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Behind the Scenes: The “Drive" Edition
Fair warning: I say "I" a lot in this post, given that it's a behind the scenes post. If you're not into that sort of thing, feel free to move on.
My posting frequency has been fairly erratic here for the past month or so, if you haven't been able to tell. I'll post four times in one week, then post once or twice, then four times the next week, then once or twice. While I've never had a rigid posting frequency, this is unusual. You'd think a guy that designed blog post planners and calendars would have his crap together, but alas, the cobbler has no shoes.
The backstory here is convoluted and I've been trying to piece it together, since I'm not a fan of just throwing random lists up about what's been going on. The short story is that I've been going through a fairly intense period of change, as well as doing a lot of work. The long story is what follows.
Wearing New Hats — And They Still Itch
As some of you know, Angela (my wife) is finishing up her dissertation, and we're down to crunch time. I've been in a support role off and on since April, and most of the time whether I'm off or on depends on things that are largely out of both of our control. Alongside doing for Angela what I do for my clients, I've also been tackling more household responsibilities. This has been a challenge for both of us because we historically have divided up labor and focus in effective ways, and we've both had to change expectations, communication strategies, and habits to make it work.
At the same time, I've been transitioning into being out of my command position in the Guard. I went from having urgent things to respond to almost every day to having...nothing. A few weeks of floundering ensued as I realized how much my workflow was built around that. It didn't really reach fruition, though, until earlier last month when a bit of melancholy hit me.
I couldn't figure out what it was. Clients were coming in — check. I still had a ton of interests and ideas to write about — check. The blog was growing — check. What was going on?
For the first time that I could remember in my adult life, I was bored. I developed the most fortunate of first world problems in that I had more time on my hands than I needed to do everything I had to do, and also for the first time in my life, I had the wisdom to see that and not feel that time up with a bunch of other busyness.
I was talking to Angela about this a few weeks ago and another realization hit me: this is the first time in my life that my summer isn't defined by school. I'm not teaching, and in the status I'm in right now, the semesters coming and going are pretty much meaningless to me. I don't have to try to cram fun stuff into the summer. But since I don't have to fit it all in the summer, when do I do it?
On the Other Side of Time Management Is...Time Ownership
The overwhelming theme here is about me learning to use the time I do have wisely rather than trying to manage the time I don't have. The first shock to my system came when I started doing coaching full-time, where I went from about 30% time ownership to about 70%. My Guard responsibilities subsiding took that 70% to about 95%. You'd be surprised how much difference that last 25% makes.
When you don't have the resources you need, your choices are fairly straightforward since most of them are based on some constraint or necessity in one way or the other. But once you do have the resources you need, choices become much harder because you don't have those constraints. As I said earlier, this is all new to me.
I was talking to a friend about how fortunate I've been to get to the point where I can have such "problems." That's not really being fair, though, since the reality is that I've worked my ass off and have taken a lot of risks to get to this point. Granted, I've enjoyed a lot of the work and I get to interact with some of the coolest people imaginable, but at rock bottom, it hasn't been easy and it hasn't been handed to me.
This time four years ago, I was working my ass off in Kuwait as a logistics staff officer; time ownership was 0%. Three years ago, I was working full-time for the Guard (planning a Joint Force exercise): time ownership was about 30%. Two years ago, I had taken command while teaching and researching at the University; time ownership was about 20%. A year ago, I had made some progress on figuring out how to manage being an officer and an academic; time ownership was about 50%. (In case you're wondering how I got back to 30% — I took a new full-time job where I was required to be somewhere eight hours a day.)
Throughout all of this has been a constant quest to do less of what I didn't want to do and more of what I did want to do. When I got what I wanted, I simply didn't know what to do with myself.
I should be clear about what I mean about time ownership, lest people wonder why I'm not in the Cayman Islands hearing the waves crash against the shore. I simply mean that how I spend my time is up to me, not that I don't have things to do. I should also be clear that owning my time is not equivalent with me having enough money to do whatever I want to do. But therein lies the dangerous lure of entrepreneurship: you can convert time to money if you figure out how to and, most importantly, do it.
Time for Some Meaningful Productivity!! (Go Go Gadget MonkeyBrain!)
And it's that doing bit that I've been working earnestly on. Whereas my posting frequency has been erratic, my writing frequency, and the amount I write, has increased. What you've seen on the blog is about a third of what I've been writing, depending on which week it's been; on the weeks I posted four times, it's been about 1/2 — on the weeks you haven't seen much, it's been about a quarter.
In the "down time" that I've reclaimed, I've been doing a lot of playing with my workflow. We redid our IT infrastructure since our workflow changed dramatically, and a week of screwing around off and on with computers ensued. I started writing longhand (I have stuff to post about this) and found that I was more effective at writing some kinds of blog posts by long-hand drafting, but other kinds of blog posts were more difficult to write. After I got the computers all set up, I switched back to writing on a laptop, but then content aggregation became an annoyance. Things are about set up correctly now.
I confirmed (again) a phenomenon about my own creativity (which applies fairly universally) — the more I create, the more I create. If I sit down to write one blog post, it'll fork into two or three. One design spawns two others. And so on.
So, while ramping up my own productivity, I've been trying to figure out what the right frequency of posting is for me. I could do the shorter posts every day, and while they tend to do better traffic and comment-wise, they also aren't as fulfilling to me, largely because I have a tendency to stick to shorter posts and don't write the stuff that I haven't quite figured out. I could also do one long post a week, but then I want to write more since I really like the conversations.
Amidst all of this is the fear that I'm adding to the noise. The problem here is that I have very little objective perspective about what will be good and what will be great. Tempering my urge to share and carry conversations is, on the one hand, the fear that it's not worth your time and, on the other hand, the feeling that I should be spending more time on the other big thing I'm working on.
Beyond Blog Posts
You know when people say "People have been asking me for this [product] for a long time, so finally, by popular demand, here it is!" There are eight ways from Sunday to say it, but the basic idea is that the person is claiming that someone asked them to write down their great ideas. I hate when people pull such ploys. Ick.
Yet I find myself in the position that people really are asking me to write an ebook, a book, or something that condenses a bunch of the ideas here on the blog into a cohesive product. And the past few months of reflection, coaching, and writing have made some things gel for me to the point that I could do this.
The past year of direct work in this area has been akin to finding one puzzle piece at a time, sharing it with you, and then digging to find another piece. Those pieces are starting to come together as a cohesive whole, or, to be more honest with where I am today, parts of the picture are clumping together. I don't have enough of it together to tell whether I'm dealing with one product or two, but it's a lovely synthesis of ideas that's coming together in a picture that's changing the way I think. I like what I've done thus far, and that says a lot.
We're in the Home Stretch
Angela submitted the last bit of her dissertation to her adviser yesterday and we're waiting on his commentary, but, as things go, the heavy writing component of her dissertation is done. It'll be in her committee's hands for the next few weeks, and she'll defend it on July 10th. A new chapter of our lives will begin after that's all said and done, but that chapter won't have a clean break, given that I still need to finish my dissertation. One hurdle at a time.
I'm making progress on this thing I'm writing, although saying it's steady would be a stretch. It comes to me about 10 pages at a time, followed by a few days of me playing hide-and-go-seek with the ideas. I'm mostly okay with this — I'm familiar with the process since I coach others through it all the time — but I'm also looking forward to having something to share with you.
Since I don't have anything else interesting to add, I'll close by saying how much I appreciate your continued support and patience as we bring some of these projects to a close. Thank you.
Oh, and "Drive" refers to the song that stuck out in my mind when I started writing this post. Let's end with a video, shall we?