2018 Focus: Three Quarters Year Update

With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. I believe that by being selective about where I direct my energy, I can achieve results that are exponentially greater than if I split that energy across many different goals.

I detailed my 2018 focus here (read that first if you want more context). Here is how I’m progressing.

2018 Theme: First Principles Lifestyle

Another quarter of big decisions. After deciding where we wanted to live long-term earlier this year, I spent Q3 searching for my next job and evaluating a lot of very different options. In the end, a very tough decision came down to a number of first principles about what was most important to me. I will detail that decision more sometime soon.

2018 Challenge: Profile 12 Families (w/ Kids) Living Intentionally Different

I kicked off my first two interviews in the 3rd quarter of the year. At this point I would need to average one per week to complete this challenge by the end of the year. While that could happen, I probably wouldn’t be happy with the quality of it. What is more likely is that I will get started and depending on how much I enjoy it, either take a low score or carry this challenge into next year a bit.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is the format. An e-book was my first idea, but now I’m leaning more towards using this content to build an online community of sorts. I think there are a lot of people that would be interested in this content, but also interested in connecting with other people and getting advice about how to execute on the ideas they are reading about.

Having built online content hubs and communities before, I know there is a lot of value in them once you can get them spinning the right way, but that initial work is really hard.

2018 Habit: Daily Devotions

For Q3 my bar raised from 4 days a week to 5. Meanwhile I only completed this habit 36 times as compared to 37 the prior quarter. That means that I plateaued in the face of a rising goal, meaning my results are overall worse. I only completed the target number in 3 of the 13 weeks as opposed to 7 last quarter and 9 the previous.

Another change I noticed last quarter is that I only practiced this habit in the morning 50% of the time, as opposed to 70% during the previous quarter. I’ve noted previously that I find the morning to be a more impactful time and so the fact that I haven’t been good about making time in the morning, before my progeny wake up, is having a major impact on quality and quantity.

As a result of that analysis, I am going to call an audible and change my target number this quarter in order to encourage the originally-intended long term behavior, in light of new data from the past 9 months. Instead of increasing the target number to 6 a week, I am going to drop it back to 4. I intend to be able to complete that more than the 9/13 I did in Q2, which would put me at around 50 completed days for the quarter, which is a 50% increase over where I started in Q1. I am also going to look to have >75% of those be in the morning – this is a new qualitative measure I’m adding for effectiveness sake.

2018 Exemplar: John Muir

After maxing out the renewal limit of the local library twice and only getting to page 27 in John Muir’s biography, I’ve realized I’m probably not going to finish it this year. As a result, I’ve changed course. I’m instead going to learn about him through a few documentaries.

I’ve been concerned that my exemplar item was devolving into ‘read a biography about this person’ and that I wasn’t doing well at that anyways, so I’ve decided to put some more structure around the practice. I’ve come up with a set of questions to help me understand what motivated that person and what practices they put in place to help them be successful at what they achieved. The template also includes an actionable item where I put one of their practices in motion and evaluate how it went.

I am already hard at work on completing this year’s Exemplar Review for John Muir based on information from some videos put together by PBS & the U.S. National Park Service. I hope this new format will prove more effective and also allow me to broaden the range of who I can chose as an exemplar.

2018 Focus: Half Year Update

With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. I believe that by being selective about where I direct my energy, I can achieve results that are exponentially greater than if I split that energy across many different goals.

I detailed my 2018 focus here (read that first if you want more context). Here is how I’m progressing.

2018 Theme: First Principles Lifestyle

Similar to my update from last quarter – I feel like this theme remains very relevant to our effort for the year, even if I haven’t made much progress on the specific named items below. Having decided on where to live, and now evaluating how we want our family to earn an income, has brought us back again and again to first principles.

2018 Challenge: Profile 12 Families (w/ Kids) Living Intentionally Different

No progress.

I feel bad about this but it just hasn’t ever been the most important thing on my list during a working block, nor has it seemed fun during a free block. Something to think about in creating future challenges. I think my physical challenges worked so well because they inherently were fun and also got me away from my computer, which I already spend enough time in front of to earn an income.

2018 Habit: Daily Devotions

For Q2 my bar raised from 3 days a week to 4. Because of that I regressed to only hitting 7 of the 13 weeks, as opposed to 9 in Q1. But, because the bar was higher, I actually hit 37 days in the quarter which is more than the 33 from Q1. So while I didn’t keep pace with the increase in my goal, I did objectively increase.

Of note, on no week did I complete more than the goal of 4, meaning, once again, things will get more difficult this upcoming quarter when the goal increases to 5 per week.

One thing I noticed this quarter was that on 3 of my 6 missed weeks, it was apparent before Saturday that I would miss the week, there simply weren’t enough days left to get to 4. In those weeks I still could have gotten one or two more days in, but I did not. This is one of the negative aspects of the weekly goal format, but I still think I like it better than the yearly average approach I took to this type of habit previously.

I am concerned that as the number of the goal increases to five and eventually six, it is going to become apparent even earlier in the week, in some cases, that I will miss. In order to counteract this, I am also going to look at the raw quarterly total, so that I have some incentive to keep up the habit at the end of the week on weeks that won’t be able to hit the goal.

On the qualitative side, I started tracking whether I had my devotion time in the morning or evening each day. On 70%+ of the days I was able to do it in the morning – thanks largely to my youngest waking up early. I got in the habit of spending that time before the older children wake up this way which goes well with a note I shared in my last quarter update that I find the morning a much more effective time than the evening to have this devotion time.

2018 Exemplar: John Muir

Very little progress here. I started reading a biography on Muir, ran a race that crossed through a state park named after him and took advantage of camping, with my boys, in a National Park that his efforts helped create.

I had to return biography to the library on account of hitting the maximum renewal limit of ‘how is it taking you this long to read this book – weeks’. I’m next on the list to get it again though, hopefully I’m a bit faster this time.

2018 Focus: Quarter Year Update

With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. I believe that by being selective about where I direct my energy, I can achieve results that are exponentially greater than if I split that energy across many different goals.

I detailed my 2018 focus here (read that first if you want more context). Here is how I’m progressing.

2018 Theme: First Principles Lifestyle

This theme fits nicely with the goal I had set for the second half of my sabbath year (Jan-July) – evaluating the options for our life. This was by design. As such we have put a lot of energy into the theme outside of the specific named challenge, habit and exemplar. This means that I’ve done less with those than I would have wanted, but still stayed on theme.

To touch on three items from the theme.

  1. Earlier in the year I made a really difficult decision between two jobs that presented very different lifestyles. Doing that forced me to think hard about what I valued, to ask my wife to do the same and for us to make a decision together. This was a fruitful exercise because beyond helping with this one decision, it helped direct our focus away from a whole swath of things that are similar or even farther in a direction we don’t wish to be heading.
  2. On top of the above decision, we’ve been spending a lot of time evaluating neighborhoods. Over the course of our marriage we’ve lived in the middle of the most expensive city in America, in the city-suburb of another, in a small town and now we are in what is best described as a bedroom community. We’ve learned to love things about all of those but unfortunately our favorite parts are often in direct conflict – we love the outside space on the farm, but it is 10 miles to the nearest store, good luck not having a car. By spending a few hours at a time in various neighborhoods, looking at them with a critical eye, we feel we’re narrowing in on the features of a place where we can thrive.
  3. How I earn an income and how we structure our days has been an item I’ve been thinking a lot about. I’ve held an ideal in my head for a while of running a business that my whole family could be involved in. The right type of business could get the kids involved, which would teach them hard work, give them real world context a classroom can’t, give us flexibility, allow us to be together more and leave our family with an asset that was as valuable as we made it. The trouble is, our family might not be a great fit for that kind of model. Our kids are all really young and on the wild side, I can’t really focus when they are around and my potential earnings are simply higher in certain jobs than they could be in any sort of family business. Going back to work recently has helped me realize this. While this feels like it closes some doors, perhaps it is just temporarily.

Now for the named items.

2018 Challenge: Profile 12 Families (w/ Kids) Living Intentionally Different

I haven’t done very much at all on my challenge for the year yet. I brainstormed about a dozen different types of families I’d be interested in speaking to; a car-free family, a nomadic family, etc. and for a few of them I put some names down. I’ve yet to contact anyone, start interviewing, write the profiles or figure out where I will host them. I am behind the ball on this one.

2018 Habit: Daily Devotions

The habit item of my yearly focus used to be the one I was most likely to fall short on. Last year I changed the way I did things and the results have continued to be very effective.

For the first quarter of the year, I needed to have completed three devotion times per week for it to have been a success. This was the case for 9 of the 13 weeks. A pretty decent start.

Of note, on no week did I complete more than 3, meaning things will get more difficult in the second quarter of the year when it will take four devotion times per week to be counted a success.

To highlight my procrastination, here is a chart showing the days of the week and how many times I had a devotion time on each. Friday is usually the day I realize I have zero for the week and need to hit all three remaining days in order for the week to count. You might notice, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are a bit lower than the days next to them – those are usually the days I run and so am more time crunched.

One thing I noticed is a clear tension in timing of the ideal time for the impact and the ideal time for my schedule. I much prefer the impact of doing devotion time in the morning – it starts my day off better and my mind is not yet full of the days worries so I can really focus. The trouble is that if I don’t wake up early, I will get interrupted by rising children before I am finished. On the flip side, doing devotion time at night works really well with my schedule. It is a good way to calm down before going to sleep and I rarely get interrupted. Balancing these two factors is something I want to keep an eye on in the coming year, so I am going to start recording am/pm instead of just an ‘x’ on my tracker.

2018 Exemplar: John Muir

I have yet to do much here. A library book search turned up some great collections of Muir’s essays, and autobiography and even an illustrated kids book. I read the latter to my boys one night and put a bookmark into the former. I will need to do more in the coming months. I do have a camping trip to a national park planned as well as a run that passes through Muir Woods.