Happy September 9! I made quite a bit of progress this month that, in hindsight, can be divided into stages:
Phase 1. Relearning and Rebooting into Personal Projects
I was a bit surprised to find that I needed to find my "creative rhythm" again. For the past 3 years I've suppressed my own projects because I needed full attention for the challenging freelance programming projects I had committed to. On getting my schedule back in August, I realized that I was VERY RUSTY at self-motivating and planning. I decided to take my time, declaring myself in a "reboot" mindset. I was also still experiencing extreme fatigue, the cause of which was a source of mystery.
The journal entries of 8/9 through 8/18 are a mix of self-reflection and remembering stuff about what works / doesn't work for me.
- Aug 09: Establishing a New Routine
- Aug 10: Creative Habit Kickstarting
- Aug 11: Tackling Bills, Daily Logging Day 2
- Aug 14: Weekend Stimming
- Aug 15: Remembering Things Take Time
- Aug 16: Revisiting Old Ideas with Old Friends
- Aug 17: Where the Lizard Brain Roams
- Aug 18: Mistakes Were Made
The next phases ran in parallel, so I've labeled them accordingly as 2A, 2B, and 2C.
Activity Track 2A. Improving the Blogging System
Throughout the previous phase I was making myself use the new blogging system every day. I was entering new content into the system for hours a day, splitting my attention between capturing my notes, improving the technical features of the system to better support my notes, distilling notes into journal entries, and adding supporting notes as well. As I had hoped, the new blogging system is also working well as a thinking system because I'm able to easily enter and link information. It's still pretty crude, but it's also very fast to create files AND I know where to put them because I worked out the conceptual organizing principles for the website months ago.
The system now is pretty functional now, but the next stage will be to automate some operations (like checking for bad links) and maybe making a VSCode extension to help keep the file structure approachable even as the number of categories grow.
In the past month, I've made these improvements to the blogging system code base:
- tweaked many small formatting issues
- color output of
- fixed feed so it showed in reverse chronological order
- added garten today, garten tomorrow with boilerplate
- added color block formatting for callouts
- added image support with media export workflow
- added video embedding
- updated building system for typescript and live linting
- added optional feed excerpt support
- added custom css for feed
- fix responsive formatting for phones
- added dropcap kerning table for initial cap paragraphs
- added pure CSS lightbox to see images bigger
- added lazy loading image support
- added lazy font loading
- added responsive image thumbnail and loading support
- added 2-column sections
- optimized site to hit 100% in pagespeed test for mobile and desktop
- added email anti-spoof and anti-spam configuration
- added long-lived cache on private CDN host
Phase 2B: Rebuilding the Productivity System
I've been coming to grips with being "neurodiverse". As I've researched the traits of ADHD and ASD diagnoses, I'm seeing how many of the productivity tricks I've evolved over the years are designed to mitigate them. This seems to be a pretty common story with late-diagnosed adults, and in my case I now see the opportunity to REALLY ADDRESS some of the challenges I face staying motivated. I've been resurrecting bits of old system in the context of ADHD and ASD symptoms that I recognize in myself.
The theoretical base is Barkley's Executive Function model he says it applies to ADHD: everything has to be externalized and in our field of vision. To me that was just "good design" but maybe I also needed it myself.
Building on the executive function model is recognizing my need to be around creative and engaged people who share my intensity of interest otherwise I just lose interest. I hadn't made the connection that this could be related to being on the Autism spectrum until reading about the lived experience of people who process the world differently and recognizing them as kindred spirits.
From these two ideas I started to rethink how I define my Groundhog Day Resolution Goals. If Barkley's Executive Function model applies to me, then it's no wonder that I have such a difficult time making strong progress toward completing my goals. For one, it's a deferred reward, which has no immediate driving value for me. Secondly, it's too far in the future to feel very real; there are many far more accessibly easy things that will deliver a jolt of excitement in the present. I also find it very BORING to plod away on a path. The productivity system I have must address these challenges through external motivation and scaffolding. It hit me that I spend an awful amount of time fantasizing about the existence of supportive creative communities that make magical things happen, and in fact all of my blogging and chat hosting activity is about making some version of it come to life for real. So why not put it front and center? It's what I end up doing anyway when I'm procrastinating!
The new productivity system is being built around these concepts. First is the idea of having less strict goals in favor of directions, what I defined as a "strategic horizon". From that I derived a bunch of other entities so I could have a compelling metaphor to visualize in my head. The key ideas as currently defined are in bold:
- Strategic Horizons
- Strategic Piles
- Archetypes & Constellations
- Executive Function Notes
- Structured Procrastination
- The Public Square
- Goal Setting
- Taxonomy of Tasks
- Time Blindness
- Visceral Immediacy
- Singular Focus
- Hermit Mode
- Executive Sri
- Day Rituals
- Two Slots + Aux Model
- Time Travelling Librarian
- Put the Body In Charge
- De-emotionalized Response
- STRIM: Sri Sensory Stim
- Lizard Brain
- Robot Mode
- Living Room Cafe
- The Third Place
- The Tribe
My musings on the system are spread across several journal entries but I have not yet thought about the tooling that I can build around it. I see a major refactor of the older productivity tools in the near future!
- Aug 19: Can't Dodge the Hard Stuff
- Aug 20: The Missing Constellation
- Aug 21: Rethinking Autism Diagnosis
- Aug 25: NOTE: Goal Setting
- Aug 26: NOTE: Archetypes & Constellations
- Aug 30: Debugging A Productivity Stall
- Aug 31: Defining Operational Goals
- Sep 01: Technical Site Updates
- Sep 02: Pagespeed and Sketchmaps
- Sep 03: A Weekend without Adderall
- Sep 04: Reboot Complete!
Phase 2C: Personal Wellbeing
Several positive developments!
Nutrition is better! I am eating way more greens and protein, avoiding additional sweeteners in my food, and drink water. I am feeling better overall, not so bloated and gross.
The source of extreme fatigue appears to be related to eyestrain caused by bright sun on one side of my face compared to very little light on the other. Once I moved my computer desk away from the large patio window, the headaches went away. In hindsight it explains why some mornings were headachy (bright sun) versus not (overcast), or why I started to feel more alert after 4PM when the sun so no longer shining right into the side of my face. I didn't think it was eye strain because there is no glare on my computer screen, as it's not facing the window. I still need to get this confirmed with my primary care physician.
Phase 3: Return of the "Two Slot + Aux Model"
While I'm still not producing new "tangible work" like new stationery products every day, I am now focused on two major "operational goals" for the next couple of weeks:
Get the Printed Products back in Stock - This is directly related to generating revenue. I've been putting it off for a couple years because of COVID and the big freelance project that took up all my headspace.
Make More Physical Space - I have way too much stuff, and I need to make more space. This is part of personal wellbeing (the clutter is a huge mental drain) as well as practical production: I don't have any space to set up a station to do packaging, take photos, or even bake a cake.
I've started to make dents in both of these. The two slot + aux is an experiment from 2019 or so, a way for me to model my cognitive limits so I didn't overextend them. In 2021 and 2022 I had to downgrade from two slots to a single slot because I just didn't have the energy to do anything else by try to ship the big freelance project. But that project is over and I think the two slot model may be a nice way for me to feel a work-life balance. I am going to be very protective of that moving forward.
We're already rolling!
- Sep 05: Focus on EShop: Well, Maybe Tomorrow
- Sep 06: Digging into the Muck
- Sep 08: Surprise Inventory and Services
That's about it for now. Overall...productive. The trick? maintaining momentum. I am still concerned about losing the big picture, which is why I brought back the two slot+aux model in the first place. This takes care of the daily operational goals, but I need to make some kind of system that strongly binds themn to the strategic horizon goals in my head, something that feels very visceral and so tangible I can taste it. That immediacy and sense of mission is what I need, I think, to stay motivated...
To start, I have these two sketchmaps that capture the intent but need a lot of explaining. I'm really looking forward to modeling this in paper, code, and concept!
That's it for now! Thanks for following along!
GHDR 2022 REPORT INDEX
Kickoff - Defining the goals for 2022.
Focus Level Up! - Initial goals cleared. Added "daily making" criteria.
Working through the List - Progress.
Much Mental Processing - Thinking through mental health issues.
Too Much Work - Burned out on work. No report.
Back to Meeee! - Work commitments ending, looking forward to focus on my own work.
Setting Strategic Horizons - Need for "singular focus" stronger than ever. Hypothesizing goal-less strategic planning strategy based on structured procrastination.
Progress in Four Phases - Warming up to meet my strategic horizon goals took time, but the systems of the past are proving useful in the present!