintance of a fellow who designs board games, and was caught off-guard when he asked me for my business card. No one has asked me for one in YEARS, so I was completely unprepared. I’m also not particularly thrilled with my current business card, which I designed as a 2014 daily challenge:

    Old Business Card Overall I like the simplicity of the card, and for the time my use of my face as recognizable element made sense for my combined professional/online presence in 2014. Five years later, I’m unexpectedly working-through a gender identity transition; I don’t like handing-out pictures of myself that are incongruent with my sense of self (gender dysphoria).

    I need a new solution that works with me in-transition, despite not knowing what I’ll look like in the next few years. Like it or not, my face is the first thing people encounter when meeting me in-person and I’d hate to deprive myself of such a useful memory hook. Besides, I’m ALWAYS going to “look like me”, no matter what surgeries and hormonal changes I possibly undergo. Despite my grouchiness, I think the healthy attitude is to accept my appearance and learn how to make positive aesthetic changes! So that’s my strategy for now; I might as well work with what I have and make adjustments as I go.

    First Mockup: Resizing the Old Card

    As I was looking at my 2014 business card, I figured I should tuck one in my FlipSide 2X wallet, only to discover that it doesn’t fit. Business cards in the US are 3.5×2.0 inches, and my particular version of the FlipSide is designed to hold credit cards. Credit cards use the ID-1 standard, ​3.75×2.125 inches. I quickly mocked-up an ID-1 sized version of my old card:

    Old Cards, Resized It also turns out that specialty printer MOO has a MOO size format that is very close to ID-1. This opens up the possibility of putting unique images on every card, something I last did back in 2006 when they only had the mini cards. They were awesome then; why not revisit them in 2018?

    Second Mockup: Image Updates

    I was originally thinking of putting an image on the back of the card, and getting a new photo of myself for the front. I don’t have a white seamless background here, so I just shot myself against my KALLAX room divider to give my photography buddy Sid an idea of what I was thinking.

    The exercise of shooting the reference photo got me thinking about how evolution of myself could be captured in the photo itself, suggesting a new approach.

    • In my old card / branding imagery, I always had a yellow Lamy Safari fountain pen. This was one of the props I always carried with me, though I fell out of the habit some years ago.
    • I have a newer special edition Lamy Al-Star pen that not only is a vibrant fuschia, but also writes in the same color! This is my favorite pen, so I can just do an upgrade of it for continuity.
    • I also have taken to wearing a bowler hat in the past year, as I am yet to find a really nice non-binary/femme hat that suits my face. The bowler hat is pretty awesome, now that I’ve gotten over the fear that I look like an idiot. So, why not add that to the brand imagery?

    I grabbed a selfie-stick and mucked around with some angles. I accidentally shot the REVERSE version of the photo, being unaccustomed to the Way of the Selfie. This lead to some new thoughts:

    • Reversing the angle subtly telegraphs a more significant change when thinking about my business card version as framing in a film.
    • I tried adding my self-appointed nickname “Sri” to the name, since I’ve been using it everywhere. It’s a name I use playing online games, coincidentally also from around the 2014 timeframe.
    • Showing the background office where I work is actually a nice tie-in to the livestreaming I’ve been doing. I’ve been slowly improving my so-called Living Room Cafe so I could do my physical coworking with my friends at home, and it’s my background set too for video. Why not include it in the card? The MOO cards can take photographs on both sides.

    Incorporating all these elements leads to this mockup:

    Mockup 2 I like the direct gaze into the camera. It’s a little less wistful and dreamy than the 2014 image, and to my eye it conveys a relaxed surety that I didn’t have back then. If I can still be approachable, that might work. Also, I like the idea of periodically updating my business card images by going with very small runs with MOO; for $20 I can get 50 really nice cards. I don’t think I’ve ever passed out more than 50 cards from ANY print run; even 250 cards is way too many.

    Conclusion for Now

    So that’s where I am right now. I’ll let the idea percolate for a while, talk to Sid, and see where it goes!

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  • GHDR Weekly Review 10.2 Bonus: A Welcome Season of Slothfulness

    January 4, 2019

    Christmas and New Year’s Day have come and gone, and though I’m not officially doing any goal tracking yet I feel like writing-up a review.

    From December 12 to January 1st, I was pretty much in vacation mode, though I only decided to call it that on December 31 :-)

    I haven’t been doing billable work or tracking time AT ALL, confining my activities to (1) eating things and (2) pursuing comfort. A productive side-effect of pursuing comfort was cleaning up my living room to make it MORE pleasurable to be in. Behold my cleaned-up workspace!

    Dining Area I converted my dining area to my home office back in July. I used to have the office in the living area behind the white KALLAX dividers, but I wanted to have that space be more for socializing / coworking. I have a long-term house guest at the moment too, and he needed a place where he could get out of the guest room to work. A perfect test of the LIVING ROOM CAFE concept!

    Anyway, back in the office area is my gaming PC (left corner), which is now connected to a roomscale Oculus Rift setup. My primary work computer is the old Macbook Pro which lives on a wheeled cart loaded with A/V gear for doing podcasts and livestreams. A major change I did was hanging the cables that formally lived in a rubber floor conduit, so it’s much easier to wheel the cart from the dining area to the living area.

    Now that it’s January, I wanted to reflect on what I’m looking forward to for the year. My slothful December did have one major benefit: I’m REALLY ANTSY about getting moving again on my projects. I think last year’s Groundhog Day Resolutions ended really well, and the refined processes from November will help keep me going. That’s what I hope, anyway…I think I might have a handle on the minimum effective discipline I need to feel like I’m making regular progress without anxiety. So let’s do a quick review of the week and see if that feeling is legitimate or not! (more…)

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