- February 18, 2019February 18, 2019Read more
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!
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.
- February 6, 2019February 6, 2019Read more
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.
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.
- 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!
- February 4, 2019February 4, 2019Read more
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:
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
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
Next 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
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
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:
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.
- February 2, 2019February 2, 2019Read more
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.
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:
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!
- January 27, 2019January 27, 2019Read more
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!