Happy December 12th! It's the last official Groundhog Day Resolutions Report of the year, so I'll be taking a break from reporting until February 2, 2024.
So, what happened this year?
For 2023, my action plan adopted "Strategic Horizons"Strategic Horizons are a refactoring of goal-based productivity metrics to match my particular way of thinking. as the guiding approach. It's a way to mitigate both the difficulty of doing uncertain things and the need for novelty in my daily routine. I also set a few "Concrete Goals"A concrete goal or deliverable is something produced that (1) can be physically seen and (2) can be shared. The term originates from the Concrete Goals Tracker. related to working more efficiently in the future.
Let's start with the Strategic Horizons Review. Afterwards, I'll itemize some of the lessons about myself that I'll be applying next year for 2024.
Assessment: Strategic Horizon Progress
This year's GHDR Kickoff identified three particular Strategic Horizons:
For reference, here's the 2023 GHDR Plan PDF outlining all the initiatives established in February.
Strategic Horizon 1: Colony Architecture and Development
"The Colony" is my working title for "a place where I can interact with people who share my values and interests in creating a community". I imagine it as a place where people can share interests, experiences, and stories as we cheer each other on. It could also be a resource that hosts knowledge, tools, and expertise for people looking for help. While there are quite a few organizations like this already, The Colony is founded on the specific ideals that I think would make me feel genuinely "seen" in an active way.
The concrete goals I listed in the PDF Planning Sheet are all about organizational development and structure, as I need these materials to articulate how such an ideal community can be created and effectively governed by its participants. The initial planning documents in the 2023 GHDR Goals were (expanded for clarity):
- Vision Statement
- Organization Charter
- Facilities Roadmap
- Public Square Operations
- Expedition Hall Operations
I have a selfish reason for The Colony: to be productive, I need to have the presence of motivated people around me. The problem is that working on these goals is very slow, as I don't yet have these people available to provide the activation energy. I'll address this dilemma in more detail in the next Assessment section.
In the meantime, I'm starting to reach out to folks interested in incubator spaces like The Colony, but are not committed to building one. This may provide catalyzing energy which helps push through these goals.
Strategic Horizon 2: Articulation of Self
"Articulation of Self" seeks to clarify my role within the greater context of The Colony. In other words, I am articulating goals that I believe would have value in the eyes of other inhabitants:
- Code (tools)
- PKMS (knowledge)
- Trade Goods
- "Takes" from others
- Appealing Traits
I think that "Software tools" and "packaged knowledge" are the primary offerings I have, and so this past year I've tried to develop them further. There were a couple of ways that I addressed this:
My contract code work was a catalyst for more thoughtful design work. I'm getting a bit better at packaging tools for the technology stack I'm currently using (the so-called "JAMStack"). It would be nice to create consumer-facing apps, but for now I'm focused on just getting good at using the technology.
The Personal Knowledge Management System PKMS is this website, and I'm continuing to use it. The initial development was done in 2022.
For Trade Goods, there are several legacy products such at the Emergent Task Planner physical goods and digital tools like the Compact Calendar, the Word Counting Calendar, and the ETP 365 Day Planner. These are rather cumbersome to support as they are manually created in Illustrator, and I am still hampered by the Amazon Marketplace issues. I did the minimum I needed to support these sales, my reasoning being that the software work elevated my skills as well as bringing money. The impact of my design work is unlikely to be a major contributor of revenue this year without a strong online media presence.
For Appealing Traits, I've been analyzing how my ADHD/ASD traits interact with the rest of society. I am more aware of a dozen energizing and draining triggers, which helps me maintain my energy levels through the day. I'm also much more aware of my performance limits when any one of those triggers is activated. Most importantly, I'm aware of emotional needs that derive from the way I look at the world. The Envoy of the Moon concept is one of the results of this analysis.
Overall, though, not many concrete goals have been achieved in this strategic quadrant. However, there is a renewed awareness that this articulation work is neccessary for starting to publicly write and stream again; the success of The Colony's mission depends on my ability to get the word out there. Much of my writing on the matter has been workshopped in private with trusted friends and advisors. I feel that I've made good progress here despite not having a lot of public writing to show for it.
Strategic Horizon 3: Overarching Doctrine
In addition to the aims of the above strategic horizons, I strove to uphold two declarations:
"From now on, all visual design work will be generated by my own software tech"
I failed at this. I did start working on PDF generation software and made considerable progress, but I found that I was putting too many expectations on myself:
- Working on the contract software projects without other experienced devs to talk to about the work. It took a lot of energy to maintain a positive attitude in this isolation.
- I spent a lot of time unpacking the ADHD+ASD traits that were contributing to the frustration that arose from the feeling of isolation.
- The rest of the time was spent actively hosting the DS|CAFE with life-giving social interactions. Fortunately it's an easy server to admin because it's small and focused, but it does require daily attention.
There was no energy left over. For 2024, I'm planning on taking this into account.
"The DS|CAFE is the anchor on which I can establish an inviting community that suits me and those like me"
This year saw a significant drop of our pandemic-driven virtual coworking activities. This is fine. The server is still here and while participation is down, this gives me an opportunity to renovate the structure to better support the ideals of The Colony. There's an excellent group of people in the server that I enjoy talking with, and maintaining this space is really important for my sanity. In that sense, it's a form of self care that happens to include others.
Everything other than Strategic Horizons
The Strategic Horizons were just part of the planning document, covering the action-oriented aspects of my goals. While I didn't get as much done as hoped in this regard, I think everything else largely worked out:
- DSri Trial Guidance - With the exception of "never work along; always gather engaged collaborators", I practiced all of the suggested guidance and will continue to do so.
- DSri Processes - I applied every one of these practices. The most difficult one was sleep hygiene, and I have failed to maintain a good fitness regimen. I did finally rejoin the gym last month, so that's something.
- Followthrough on 2022 Insights - Still on the mark. I do have a more evolved understanding of these, which will be helpful for defining ideals of The Colony and my place within it.
Adaptations for 2024 Groundhog Day Resolutions
Adaptation 1: Account for Sri-Specific Energy Needs
The Colony is an ideal that I'd like to appeal to a particular kind of person, but there is a much more specific kind of energy that I realize I need. I've talked before about my desire for "high-bandwidth, high-intensity" communication and not easily finding it. When one of my best friends moved away this year, I realized that this desire was more fundamental than I thought. The lack of this energy, I hypothesize, is the root of my frustration with the world.
So far, I've coined two new terms to quality what SUPER-SPECIFIC SRI ENERGY is made of:
- hyperplexic communication - This is the need for intense, high bandwidth, emotionally-driven, mixed-discipline systematic communication I like to have over topics of shared interest. This is a subset of The Tribe of positive-minded self-empowered people of which The Colony is comprised.
- adventurous creativity - This is the need to strive for novel, useful, and meaningful work in pursuit of mastery and excellence.
I've always been somewhat aware of these needs, but it was my research into neurodivergent communication styles that helped me recognize that this is what I was looking for in others. It's very similar to when we happily share their special interests with each other.
Additionally, I like to communicate in an open, optimistic, enthusiastic, and filled with the joy of authentic sharing of thoughts happening at hyperplexic speeds. This style of interaction reminds me of self-reported unmasked behavior in neurodivergent people, so let me add it to the list of terms:
- unmasked interactions - Being able to interact without worrying about being judged by others because of the way I communicate. The ideal interaction partners are "hyperplexic communicators" and "adventuriously creative".
The takeaway: I have an intense need for all of this otherwise I just don't feel "right". And this leads into the next adaptation...
Adaptation 2: Stop Blaming Myself If Deep Communication Attempts Fail
Ok, I have intense communication needs. My mistake has been to think that I could unlock this mode of communication with anyone if I understood them and could make everyone feel comfortable and safe in my presence. I've come to realize that most people aren't looking for high-intensity engagement. Likewise, most people aren't adventurously creative in the way that I've tried to train myself, because they have other things they'd like to do.
The mitigation is rather easy: stop trying to unlock hyperplexic communication and adventurous creative modes in every interaction. Because these modes are so rare, I am just setting myself up for disappointment. Instead, recognize that simpler interactions are rewarding too and this is the foundation for polite society. Not every conversation has to be about discovering a secret of the universe.
Adaptation 3: But Don't Stop Trying to Negotiate for Deeper Conversation
Although hyperplexic adventurous creative communication is not the norm, it would be foolish discount the possibility that it could exist. There are many ways to relate deeply to people, after all!
Thinking aloud, a "negotiated conversation" might look like this:
- Instead of assuming that it's my responsibility to put others at ease (part of social masking), expect that it's up to the other party to demonstrate the level of ease they have. This is a kind of ritual assessment. Offering affirming information is part of the baseline assessment.
- Be ready for questions that indicate curiosity, which is the sign of an engaged mind. An exchange of questions can lead to prolonged conversation, or be the entirety of the interaction.
- Be observant of what information is offered, and offer something in exchange that is affirming of the other's topic.
- Test for hyperplexic communications or adventurous creativity by asking for an opinion or recommendation, sharing something meaningful, or inquiring deeper about the other's interests. If it is not returned in kind, then it's probably safe to disengage and get on with life.
The key part is to let it go and not expect that these conversations will go anywhere. It's not my fault for "not communicating in the way they prefer". Given that most people aren't looking for deep conversations with just anyone, this seems like a saner expectation to hold.
Adaptation 4: Adopt On-Demand Commitment to Action
As I mentioned before, I find it difficult to motivate myself unless someone I know personally asks me with a genuine and immediate need. I used to try to anticipate needs, much as I used to do with social interaction, as I thought it was my responsibility to handle it. This is perhaps not unexpected as I have the type of personality that feels great anxiety about things that might be blamed on me for "not knowing".
I'm no longer willing to accept that it's my fault in the case when I don't see equal commitment to doing something for someone else. This is another form of negotiation, in which I expect to see a promised action from the other party in response to my own. What's new in 2024 is that I no longer take it personally when the ball gets dropped. A good collaborator will communicate status and readily convey the conditions that are preventing completion; so long as this communication is open and not exploitative, there's no reason for me to get upset.
I actually have applied this approach before in contract work in the 2000s, but this is the first time I'm applying it to ongoing working relationships with non-profits, user groups I am a member of, and social groups.
Adaptation 5: Revise Model For Realistic Working Limits
In 2022 I used the Two Slot+Aux Model, which assumed that I could hold the mental context for two main "focused tasks" with one auxiliary "everything else" bucket. The intent was to make progress on two selected tasks each day. While this was a workable model, it relied on my available willpower to start tasks. This has always been a challenge, particularly since I did not have collaborators to inject energy into my day (see Adaptation 1 above).
The proposed new model is tentatively called the Trickle-Down Energy Model. It's based on how I work in 30-90 minute chunks when "doing the hard thing" over the course of several days. This is intentional energy that makes full use of my brain; once depleted, it takes about four hours to replenish. To extend my productive time, I think I can use of different kinds of energy provided they fit the nature of tasks. Here are some of those kinds of energy I'm talking about:
- sensory / physical sensation - the body just does stuff on its own, if I suppress the urge to process and think about stuff
- emotional squee energy - when I see something cute that makes me feel super happy and connected with other people
- a question posted to me by someone else - if something pops into my head that seems doable
- researching possibilities that solve an interesting problem - when an idea pops into my head that I think I can piece together immediately
- non-commital experimental tasking - when I allow myself to do something for a few minutes just so I can say I did something; often this leads to more work
I'm still refining the model; check out the one-slot tickler model entry for the most up-to-date thinking on it.
Adaptation 6: Reintroduction of Task Tracking
I didn't use Two Slot+Aux in 2023, so I wasn't tracking anything I was doing outside of timesheets and conversations in DS|CAFE talking about what I was doing. In 2024, I think light tracking just to see what I do every day might be helpful. So, I'll try it and see what happens.
The big takeaways this month are:
The need for coregulation external collaborators is probably non-negotiable. In particular, I need to have high-commitment, high-bandwidth, and high-intensity adventurous creatives to feel happy and connected in both work and play. The lack of these kind of social connections is a factor in my low energy state.
I have several personality traits that, based on how I process experiences, make interactions with people more difficult for me due to the difference levels of expectation in communication, systematic thinking, commitment, and identity diversity. I feel this very deeply.
I have a pattern of energy dysregulation that diminishes rapidly after waking because I try to think my way through everything. There are other ways to productively engage with the world that don't require intense thinking, and I would benefit from practicing them to give my brain more rest
Overall I don't feel too bad about this year, but I'll do a proper end-of-year review for January 2024. Thanks for reading, and have a great holiday!
INDEX of GHDR 2023 POSTS
Kickoff - Defining the goals for 2023.
Solidifying the Big Picture - I know I'm prone to forgetting my own big plans. Compacting and simplifying them helps me remember?
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.
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.
End of Year Review - WIP