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  • Weekly Review 03.1 – Giant Pong and Magical Pants

    March 12, 2019

    I love it when a plan comes together Hey everyone! I just got the first Groundhog Day Resolutions (aka GHDR) MONTHLY REVIEW out last week, so it’s time for the first WEEKLY REVIEW to make sure I’m staying on top of things. My memory is pretty terrible and if I don’t review every week, it is less likely that I’ll maintain momentum.

    If you’re just tuning in, this is the year that I’m trying to establish a more driven approach to goal fulfillment. I’ve already figured out how to be productive by harnessing my natural inclination to explore, learn, build, and share, but doing hard and boring things continues to elude me. I’ve had some interesting insights this month:

    • The opening of a Ralph Baer Day exhibit (above photo) was a fast-moving and great collaborative experience with friends I have known for many years. Maybe I don’t need to go it alone, if I’m able to just ask people to join me, as I joined them when they asked me.
    • There are two levels of GHDR “hard” goals, not one. I will need to figure out how to manage them.

    Let’s get into it!

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  • GHDR 2019 March Review: The Hard Path versus Natural Path

    March 4, 2019

    The Obstacle is the Way Happy Belated Groundhog Day Resolutions GOAL REVIEW DAY!!! I spent all day Sunday helping set up an exhibit for “Ralph Baer Day”. Ralph Baer, if you’re not familiar with video game lore, is the guy who invented Pong and is from my home state; my contribution for the celebration was writing the code for the giant PONG game that we made together. After setting up I was too tired to finish writing the review.

    To recap, this year I’m trying to really do the DIFFICULT things, having embraced the Stoic notion of THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY. I even bought a shiny medallion to remind me of this (above), gut it’s proving tougher to get into the mindset I liked. If it’s tough, then I guess that means it’s the right path by my own reasoning? I don’t really know for sure, so…LET’S REVIEW!

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  • Weekly Review 02.2 – Keeping an Eye on my Slots

    February 25, 2019

    Goorin Brothers New Hat Time for another weekly review for Sunday, February 24th! I STILL haven’t written the process post to finish my troika of Groundhog Day Resolutions kickstarts. However, I’ve been able to cruise off of last year’s process; the process post is intended to be a resource for GHDR devotees who might want to compare notes. I’m not going to worry about it too much, but it IS very much something I want to get out of the way.

    Currently, I am most concerned about billing enough hours before my yearly family trip to Taiwan to visit my 90yr-old dad. He seems to be looking forward to the trip, as am I, but there’s a level of stress related to finances which I have to take care of before I go. It’s quite a long visit, so it’s up to six weeks of zero income on top of the travel-related expenses. That said, it’s more important to reconnect with family–and maybe get out of my own head for a bit.

    For this week’s review I’m going to try to slam through it as quickly as possible by keeping detail at a higher level than I am wont to do. I’ll also mix in a small amount of personal non-goal stuff in the report for a bit of personal color. For example, I got a new hat at Goorin Brothers (above picture) in Harvard Square! More on that later! (more…)

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  • Weekly Review 02.1 – A Rough (But Promising) Start!

    February 18, 2019

    Pong Game Controller The process post for this year’s Groundhog Day Resolutions is taking a lot longer to put together, so I’m going to jump in with the first weekly report for February. Since I haven’t formalized this year’s changes to the format, I’ll just use last years so I can keep moving. I’ve been maintaining the habit of noting my weekly/daily planning in the virtual coworking chatroom, so I can reconstruct my recent history of work.

    As I mentioned in the GHDR Kickoff Part II Goal Setting post, there are two over-arching goals this year: Software Development Mastery and Better ECommerce. These are the two “main slots” that my limited attention span can manage, and they deal specifically with hard path to creating future benefits. Everything else—self care, fun projects, etc—are in the “aux slot” and is everything OUTSIDE of the other two goals. Keep in mind that ultimately all activity, whether it’s main slot or aux slot, will feedback into my sense of well being. So goes my theory, anyway!

    GHDR Hard Path In the diagram above, the GHDR HARD PATH in yellow corresponds with the two main slots I spoke of. Everything else is the auxiliary slot: happy, curious, unplanned. For this year’s GHDRs I’m trying to concentrate my very limited ability to focus into GHDR, and just let everything else happen.

    So with that brief introduction out of the way, let me start with the Weekly Review Summary:

    • Impressions – Last week was a mix of tasks that didn’t seem to get done. I had planned to finish GHDR Kickoff Part III last week, but this got supplanted by preparing for paying project work, issues related to the Amazon store (such as redesigning and restocking the ETP StickyPads), and other stuff that just popped up. In hindsight, it was a week of RAMPING UP and I didn’t enjoy the definitive feel of having finished something until Sunday evening, when I finished the Ralph Baer Day PONG tribute game I’ve been working on.
    • Winning – Finished the PONG tribute game
    • Stuck – Very slow progress on MEME, GHDR Part III.

    In the next session I’ll get into the details.

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  • 2019 Groundhog Day Resolutions Kickoff Part II: Goal Setting

    February 6, 2019

    Taking the Harder Path Welcome to Part II of my Groundhog Day Resolutions Kickoff! In Part I I didn’t actually set goals because I wanted to describe the “system model” I had made of myself, which combines my notion of happiness and fulfillment with the productivity strategies that I have found effective; in essence, it’s a kind of positive feedback system!

    I’m pretty pleased with this model, as it incorporates a lot of the self-knowledge I’ve gained over the years. But I can’t rest on my laurels; if I want to make positive change, then I better put something into the world that makes that happen. I don’t find it easy because I’m easily distracted and easily bored, and I also find sustained work quite tedious when I am doing it by myself. I have compensated for this by making a distinction between “factory-style productivity” (think of this as the common wisdom from a system like GTD) and “gathering-style productivity” (more like opportunistic productivity or “structured procrastination”). I’m starting to think that there is a limit to gathering that I want to try overcoming in 2019, which means getting better at the factory model of productivity.

    I’m calling this the GHDR HARD PATH, and have outlined it with the yellow/orange highlights.

    The Hard Path are things that I find challenging; everything else (grayed-out above) comes easily to me after many years of practice (though “dodging responsibility” might also be an accurate description!). The hard results of the hard path are:

    • Highly-polished finished goods requiring hundreds of hours of work, instead of “good enough” goods that take less than 10-20 hours. Think “books” and “instruction material” versus “blog posts” and “experimental lab notes”.

    • Highly-refined production processes that require mastery of materials and craft, guided by a well-informed and discerning eye for detail that elevates the mundane to the sublime.

    • High-value packaging of the above goods and services, impeccably designed and tuned for use by a highly-discerning and value-conscious market. Convenient and clearly documented for effective application, such packages have obvious value and utility that make them desirable to the quality-conscious consumer.

    These kinds of goods/services are essential for me to succeed in my make tangible stuff and show it to people approach to life. What I’ve made and shared with people in the past have been to what quality I’ve been able to muster, and from experience I know that my best work has come from sticking to my principles regarding quality and utility. This is the approach to my work-life that I’d prefer to follow.

    I don’t feel I have reached those elevated levels of achievement. I believe I might have the potential to do so, but it has eluded me all my life. So for this year’s GHDRs, I want to try to move the needle on making those high-quality, high-value, well-packaged goods. I think this is the optimization I need, now that I’ve got the overall model working, to reach the next level of comfort and satisfaction.

    The GHDR Hard Path

    Examining the Happiness/Fulfillment Criteria

    Looking back at the diagram, there are two highlighted “hard path” criteria in each half of my individual core.

    • In STATE OF HAPPINESS, there is having enough money to fund my investigative curiosity without fear of financial disaster.
    • In RELATE TO THE WORLD, there is making high value things as my offering to people, which leads to monetary income and opportunity.

    Let me reiterate that while this year’s GHDRs are about improving these criteria, they do not supercede everything else that makes me happy! All the machinery that is grayed-out in the diagram are positive energy that I already generate and will continue to operate because frankly I can’t help it. What I am focusing on this year are the parts that ARE NOT working as well as I think they could.

    You could say that my goal is to make more stuff that is of a higher quality than what I have made in the past, and I know that this will require more discipline and focus than I have been able to sustain in years past. I’ve made many false starts that have have limited success, but I’ve never been able to maintain sustained effort. I’d like to fix that.

    Getting More Specific

    In 2019, there are two main money-making endeavors that carry over from last year:

    • Getting Better at Software Development – Though I’ve thought of myself more as a designer, the situation today is that I’m a de-facto developer. I’m opinionated enough about this kind of work that I want to establish my own best practices based on what passes for industry standards. Being good at making software is a high value skill, also, so getting better at it correlates with making more money on interesting projects.

    • Getting Better at ECommerce – I also have been selling printed versions of my various productivity tools on Amazon. This started out as something I just wanted to do because making something PHYSICAL was very appealing, but I didn’t want the hassle of managing a full-blown online business. That said, having a business doesn’t necessarily mean running it; I’d like to own my business in such a way that it provides an outlet for my applied creative AND makes money. This income then can fund more investigative design work, which can reach and excite more people, and perhaps even change the world a little bit for the better. But to do that, it would help if I actually knew what was going on with my sales and started to think competitively as well as creatively.

    Again, let me reiterate that Software and ECommerce are not EVERYTHING I’m doing!!! I’m doing a ton of other things related to maintaining ties with various creative/supportive communities while pursuing my own interests. These aren’t part of GHDR. Instead, GHDR exists as a means to ensure I can keep doing the interesting work. And ideally, the way I pick and approach my GHDR projects support my models of happiness and fulfillment. I don’t want to defer my enjoyment of life any more than I have to. I tried that for a few years and it sucked.

    Selecting GHDR Projects

    If you’re still with me, the GHDR Projects have to work within my framework for me to feel good about what I’m doing. I’ve come up with the following criteria to clarify HOW I want to practice the project work:

    SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT MASTERY

    • Learn/define best practices that help me write efficient and robust implementations of my visual design. This not only will help me in my current contracts, but also make NEW classes of product based on my visual design possible.
    • Learning how to participate in Open Source communities opens up collaboration possibilities and exposes me to a wider variety of programming styes, which makes me a more knowledgeable programmer.
    • Developing the capabilities to deploy my software on multiple platforms, which will help me reach more people with my derivative work.

    ECOMMERCE IMPROVEMENT

    • Writing engaging descriptions of what my tools do, very succinctly and specifically, helps entice people to try (and hopefully love) my work enough to purchase with their hard-earned cash.
    • Assembling “how to” guides, kits, and “seeds” (a catalyst for learning) is a way to help people get started on a new path while expanding my offerings. Writing about these kits will also have positive SEO consequences, and makes me a better teacher too.
    • Improving the timeliness of reporting on sales and inventory status changes will make me more responsive to the market. If I can come up with some good automated processes, then I might be able to hire someone to monitor it for me to free up my time.

    I’ve picked a number of starter projects that I think will meet all the criteria I’ve talked about in this article:

    • SEED: GHDR Guide – A formalized breakdown of how I do Groundhog Day Resolutions
    • SEED: WebApp Data Entry – Defining a pragmatic best practice for handling web forms
    • SEED: WebApp Database Operations – Defining patterns for implementing secure database read/insert/modify operations.
    • SEED: WebApp Progressive Loading – Related to making persistent web apps and webworkers; part of software mastery
    • SEED: Creative Community Management – A set of instructions how to create a good peer community with supportive shared values, based on my experiences trying to run and organize such groups
    • KIT: GHDR Forms – A how-to guide for making your own customized GHDR system template (?)
    • KIT: ETP Weekly Guide Package – A digital product that helps track your goals a week at a time, combining multiple forms into a convenient PDF that can be printed at home.
    • ELBS: Amazon/Ecommerce Monitoring – learn and build a system that graphs my daily sales and inventory levels automatically through the Amazon API
    • ELBS: Discord Bot – learn and build a bot that can help automate WINNING THE DAY and todo list management
    • ELBS: Open Source URSYS – learn, build, and share my URSYS communication framework as a library
    • ELBS: Electron App – learn, build, share a good sample project that explains how to make an Electron app that does what ours needs to do; there is little good information on this.
    • ELBS: HTML/SVG/PDF form design – explore, learn, build, share ways of creating interactive versions of my forms with HTML/CSS/JS and generate a downloadable PDF
    • ELBS: for Print-on-Demand Forms – explore, learn, build, share the capabilities of the print-on-demand press.

    This is my starter list, meaning that I haven’t locked them down firmly or even done estimates. However, I think each of these projects contributes to the parameters of this year’s GHDRs:

    • creates tangible goods that have higher tangible value
    • creates the opportunity to develop and improve my mastery of craft, materials, and media
    • helps improve my ecommerce business operations

    I’ll be working against these known personal challenges:

    • Sticking to a plan long enough to deliver super-polished work, without getting bored.
    • Doing something by myself for long periods of time without getting depressed from isolation.
    • Iterating solo through a design cycle without feeling demotivated by the lack of immediate feedback.
    • Getting frustrated with poor reference material that doesn’t help me get to what I really want to do.
    • Letting anxiety about the lack of rapid progress steal the joy of taking the time to explore and play (AKA happy bubble time); if I don’t get enough HBT then I get super crabby

    I have evolved ways of dealing with each of these cases, but that’s a topic for Part III, which will cover the process and methodology I’ll employ to track and manage my goals!



    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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