Now that the New Year’s post frenzy has started to calm down, I’ve decided to add my own to the mix! Just kidding.
The fall is been a time for introspection for me, as I think about where I want to take this blog. I still very much believe in this mission, but I have also felt inspired by topics that wouldn’t fit on this blog lately. There are other things that I have to say. I’ve struggled whether I should have a personal blog where talk about a large range of topics or a more targeted blog that has a clear mission and way I seek to help people. I had initially started with the latter, because I think it’s easier to commit and evaluate progress. It’s easier for people to understand, and a little less egotistical. I committed to three months of posts minimum. And I did it! It was great.
As an aside, I highly recommend setting 90 day goals. Setting goals in 90 day increments has worked well for me. I feel like many blogs and articles are talking about this idea these days. The idea is that, instead of setting the five your goals are three or goals—although I do still have those—90 days seems like enough time for me to get something sizable done, but not so much time that I don’t need to get started right away or that it’s overwhelming. It’s a nice tension between urgency and practicality, with a long enough time frame that life won’t constantly get in the way. At least most quarters.
So from June to October I had a great time posting weekly on this blog, and I learned a lot. One thing that I learned was how much time it took! I didn’t expect it to be fast. But I seem to take longer than a lot of other people. Part of this may be that I hold writing to a high visual standard as well, and want the article to be illustrated and formatted and easily read. I know it doesn’t take this much time for everyone, but it does for some. For me personally, I went through a couple of phases of writing an article:
Drafting the article was simple notes and bullets, a little more than an outline with a few key lines or external work I want to reference
Filling out the article and fleshing out the interesting details and making it interesting and readable. Actually looking up relevant research / other work.
Proofreading and revising the article, which sometimes involved shifting sections around, adding titles, formatting, images. Images took a surprising amount of time! I really care about them, and I want to have a bunch, just because I know I enjoy that. But sometimes it took almost double the time!
Posting and sharing the article.
And if I shared said article via email as well, that was another chunk of time. Some people do automatic posting that emails people each time they post, and he didn’t want to do this because it feels impersonal to me. But it might be the only way to make it manageable and fit it into my schedule at all!
I read some on how to write faster, and tried some techniques, but mostly the recommendations were: Write listicles. Which were fun, but you can’t do ALL that until it gets boring. And I think my most popular posts so far have NOT been those. Curation is a great service, but I think people want you to add your voice and take sometimes too. Or at least, I don’t want to publish a blog without some of that.
Another interesting thing I learned was that I could not really rush the phases of writing. Each one of those first three steps had to happen on a separate day. I needed time between them to make sense of it all and to be able to see the article clearly. And to have enough distance to know if what I was doing was any good. I’m going to try to write this article all in one sitting, but I’m not sure how that’s going to go. = ) (Note: this post took one editing pass right after, but I bet there are some typos.)
Once October came around, a lot changed. Some new things entered the pictures that made me stop and think. I had reached my goal of trying to write consistently on the blog. At the beginning of October, I was got the opportunity to do my first professional talk, a lightning speech at Midwest UX on virtual reality That was awesome and allowed me to really deep dive into a topic that I love. (And yet, not something I’ve mentioned much here, huh? Keep that in mind as you read forward.) I did a lot of research writing and speaking on this with people, but it didn’t really seem to tie into the mission here. I kept wanting to intertwine the two, but then they also just seemed very separate.
During this time, I also wrote about how I lost a childhood friend in a sudden accident. That along with some other planning that I was doing made me really sit back and think about how I was spending my time and what I should most be spending it on. I have loved sharing some of the things that I’ve learned on this blog with you, but at the same time there are things that I love more that I was finding myself not doing to meet my commitment of posting every week.
I considered posting monthly, but I think doing that consistently can be hard as well, since you don’t get into a rhythm of knowing that on Monday I do this, on Tuesday I do that, on Wednesday I do that. And that was the kind of rhythm I was in. Daily I had some part of the blog that I was working on for at least an hour. Since I’m working as a consultant now, and getting paid by the hour, the value of that time becomes very clear. It was still awesome to see people reading this and feel like I was making a difference. And it also felt good to just get off my chest some of the things I’ve been thinking about for such a long time. And I do still have a more to say.
On the other hand, I did this interesting exercise. Try it with me. C’mon. JUST TRY IT! It won’t take hardly anytime. (Exercise courtesy of Chase Reeves of FIzzle.)
Write down 25 things you want to achieve in the next five years. Seriously, do this before you read the next step. DO IT. 25 things. Or even 10, just some different things you’re hoping to achieve.
OK, did you really do it? OK, NOW—take the top 5 most important those things. Prioritize them. So pick which things would mean the most to you to have done it five years from now, first and then second and third, for the top five. Did you really do it? OK. Proceed.
Now here is where the tricky part comes in. Take the other 20 things on the list. Now—consider those your AVOID AT ALL COSTS list. In other words, even though you might have 25 wonderful things to do there, you should focus on your efforts on the first five first. Then once you achieve those, you can think about those other 20. They are the goals that distract you and keep you from achieving your important dreams and goals.
So did you do it? Here was my top five list:
- Lose 15 pounds +
- Finish revising my novel and send it to at least two agents.
- Release another game.
- Have another child.
Actually I only had four things on my list, because the other things just weren’t as important by comparison. Realistically, number two on that list is probably not ambitious enough for five year goal. It should probably have been “Publish the damn book.” ;-]
So what I took away from this exercise was that I really wanted to work on my health, and that I really wanted to create things that entertain people and make a difference for them. I consider games and novels basically the same, vehicles that can entertain you, inspire you, excite you, relax you, and—when they’re really, really good—change your life. Different mediums, but related, like painting and drawing. This part of myself has always called to me, and I believe that following that kind of calling is how we each find our own personal greatness.
At the same time, there’s a practical side of me—an engineer, a problem solver. And the artist in me has done well by that other side. The practical side of me has been good at providing money and a stable life, and it’s also helpful to rein in the emotional roller coaster that is being creative. Having the frameworks of a designer and an engineer to apply to writing books and designing interactive experiences has helped keep me sane, I think, and make me a lot more productive.
That practical side of me also has a lot of power to help people. I know that as a designer, I can solve problems that a lot of other people can’t (who aren’t designers). In writing this blog, I can help boost that signal by helping other designers be even more effective on their teams. So the problem solver in me, the fixer, loves helping other people out with my technical skills.
But there’s a deeper part of me, a part that demands something more.
So I have yet to completely decide how this will influence the direction of this blog. My current thought is to broaden the scope of this blog so that it includes the things that interest me beyond being an effective designer and working better with others, to be more of a personal blog also talks about games, writing, and the things that are actually in many ways more important to me personally.
And while it’s kind of hard to change, and admit that maybe I don’t want to do what I thought I wanted to do, at least not as much as I thought—I think ultimately it’s a good thing. It’s better to serve your highest goals and ambitions, than simply your momentum.
So here are some things you could think about in setting your own goals this New Year. You may discover that not meeting your New Years Resolution was actually a great thing to do. ;-]
- Try out that exercise above of writing down your goals, if you haven’t already
- Don’t be afraid to let us go let go of goals that don’t suit you anymore
- Look over any New Year’s resolutions that you might’ve made and allow yourself the freedom to admit that maybe you don’t really want to do some of them. Maybe you just think you ought to.
- And if you really, really do want them deep down in your soul—what can you do in the next 30 days, 90 days to make progress towards those goals?
Happy New Year to you and yours!