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Monthly review: August 2014

I wrote last month that in August, I was probably going to:

  • Work more, since my clients need extra help: Yup, happened!
  • Work on project F3, too: Yup, wrapped up
  • Improve my writing techniques (outlines, snippets, etc.): Nope, focused on working
  • Celebrate another year, yay: Yup!

Next month, I’m going to:

  • Do more consulting (big milestone!)
  • Help with Hacklab move

Here’s what I wrote about last month:

Lots of drawing!

  1. 2014.08.12 Dealing with physical pain – #philosophy
  2. 2014.08.12 Exercise notes – #exercise
  3. 2014.08.12 How I program – #consulting #programming #geek
  4. 2014.08.12 When Neko meows – #cat
  5. 2014.08.13 Call no man happy until he is dead – #philosophy
  6. 2014.08.13 Discretionary work – #consulting
  7. 2014.08.13 Learning more about drawing – #drawing
  8. 2014.08.13 Leia traced from picture
  9. 2014.08.13 Nudging the balance toward work – #experiment #consulting
  10. 2014.08.13 To know something’s distinctiveness – #philosophy
  11. 2014.08.15 Luke
  12. 2014.08.17 Content marketing for Hacklab
  13. 2014.08.17 Neko
  14. 2014.08.18 So if I’m going on a consulting sprint for 2
  15. 2014.08.18 What am I really postponing or giving up – #experiment #business #consulting
  16. 2014.08.20 Evening routines
  17. 2014.08.20 Routines
  18. 2014.08.23 Closure
  19. 2014.08.23 So, what’s next
  20. 2014.08.24 Decision – sketchbook
  21. 2014.08.24 Easier way of tracking upgrade decisions and brand preferences for infrequent purchases
  22. 2014.08.26 Thinking about how I can build on my strengths
  23. 2014.08.27 Why do the extra consulting – #experiment #business #consulting
  24. 2014.08.28 Remembering things with my blog
  25. 2014.08.28 What to do during open days – #leisure #experiment
  26. 2014.08.29 Becoming a better reader
  27. 2014.08.29 Considering the time after the experiment
  28. 2014.08.29 Ends and extents – #my-learning
  29. 2014.08.29 Possible personal projects
  30. 2014.08.29 Re-planning my life – #experiment
  31. 2014.08.29 Tweaking my experiment
  32. 2014.08.29 What do I mean by owning more of my brain – #experiment
  33. 2014.08.30 On discipline, or alternatives to
  34. 2014.08.30 Open loops

Gardening update: Reviewing my goals for this year

It’s September, which means fall will be here soon. Time for a brief review of my gardening plans for 2014, so I can squeeze in any last-minute learning I need. Here’s what I drew in November last year and May this year:

2013-11-08 More garden plans for 2014

2013-11-08 More garden plans for 2014

2014-05-23 Gardening - Things to learn more about or try

2014-05-23 Gardening – Things to learn more about or try

I got all our seedlings from the plant shop a few blocks away. The seedlings grew well, and dividing them up worked. Some of our bitter melon plants died, though. (Damping off?)

For the plants I started from seed, I planted in mostly neat rows this time and I watered frequently, so it was (mostly) easy to tell which ones were weeds and which ones were the ones I wanted. We found a spot in our bedroom window that might accommodate a few small plants during the winter and Hacklab has a space with a skylight, so I might be able to grow tomatoes and bitter melon from seed next season.

Regular watering worked well in spring and early summer, but I fell out of the habit with the rains and the heat. Then the garden got straggly and overgrown, so it wasn’t as much fun to maintain. I pulled up the dying plants and put in some peas and beans. We’ll see how far those get before the winter sets in.2014-09-01 15.58.27

Still planting things I don’t end up eating. I had salad for a while, and then stopped when the leaves got somewhat sluggy and insect-infested. Next time, I should just pull up the plants and start again.

Tried squashes. The zucchini, bitter melon, and winter melon produced lots of leaves and flowers, but weren’t as productive as rumoured. We’ll keep trying. We did get one zucchini out of it, though. (Whee!) The Internet says you can cook the squash flowers, so we might try that towards the end of the season.

The bright spots: peas and cherry tomatoes were popular, as always. =) Yum! The tomato plants were quite prolific this year. Last year, we got hardly anything. Hooray for cherry tomatoes! We also got a few handfuls of blueberries from the bushes too.

Weekly review: Week ending September 5, 2014

Lots of work and helping out at Hacklab. =) Oh, and Canadian citizenship, yay! It didn’t feel like I got that much sleep this week, but my numbers say I did. Hmm.

Blog posts


Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (54.4h – 32%)
    • Earn (39.4h – 72% of Business)
      • Doublecheck setInterval vs setTimeout, whoops
      • E1: Demo
      • E1: Work on polls
      • Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
    • Build (4.4h – 8% of Business)
      • Drawing (2.0h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (2.4h)
        • Check on Brock Health claim
        • Order TurboTax
        • File payroll return
      • Upgrade webserver
    • Connect (10.5h – 19% of Business)
      • Send Helpouts messages
      • Help with Helpouts
  • Relationships (10.7h – 6%)
    • Cook at Hacklab?
    • Follow up with Eric re cleaning, kitchen
    • Help with Hacklab kitchen
    • Pick up dishwasher and drop it off at Hacklab
    • Talk to my mom regarding dividends
    • Work on project K
  • Discretionary – Productive (5.2h – 3%)
    • Emacs (2.0h – 1% of all)
      • Review Emacs Chat transcript
    • Apply for Ontario photo ID
    • Prepare papers for citizenship ceremony
    • Attend citizenship ceremony
    • Apply for cultural access pass
    • Back up phone
    • Clean up phone apps
    • Reflash phone
    • Sort out credit cards
    • Tidy up dying plants
    • Arrange for cheque
    • Ask two guarantors for passport
    • Get passport pictures
    • Pay Mastercard
    • Pick up cultural access pass from Front and Parliament
    • Writing (1.8h)
  • Discretionary – Play (3.7h – 2%)
  • Personal routines (22.0h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (11.4h – 6%)
  • Sleep (60.7h – 36% – average of 8.7 per day)

Doing more consulting

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been doing a lot more consulting than I originally planned. At this point, I had been thinking of keeping my twice-a-week schedule for a few months, and then tapering down to the equivalent of one day a week, and then eventually letting go of it entirely. That might still happen. In the meantime, though, my primary client needs some extra help. I still carve out time to work on my own stuff, but I’m willing to postpone some of the things I could be working on because I can see how a little extra work now could create a lot more value for the client. Besides, it’s a good excuse to learn more about some of the things I’m curious about.

2014-08-27 Why do the extra consulting - #experiment #business #consulting

2014-08-27 Why do the extra consulting – #experiment #business #consulting

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a little about testing out this pace and observing what I ended up swapping out. It turned out that Harold Jarche had been thinking about similar things, and we chatted a little about it over lunch. (Yay lunch with people!) I mentioned I’d been fleshing out in more details the little things that tend to get put aside if I make work my default activity (at least until I reach 40 hours a week), and why I’m willing to make the trade.

2014-08-18 What am I really postponing or giving up - #experiment #business #consulting

2014-08-18 What am I really postponing or giving up – #experiment #business #consulting

On reflection, though, I can still make time for many of these activities or experiences if I use my time smartly. For example, I can still get enough sleep if I’m careful about morning meetings and late-night browsing. I can still work from home from time to time, which leads to afternoon walks to libraries and more relaxed evenings. I still exercise, actually, so that’s not one of the trades (it only feels that way). Deep reading and a feeling of leisure usually requires one of those open weekdays when I don’t have any work planned, but I get something similar to that feeling if I spend some time reflecting on what I’ve learned and drawing my thoughts.

2014-08-18 So if I'm going on a consulting sprint for 2.5 months - #experiment #business #consulting

2014-08-18 So if I’m going on a consulting sprint for 2.5 months – #experiment #business #consulting

Time is never static. Your day shifts in response to different priorities and stimuli. The stuff I’m learning and doing now is a good use of the time, but it’s also good to be aware of the flip side–even if it’s idealized, even if in reality some of those open days might be spent mostly napping and skimming books and wandering around trying to figure out thoughts. Knowing what I might be missing helps me mitigate those opportunity costs and remind myself: Yes, I am deliberately postponing this part and dropping that part and scaling back that other part, but it’s for this reason, so I should make the most of that opportunity. Then I can remind myself to re-evaluate things at a certain point, so that this new balance doesn’t become too routine. Otherwise you get used to the way things are, and then you wonder what you ever did with so much time in the first place. =)

Planning ahead for experiments

Experimenting doesn’t have to be about coming up with conclusive answers. It can be about reducing uncertainty and increasing understanding. For example, compared to where I was at the beginning of this 5-year experiment with semi-retirement, I’m more comfortable with business. There are fewer unknowns in my life. No, actually–there are just as many unknowns, I think, but I feel more confident about handling them.

The original questions for this 5-year experiment were along these lines:

  • Would I be able to build a viable business that fit my goals and needs?
  • Would this kind of lifestyle be a good fit for me (and by extension, for us)?
  • Would I use the additional time well?

If life continues along its current path, I’m reasonably certain that the answers will be yes, yes, and yes. So I’ve been thinking: what other uncertainties do I want to explore? What other unknowns do I want to learn more about? Does it make sense to structure those as experiments as well?

2014-08-29 Considering the time after the experiment

2014-08-29 Considering the time after the experiment

Thinking of these things as experiments seems to work well for me. Not the high school sort of experiment where we dutifully rolled marbles down inclines or mixed various chemicals to note their reactions, but rather a time-bound trial that you prepare for, observe, learn from, and reflect on. Before I started framing things as experiments, I usually limited myself to small ideas and occasional improvements. Thinking of this as an experiment helps me say to myself, yes, it will take a bit of time to really unfold, so don’t worry about evaluating it too early, and don’t worry too much about messing up because you’ll learn something along the way.

Anyway… What other experiments might I run after this? Are there experiments that would make sense in parallel? I’m somewhat curious about trying out different business models to see what they’re like. I’m curious about building an even more solid foundation for future experiments in terms of health, skills, and other intangibles. I’m curious about learning and adapting to a changing world. I don’t have a clear experiment yet, not like the way I delineated my current experiment, but I’m sure that will come to me.

In the meantime, I have two years left in this experiment. Having the basics covered means that I can try bigger and more interesting things. Maybe software as a service? I’ve been avoiding this because of the risks and the support commitments, but maybe it’s time to learn more about building products and services that people might find useful. I know where to find the markets for some of the ideas I’m interested in, and I know some people who’d be willing to give me feedback and help me build things for them and others. There are a number of other non-business things I want to learn more about, too.

2014-08-29 Tweaking my experiment

2014-08-29 Tweaking my experiment

I like looking at other people’s lives in order to pick up ideas for things to try in mine. It’s useful to look at the life paths for both typical people and exceptional people, since all those paths sketch out different possibilities. If I can imagine myself clearly at different ages and on different probable paths, I can get a better sense of what I want to do in the near future. It’s a little like bringing those possible future Sachas together so that I can ask them how they got to where they are, and maybe adjust my current path a little. It’s a strange mental image, I guess, but it’s handy for me. And there are tons of other people to learn from, too–role models from so many different walks of life.

2014-08-29 Re-planning my life - #experiment

2014-08-29 Re-planning my life – #experiment

Hmm. Let’s see how things work out…

Emacs Chat: Mickey Petersen

Mickey Petersen chats about Mastering Emacs, learning advanced topics, navigating by expressions, and making the most of dired and shell. You can find him at masteringemacs.org or twitter.com/mickeynp

Transcript here!