About Groundhog Day Resolutions
Every year I choose an “area of active interest” as the framework for guiding smaller projects that hopefully lead to a satisfying conclusion. Usually this doesn’t happen, but I always learn a lot about myself.
2021 is my 15th year pursuing Groundhog Day Resolutions. The goal this year is Transition: becoming a version of myself that is less smug, less afraid, less hypocritical, and (hopefully) more at peace as a result.
Click on the tabs below for an overview of how the year is progressing.
Theme for 2021: TRANSITIONS
In year 15 it doesn’t seem like I’m any closer to figuring out how this journey ends, but I have learned a lot about myself. Last year I didn’t do the regular Groundhog Day Resolutions process of detailed tracking of multiple objectives, choosing instead to choose a single area to focus on improving: getting better at software development. I think it was successful! In 2021 I’m continuing to do the software development improvement but am adding a NEW area of focus: transitions.
What do I mean by that? It alludes to being “in-between” my old self and my new self. I had a lot of insights last year that questioned who I thought I was and why I was stuck in those thoughts. I’ll fill out more in the coming months.
List of Tomes
I’m maintaining several “tomes” to collect transition-related thoughts at least once a month. The tomes are both writing prompt and a concise process log. 2021 is starting with the following topics:
- The Tome of Habits
- The Tome of Demons
- The Tome of Grace and Humility
- The Tome of Sri
- The Tome of Transition
- The Tome of Blockages
Starting Goals for February 2021
What is the theme for 2021?
This year’s theme is TRANSITIONS. Last year’s theme was SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT. Transition covers:
- professional, social expression
- demon taming
- finding grace and humility
What are the Starting Practices?
Instead of writing blog posts for every insight, maintain topical tomes to collect the relevant information all in once place. Add tomes as needed.
Changes March 2021
- Added tome for Transitions: an umbrella continuity log
- Added tome for Blockages: a workshop to find ways to overcome weaknesses
Changes July 2021
- Dropped tomes, because I wasn’t updating them and they were too high-friction for gathering insights. My Discord studio channel is a better place.
What are the Key Insights and Events?
JUNE: Being done is a harmful binary thinking pattern
JULY: Time efficiency is a poor metric for initiating work. Indulging curiosity is the means by which I maintain project momentum
AUGUST: I like conceptual models and modeling, and it is at the heart of everything I think, learn, and do. It is my fundamental way of looking at the world (August)
SEPTEMBER: Switched to HEALTH & EXERCISE as new singular focus, displacing SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT because I think I’ve hit a “good enough” plateau for now
My Groundhog Day Resolutions Posts for 2021
I’m not doing GHDR in 2020, but still posting thoughts related to not doing them.
|2021 FEB 02||February Kickoff||Theme: Transition|
|2021 FEB 22||Status Report||Adderall-inspired Alternate Thoughts|
|2021 MAR 03||Monthly Report||Defining Transition|
|2021 APR 04||Monthly Report||Fog of Time Tunnel Vision|
|2021 MAY 05||Monthly Report||Dodging the Binary|
|2021 JUN 06||Monthly Report||Not Done is Not Bad|
|2021 JUL 07||Monthly Report||RWBY Reflections|
|2021 AUG 08||Monthly Report||Conceptual Musings|
|2021 SEP 09||Monthly Report||Rememberance and Recovery|
|2021 OCT 10||Monthly Report||Characters, Revisited|
|2021 NOV 11||Monthly Report||Emerging Models of Success|
|2021 DEC 12||Monthly Report||Unexciting But Good|
I have a lot of projects that seem worth doing because of the value they would bring to my life, but I always seem to have trouble starting them. Taking that first step requires a ton of energy from me because there I have a mysterious resistance to the idea of doing anything at all. It is an automatic and unavoidable reaction, and it is particularly strong in these two cases:
- If the amount of effort over a lengthy period of time does not guarantee the quality of a result, then it feels like a bad use of energy and my brain gets sleepy.
- If a provided method for performing a task is a recipe devoid of insight into how it works, then it feels stupid and I don’t want to do it. I want more info so I don’t waste my time.
In general, I desire guaranteed quality in exchange for reasonable time and effort. If any of these conditions appear unlikely to be met, then that gives rise to the automatic resistance. Basically, I don’t want to waste my time, and have high expectations for quality, method, and craft. Rationally, I know that these are unreasonable expectations but that doesn’t change my negative emotional reaction. I am going to have that reaction, and I will have to expend energy to push past it.
A lot of my favorite motivational hacks use a redirection of my attention from “how stupid this is” toward “what is is interesting”. If I can find some angle that engages my curiosity, it’s a lot easier to do the work. I have a different hack for each element of stupidity I am trying to get past. Here are a few examples:
- Uncertain quality? Then make or acquire one you know is bad so you can study it and articulate why it sucks. In the process of doing this, the path to quality often becomes more apparent.
- Uncertain time requirement? Apply the “15-minute push” where I allow myself to stop if the pushing just isn’t happening. This prevents the task from feeling like a trap, and in practice I keep going past the 15 minute mark; after I get started, the resistance problem generally goes away.
- Unclear model or method to follow? Using “Formulate a Simple Question then find the answer” diverts attention from frustration/confusion and toward **curiosity**. A few rounds of these questions is enough to get me asking more questions because I am now building my own model of understanding rather than trying to blindly follow someone else’s terrible documentation.
- Unsure which direction to go in? Instead of driving yourself nuts wondering which way is the best, just follow both paths for a little bit; your choice is unlikely to be a “life or death” situation, and a lot of choices can be reversed if you time or money available. Mark the time spent as education and start again more certain and better informed by your own experience.
These hacks help in many cases where I am feeling low motivation, but sometimes the challenges are immune to them. Perhaps the task you are trying to do is completely new to you, and there’s o option except to follow what terrible documentation as written to confuse you further. Some tasks require much longer time commitments to even get started, and knowing that makes those 15-minute blocks seem woefully underpowered. Some amount of pain and frustration is unavoidable. Then I have four choices:
- Suffer through the pain and maybe I’ll get what I need (grumble)
- Hire a consultant to do it for me, and hope that they also meet the “quality for reasonable time and money” bar
- Defer the task until such time conditions are better (strategic procrastination)
- Don’t do it
Number 4 is the easiest to fall into because it requires no thinking or action. It is also the worst feeling because the task is still there. If the task-not-done is something really important to you, then your frustration and anger will just grow and grow until you give up entirely on yourself. Yikes.
The hypothetical fifth choice is to remove the source of anxiety/stress in the first place…I think.