Groundhog Day Resolutions - April 2019

Here's how March's GHD goals went:

March's Primary Goals

1. Run a total of 18 miles

I expected to be a little sort from playing football, but ended up with some heavier injuries that impacted my running.

Important lesson learned - don't play sports for a week or two before race day.

2. Continue bodyweight exercises and track my workouts

I reduced my workout to once a week whilst injured but didn't track anything. To be honest I didn't really know what to track, although that's not a particularly good reason not to do it.

3. Release a playable game

Total failure here.

4. Write every week

I wrote 5 short notes for sodaware.sdf.org, along with a brief post-mortem for Tiny Tactics. A small victory.

Primary goals for April

1. Put my goals somewhere visible

A big contributor to March's failure (and February's too) was that my goals aren't in a system that I regularly see. Ideally I'd see them during my weekly review, and probably more often than that. I'd like to set up a system to make sure they don't get pushed aside.

2. Research half marathon running plans

There are 6 months until race day. I'd like to have a better plan in place than just "run a few times a week".

3. Publish a new post on this site once a week

Writing helped a little in March, so I'd like to continue the streak.

4. Release a project

There are 12 "release something" goals on my other goals list. I need to start actually checking them off if I want to get them all done this year.

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Groundhog Day Resolutions - March 2019

February was not great. It wasn't a total bust, but compared to January it was a bit of a downer.

Here's a rundown of February's goals:

February's Primary Goals

1. Run a total of 20 miles

I managed just over 16.5 miles before suffering from some minor knee pain. It wasn't too serious, but I didn't want to chance doing more damage so I took a few days off. The cold weather didn't help either.

Even though I'm calling this a fail, I was pleased with how everything went. My longest run was 3.4 miles (nonstop), which isn't bad considering I could only manage 2 minutes straight in August.

2. Add bodyweight training to my running workouts

I added bodyweight exercises once a week. I didn't track these workouts so I couldn't really measure any improvements. Even the lowest level exercises were quite difficult at first, although things did get easier after a few weeks.

It's definitely something I want to keep doing.

3. Release a prototype of Tiny Tactics

Not even close on this one.

I only worked for around 10 hours over the course of the month. I got a very basic map working along with some gameplay elements (mostly menus), but nothing even remotely playable.

At this point I'm not sure I can turn things around in time to get a demo released. I may end up releasing a tiny game in March just to get something positive done.

4. Write 1,000 words of my book

This one is 50/50. I only wrote around 500 words in February, but I spent some time researching the topic in more depth. I have a pretty good idea of how I want to structure the book and what I want to cover. More importantly, I have a better idea of the stuff I don't want to write about.

5. Finish setting up my GTD system

There's still a small pile of things left to process, but I got a basic system up and running. My inbox was finally emptied after two years, so I can't call this anything but a success.

February's Secondary Goals

1. Finish adding items to my "other goals" list

Given how badly February went, I think this list is long enough for now.

2. Release IFTTT version of Garlic Spy

This isn't a project that's particularly important to me, but I wanted to experiment with Ruby on Rails and this seemed like a good start.

I built a few bits and pieces with ActiveJob, set up integration with IFTTT and tidied up the deployment process. There's always more to do, but I'm happy with what I managed to get done.

3. Add new backend to crypto-ticker-mode

I started writing a basic API layer but never got around to finishing or integrating it.

That brings February to a 50% success rate. Overall it was a pretty disappointing month. Worse still, it's had a bit of hangover effect into March. Even though I'm a week into the month I haven't really been productive.

Primary goals for March

1. Run a total of 18 miles

Football season starts this month, so I'll be down to running twice a week whilst until I adapt. 18 miles gives me a little leeway to adjust distances depending on injuries and soreness. At this point I'm still working on building a base, and I won't start adding more miles until May or June.

2. Continue bodyweight exercises and track my workouts

Tracking exercises (usually) encourages me to exercise more. I like to see how I'm progressing, so for March I want to create a basic system to track my bodyweight workouts. The paid tier of fitloop comes with tracking, but I may end up just using a spreadsheet or text file.

3. Release a playable game

This may be Tiny Tactics, or it might end up being something totally different. Either way I'd like to get something released so I have a win, no matter how small.

4. Write every week

I wrote a lot in January and got a lot done. I stopped writing last month to give myself more time to spend on my goals and ended up getting less done.

I'm not sure if writing helps or not, so for March I'd like to test it and see what happens.

I'm not planning any secondary goals for March. I'm not sure if I planned too much to achieve, or if having such varied plans made it difficult to focus. I tend to work on side projects when the mood takes me, so having a schedule of which ones need completing didn't really fit in with that.

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Groundhog Day Resolutions - February 2019

The Year Progress account on Twitter has kept me focused on my goals by reminding me of how much time has elapsed this year. Unfortunately it has also terrified me at how quickly the year is progressing.

Here's how my January goals went:

January's Primary Goals

1. Run a total of 15 miles

Just made this one.

I play soccer on weekends and picked up a couple of knocks that kept me from running as much as I wanted. The cold weather didn't exactly motivate me either.

2. Decide on my first game for #1GAM

Tiny Tactics will be my first game of 2019.

3. Start planning my ebook

The most neglected of the three, but I made a rough outline of what I want to cover and started collecting material.

January's Secondary Goals

1. Finish the hub page

Adding recent runs and mileage totals to the half marathon page were my priority here, and I got both of those completed. I also added a word counter and some basic stats to the ebook page.

I would have liked to have spent more time on the secondary goals page, but I did set up a better system for adding and modifying goals on it.

Primary goals for February

1. Run a total of 20 miles

I've set myself 3 targets for my half marathon goal. Finishing the race is my number one, and is really the only thing I absolutely want to achieve. I also set two finish time goals: 3 hours and 2:30 hours.

3 hours will be difficult for me, but is reasonable. A 13:45 pace will give a finish time of 3 hours, and my current pace (which includes walking) is usually under that.

2:30 is my moonshot goal. It's not something I think I can achieve without training hard. I'd need a pace of 11:25 to achieve it, and my current fastest pace for short runs is about a minute off that.

At the moment I'm trying to build a base without injuring myself, so I'm increasing my total distance slowly.

2. Add bodyweight training to my running workouts

Muscle strength and good posture will be important as the race goes on, so I want to incorporate some bodyweight exercises into my routine.

I used Fitloop a couple of years ago. It recently became a paid service, although the routines and videos are available for free. For February I'll be adding the recommended routine to my weekly regime.

3. Release a prototype of Tiny Tactics

Having three months to create a game is only useful if I actually take advantage of the extra time. I spent over 70 hours creating Mini Shinobi in a single month. So far I've spent less than 5 hours on Tiny Tactics.

When March rolls around I want to have something playable, no matter how basic it is.

4. Write 1,000 words of my book

Writing is not a strength of mine, so 1,000 words seems like a good starting point.

5. Finish setting up my GTD system

I've been getting back into GTD the last few weeks. So far I've collected all of my papers and notes, and I'm now beginning the "processing" stage of the initial setup. I'd like to have everything processed and organized by March.

Secondary goals for February

1. Finish adding items to my "other goals" list

I'm expecting some new (and old) ideas to come up during my GTD processing stage. I'd like to add the more important ones to my "other goals" list for 2019.

2. Release IFTTT version of Garlic Spy

This isn't something I'm particularly invested in, but there are bits of it I want to use for other projects. It's been sat on my hard drive for nearly a year now without much progress, so I'd like to get it finished up and released by the end of February.

3. Add new backend to crypto-ticker-mode

crypto-ticker-mode is the first proper Emacs extension I ever wrote. It used to fetch data from cryptsy, but that site closed a long time ago so it needs a new backend creating.

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GTD Step 1: Capturing

Capturing is the "IN" part of the GTD methodology. It's how all of the external sources of information get funneled into a single entry point so they can be processed. Unlike later stages, capturing can (and should) take place at any time.

For collecting to be useful, it has to be part of a system where all of the inputs are processed (step 2 of GTD). I find it works best when I know I've set aside time to go through everything. Otherwise it's just filling up my in tray for no good reason.

An initial capture should be carried out before starting to use GTD on a regular basis. This involves capturing anything that is not currently in the system.

Which is everything.

Initial capture

This part was really tough for me. I have a bad habit of keeping notes on my desk and I didn't want to lose them. Even though I knew they would be going into a single place put me off collecting everything for a while.

Seeing the pile grow made things even worse. Each new item made it look like an insurmountable mountain of work that would never be processed.

Here are a few things I collected during this stage:

  • Sealed bills that I paid online and never opened
  • Letters
  • Receipts I saved for when I file taxes
  • Greetings cards
  • Notebooks
  • Paper folders (some empty, some not)
  • USB sticks
  • Tickets and programs from events
  • Notes for whatever I was working on at the time. Some were from projects I finished months ago. Most of what I collected fell into this category, and ranged from full sheets of paper to post-it notes.
  • Stuff that could go straight in the trash (empty envelopes, grocery store receipts from 2016 etc.)

I didn't count everything so it's hard to say just how much there was, but it ended up being a pretty large pile. I'd estimate there were over 1,000 individual items (pieces of paper, notecards etc) to process. Some of those items also have multiple items written on them.

That's not even including my email inbox, which currently sits at around 3,000 emails.

Performing a "mind sweep" is also part of the collection phase. The idea is to get your thoughts out of your mind and onto paper so that they can be processed. The GTD website has a list of things to read through to see if they spark any ideas.

Due to the amount of stuff I'd already collected, I decided to perform a mind sweep after the initial processing stage. Sitting down for an hour to think about everything I have to do didn't sound too appealing when there was already a huge stack of things to go through.

With collection done, it's onto step 2: processing!

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Getting back to Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done (GTD) is one of those things I keep meaning to get back into but never really get around to. I used it for a couple of years when I was studying at university and it was a huge help. I never reached the "mind like water" level, but it helped me keep track of most of what was going on.

Lately I've been feeling a little too disorganized. There's a growing mountain of things I wanted to do and haven't, there are incomplete projects lying around and I've missed deadlines.

It's time to get things done.

A little bit about GTD

GTD centers around three important things:

  1. A well-defined process for handling incoming tasks
  2. A trusted system for organizing them
  3. A regular review for maintaining things

Sounds reasonable when it's written down, but what does it actually mean in the real world?

My daily routine

During a regular day I usually end up with one or more of the following:

  • Support tickets from clients. Some urgent, some not-so-urgent.
  • Chat messages asking for more immediate issues. Or just to ask questions.
  • Meeting requests.
  • Regular mail (usually bills).
  • Emails asking questions, requesting estimates, giving feedback or any other number of things.
  • Social messages (think "any plans for the weekend?")

And this list doesn't even include those random "oh yeah, I need to get X done" or "I really should fix that" thoughts that crop up during the day.

GTD calls these open loops.

If I let all of these pull me as soon as they come in, nothing gets done. But I also can't remember everything. A big source of stress for me is having to remind myself of what I should be doing and what important things I can't forget.

This is where the well-defined process and trusted system come in.

Without a process to sort things into the correct buckets, everything ends up going straight on the "must do now" pile. Without a system of organization that I know I'll use, I'll constantly worry about forgetting to do things.

Getting started

GTD breaks down into three stages:

  1. Capturing – getting things out of the brain and into a system.
  2. Processing – deciding on what to do with every single open loop.
  3. Reviewing – looking over everything tracked in the system and making sure nothing is left out.

The initial round can be extremely time consuming (and a little intimidating). Capturing every single open loop, processing them and storing them in the appropriate places takes time and patience.

It gets easier with experience.

I'm under no illusions that GTD is a perfect system or that it will solve every problem. I will probably never reach inbox zero or a mind like water, but even a limited implementation cuts down on some of the background noise in my mind.

This week I'm starting on the first step - capturing everything.

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