GHDR Report 0909: Choosing Well

Posted Saturday, September 9, 2023 by Sri. Tagged GHDR
About the image: I've been trying to make healthier choices to maintain better emotional regulation in the face of tantalyzing choice. This picture was taken at a nearby farmstand.Image of a farm stand display with many kinds of squash and pumpkins in baskets available to choose fromImage of a farm stand display with many kinds of squash and pumpkins in baskets available to choose from (full size image)

It's time for another Groundhog Day ResolutionsGroundhog Day Resolutions (aka GHDR) are my yearly strategic goals setting that starts on February 2nd rather than January 1st. See this brief GHDR explainer Report!

Picking up from last month's insight that I was overstructuring my tasks, I chose to reduce the scope of my immediate productivity goals by picking one main goal and being more opportunistic about the rest. This has helped lower my anxiety about not working fast enough given the limits I have on energy:

  • My main concern was making collateral for explaining my "intentional community" vision for The Colony, which remains as the singular focus for my GHDR-related goals.

  • I also switched from a factory-style productivity approach to what I'm calling an On-Demand model. This model takes my ADHD challenges into account by recognizing it is too difficult to self-motivate on a project without other stakeholders to talk to.

  • Since having stakeholders to talk to is so important for my motivation, I'm also pursuing media opportunities to expand the number of people I am reaching. It's a good break from paid project work, and it's allowing me to indulge more in livestreaming and other forms of communication. This includes more participation in Discord servers other than my own; I just need to be talking to more people!

While this is not a "disciplined" way to approach important strategic horizons-style goals, there's a good reason for doing it this way: I need to reserve the discipline for billable project work! I can't easily split my small pool of discipline between the two tasks.

Overall, the period after the August GHDR Report started poorly: very low productivity due to an extreme lack of meaninful communication. Around the beginning of September I found some ways to deal with it, which I've itemized in this report.

Let's start with what I got done, and then proceed from there!

Billable Project Work

Workwise, I've been pushing to develop a "modular data solution" to retrofit older code. This code also has needed a lot of cleanup. The work has been extremely slow and without interaction with anyone else; as I mentioned above, this is really bad for because lack of communication tanks my ability to self-motivate.

I fell into a pretty deep depression from lack of work-related stimulation. I had to invent a new technique that I dubbed narrative-driven design. The idea is to write daily stories that transplants the work into a parallel fictional universe. I imagined "Space Sri" fixing a really old spaceship and having to figure out how to do it without breaking everything, as the ship was in active use. While this might seem like a waste of time, it was a way to substitute imaginative energy for external motivation because I intrinsicly enjoy writing about characters and their feelings. It helped release the emotional frustrations and doubts I had about my development chops too.

After getting past this challenge, I am feeling pretty good. I shared the stories I wrote with some friends, and they started doing it too so I felt like I was part of something, which further improved my mood! It's a good trick to get unstuck, I think.


Colony Architecture and Development - Vision • Charter • Roadmap • Public Square • Bazaar • Expedition Hall

Sri Articulation of Self - Code • PKMS • Trade Goods • Barters • Takes • Traits

Creating New Tools - All visual design work will be generated by my own software tech. This includes calendars, planners, and data docs.

Strategic Horizons

To recap, the idea of Strategic Horizons is to set a general direction to a desirable outcome somewhere out in the distance. You have an idea of what it's like and where it might be, but there is a lot of adjustment that has to be made as you navigate toward it. Eventually, if you keep your wits and navigate around the obstacles you encounter, you'll get closer. Maybe even reach it.

I've listed my 2023 Strategic Horizons on the right sidebar. Broadly speaking these about:

  1. "Building a Destination" ('The Colony') where people like me with similar shared values can gather. This includes promotion so people know it exists.

  2. "Articulating Myself" such that people can see what I can offer them, and how they might engage with me. This is also a kind of promotional activity, though it also includes the design and production tasks that lead to refined tangible offerings that reflect my values.

  3. "Creating New Tools" for custom form design, particularly my own software generation techniques, so it becomes much easier to make custom designs on-demand. Currently, it's quite time consuming to produce things like the Nanowrimo Word Counting Calendar; it would be great if I could easily generate countless variations to my stringent visual design standards.

Here's a breakdown of what I've been working on under this framework:


filed under Strategic Horizon: "Building a Destination"

As I've been talking to people about the kind of intentional community I'd like, it's become apparent I have to take a leadership position to champion it. I don't like being in charge of people, but I want to be in a community that extols the values I hold dear. In the past I've just talked about it in my blog and occasionally in the Coworking Discord, but I think I have to commit to making it my responsibility to lead.

There are several important qualities that I'd like to see in this community:

  1. A culture that appeals to people that like sharing their knowledge and experience for positive gain by many. This culture is expressed by the idea of The Tribe.
  2. A place where people with "unconventional ways" of seeing the world are accepted and feel safe. I specifically have many neurodivergent traits and values; it's difficult to find communal places where it is safe to express them.

The "place" where this community will exist is called The Colony, and the kind of leadership that fits me is that of being an 'ambassdor' for our culture. To amuse myself, I've been calling this position "Envoy of the Moon". My job is to represent The Colony's cultural values and material interests, seeking mutually beneficial trade opportunities through diplomacy. This approach appeals to me personally as well as a neurodivergent person who would otherwise have to mask to assimilate for safety within the dominant society; by being an envoy from somewhere else, I can apply the same masking techniques for for diplomatic purposes. Masking is still emotionally demanding, but there is the feeling that I have a home somewhere else and I can be proud of that. I can still negotiate for mutual benefit within the dominant society and bring them home.

The Envoy (box with star) has her own diplomatic direction/mission (upward arrow) to promote. Others who find mutual exchange beneficial connect (smaller boxes, arrows) and with luck also mirror the Envoy's stated direction/missionpencil sketch of 'envoy' relation to 'other entities' as an influencerpencil sketch of 'envoy' relation to 'other entities' as an influencer (full size image)

I want The Colony to feel like a place people want to go and learn about, and thus the responsibilities of an envoy would be to promote our cultural values and unique trade goods. Ambassadors in the real world engage in influence and "soft power" operations, and I think that applies to The Colony as well.


filed under Strategic Horizon: "Articulating Myself"

I was feeling quite negative about work earlier in the month, and applied a technique I call hermit modeHermit Mode is cutting myself off from all connection and communication with people, desyncing my schedule from the sun, and being in a state of isolation with just me and a singular problem to face while I forget about the rest of the universe for a few hours.. This is a form of "turning off my emotions" for relief from negative thoughtsI should note that I'm not ignoring my emotions, but am just setting them aside for a couple of hours because (1) there's no emergency and/or (2) there's nothing I can do about it just by being anxious. That said, my emotions are REAL EXPERIENCES and I take them very seriously; they often reveal emerging personal issues that I'll have to deal with sometime. That emotional processing step can be deferred; this is what I'm talking about here.

Recently I've been reading about emotional dysregulation in the context of Autism and ADHD. It occurred to me that my so-called "hermit mode" is a mitigation of this, so I itemized everything that I know of that seems to fit the pattern:

  • Under-stimulation - This feels like sensory starvation. Triggers are "not enough exciting things happening" like "having people to talk to about the work I'm doing" or the lack of "a success". If the feeling persists for over 10 days, I crash into severe depressions. It also expresses as binge behavior: endless scrolling, difficulty sleeping despite physical tiredness, inability to regulate eating. It is like my brain is starving and is desperate for any sensory input.
  • Over-stimulation - This feels like exhaustion from deep mental processing. Triggers are people: meetings, any social interaction, any communication with ambiguous intent, concern about being misunderstood or judged. I think this is a biochemical stress response; it always takes hours to fade away.
  • Mental Exhaustion - This feels similar to Over-stimulation but is not tied to social interactions. Instead, it's triggered by experiencing ambiguity and lack of care from someone other than me. Examples: bad documentation, logically-inconsistent information, ambiguous communication, poor work ethic, and so on. I become highly annoyed and often have to mask my response. This rapidly burns up my reserve of mental energy which makes any kind of decision-making impossible until it recharges. In this state, I seem to fall into a stupor where I can't motivate myself to do anything.
  • High Carbs or Over-eating - This feels like "mental muddiness". It's hard to stay focused and there is a strong desire to nap. Triggers are eating high glycemic foods (e.g. sugar, bread) or I eat too much at one tie. The result is similar to Mental Exhaustion.
  • Under-hydration, Under-eating, and Vitamin Deficiency - This is the physical version of Mental Exhaustion, which feels like "thoughts not completing" and "brain static". It is also similar to feeling Under-stimulated; I'm actually not sure if it's the same experience. The I usually don't have issues with too little food intake, but I often forget to drink enough water (around 50-60oz over the day). Vitamins (particular D and B) also have a subtle effect on my alertness that I can't quite characterize, as it takes a few weeks for it to get really bad.
  • Eyestrain - This feels like a headache behind my eyes and around my temples, with the added bonus of sleepiness. The trigger is unbalanced light when more light is entering one eye than the other, poorly calibrated eyewear, glare, and too much contrast between light and dark within my line of sight.

To mitigate these feelings, I've been applying these countermeasures:

  • Turning-off my Brain to Get Out of Bed - When there is no exciting reason to wake up, my brain is pretty useless. Trying to negotiate "something fun" is futile. When I turn off my brain, I turn off this useless negotiation and just concentrate on getting upright. I think this has a stimulation effect of getting my blood flowing for increased energy as well.
  • Morning Sensory Stimulation - Taking a shower imparts the sensation of water on my skin, which I think wakes my brain up. Likewise, I now make pourover coffee because the additional caffeine does seem to help.
  • Morning 15 Minute Commitment to Self - The first hour of the day afterwards is peak mental clarity time. The commitment takes the form of a PACT with another human; we've agreed on a specific time to get into the same video chat room and work on our most important personal project for 15 minutes. This also gives me a REAL reason to wake-up, because I consider personal commitments like this to be sacred promises. This is what is helping regularize my schedule in a meaningful way.
  • Allowing Ample Unstructured Time - I am stopping mental work as close to 5PM as possible. It seems to take about 8-10 hours of "unstructured goofing around" for my brain to relax so I can fall asleep. If I work past 5PM, that pushes out the time I fall asleep, which means that when I wake up for the 15 Minute Commitment to Self I will be underslept and unable to think.
  • Intermittent Fasting - I find it difficult to "eat in moderation", because this requires too much thinking. If I am already in a mental exhaustion state, my decision making is out of whack and I will tend to go into a binge consumption state and eat too much. It's a lot easier to tell myself "NO EATING UNTIL 4PM" and using that as an "end of day" sensory stim that also helps me get sleepier for bed. By 5PM I'm winding down anyway. I try to stop eating at 9 or 10PM so I go to sleep not feeling overly full, but not hungry either.

It's been promising! Figuring out the balance between all these mitigations, though, continues to be a challenge because balance is something I'm actually quite bad at. I might be better at making black-or-white decisions (e.g. Intermittent Fasting, turning off emotions, turning off brain) that have beneficial results. Perhaps it cuts down on uncertainty, which is a trigger for all kinds of emotional dysregulation?


filed under Strategic Horizon: "Creating New Tools"

I've been using the Maintaining Momentum, 15 Minutes a Day (mentioned above) to start building a PDF generation tool to automate production of my various Productivity Tools. It's still in the very early prototype phase; at the moment, the software makes an ugly looking PDF and a text-only Compact Calendar:

PDFMaker Progress inside of Visual Studio CodeScreenshot of Visual Studio Code showing PDF and source codeScreenshot of Visual Studio Code showing PDF and source code (full size image)

This took about 3 weeks worth of 15-minute daily pushes, with a few extra hours slipped-in when I felt I was in the zone. It feels great to finally start making progress on this, as the time to make the Nanowrimo Word Counting Calendar is fast-approaching, and this is a pain-in-the-ass to make by hand.

As a bonus, I'm using Javascript as the development environment, which is the same as the billable project work I've been doing for the Learning Sciences NSF grants. I get to use fancy new build tools which I can then back-fit into those project. I love it when I can find synergies between my personal interests and my work.


filed under Strategic Horizon: "Articulation of Self"

Also in production news: A new run of ETP 4x6 StickyPads is out! They should be arriving in the Amazon Marketplace soonSee the Amazon listing here. I'll be putting in an order for the ETP5585 Mini Notebooks soon.

Although I increasingly despise Amazon and their practices, this will bring in some additional revenue that could help fund other projects.

I really do need to figure out the non-Amazon turnkey e-commerce solution. One possibility is to use the services of my commercial printer Papergraphics) and see how that might work; the owner of the company has expressed willingness to try.

What's Next?

These are the priorities I have right now:

  • PDFMaker finished in time to generate the Nanowrimo Word Counting Calendar by mid-October
  • Pay my current invoice from Papergraphics, then get ETP Mini Notebook into production
  • Replace Amazon Marketplace through Shopify, with my commercial printer providing fulfillment.
  • Continue using 15M Pushes and Livestreaming to stay engaged with work, as these seem to help with Emotional Regulation and Executive Function.
  • How to regulate myself after 5PM when I am mentally spent, and prone toward dysregulation? I don't have any mitigations for that.🤔

That's it for this month's report! Thanks for reading!


Feb 2

Kickoff - Defining the goals for 2023.

Feb 17

Solidifying the Big Picture - I know I'm prone to forgetting my own big plans. Compacting and simplifying them helps me remember?

Mar 3

Mitigating Executive Distraction - I note that two executive function challenges I face is (1) remembering the context and specifics of the GHDR goals set a month ago and (2) managing the energy needed to push through challenges. I hypothesis that executive function is like "battery" and well-regulated emotions are the true power source.

Apr 4

May 5

Jun 6

Jul 7

Aug 8

Sep 9

Oct 10

High-Octane Interactions - Despite positive developments on my contract work, I find myself in "The Cycle of Doom": depression, dysregulation, and disconnection. I consider possible causes in the context of my Autism and ADHD needs and come up with a mitigation plan to address the doom spiral.

Nov 11

Dec 12

Dec 31