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What the work happened #3

A very personal reflection on my work in March 2021.

Ondrej Markus
Ondrej Markus
7 min read
What the work happened #3

Hey there 👋

This is my third monthly reflection and I'm still not sure how to structure it. So it is a wild west. Again.

But I noticed one curious thing which happens independent of what structure I use. And it's this.

Sad → Happy

At the start of each month, when I sit down to write this, I feel like I didn't achieve much last month. I feel like I have not done my best – like I could and should have done better.

However, once I start going through my journal, I realize, I actually finished more things than I thought. I just forgot about some of them. And just like that, I feel better.

This happened every time I did this. I always think I let myself down, only to be surprised by forgotten projects from 3 or 4 weeks ago.

This reveals various things about me (and you, if you know these feelings):

  1. I have a shitty memory
  2. I judge too much of my worth as a human being on the work I do
  3. Having a system for this is saving my sanity

Let's dissect them just a little bit.

Shitty memory

I tend to focus on the future, and neglecting the past seems to be the price for that.

It has upsides – I don't dwell on things that didn't work – I move on quickly.

But as fast as I can move away from bad things, I move away from good things too. So I don't remember what I did a week ago unless I go back to my journal.

Overall, this seems like a fair deal, and I'm okay with it.

Human worth vs. Work done

Yeah. This is a thing I do. My daily wellbeing is sensitive to how much work I get done and how good (I think) it is. I judge a decent part of my perceived worth based on whether I produced good work.

Judging myself every day.
Judging myself every day.

I know this about myself and I haven't decided yet if that's a feature I want to keep or a bug to be fixed.

It certainly makes the highs higher on the good days, and the lows lower on the bad days. And it seems I can't have just one without losing both. So I'm keeping the whole package for now.

System for sanity

Having a system for managing this feels crucial to me. Without it, I would be an anxious ball of insecurities with a majorly inaccurate memory of 80% of the things I've done a month ago.

Daily journaling is the backbone of my system – it's the first thing I do every morning after I sit down with a coffee and open my laptop.

I write about anything that's on top of my mind. And during the day, I add notes about everything I worked on. That's what later helps me get a more accurate image of the work done.

A screenshot of my daily journal page from 7th April
A screenshot of my daily journal page from 7th April

Also, I recently switched to a new project-centric system that combines the other 2 things I need for creative work:

  1. Knowledge management (notes, research, information)
  2. Project management (tasks, goals, deadlines)

Together they form a productivity system optimized for high creative output. In other words, they help me produce a lot of things that make my inner productivity junkie happy.

I'm going to write more about that soon. (Join the email list to get it when it's ready.)

Moving on.

A 10-year reflection of what I care about in my projects

On 17th March, I reviewed the last 10 years of every project I worked on to understand how What I do overlaps with Why I do it.

And the questions I answered for myself helped me make a few important changes in my plans.

So I thought I'd share the template with you in case you'd want to ask yourself the same questions.

Template for reflection on Values vs. Projects

There are 2 parts. The first part is about creating a snapshot in time from the past, present, and future. And the second part is about digging for insights within them.

Part 1: Creating a snapshot in time

  1. What did I do in the last 10 years? (Past)
  • I wrote down a few short paragraphs for every year in the last ten years. I mentioned only the things that felt important to keep it relatively short. (5 years would also work.)

2. What am I doing now? (Present)

  • I described the projects and areas I'm committed to right now.

3. What are my plans for the near future (~6 months)? (Future)

  • I wrote a couple of scenarios I'm considering as the next step in the following months.

Part 2: Digging for insights

Now, when you have your past, present, and future clearly laid out in front of you, it's time to dig for answers.

  1. What connects my projects together? What are the common themes? Where are the patterns they share?
  2. What do I care about the most in what I do?

Bonus: Ask some wild What if's.

  • What if I could work on just one thing, what would it be?
  • What if I had to quit one thing, what would it be?
  • What if I could take one year off to do whatever I want and live off my savings, what would I do?

I did the whole thing in 2 or 3 hours of unfiltered writing. It was fun and helpful for deciding what I want to do next. You should try it.

And if you come up with some good What if'slet me know. I'm curious.

Work that happened

Next, we get to what this piece is supposed to be about – the work that got done. Let's keep it short.

⚡ MetaSprint

This is my new baby. It's a 4-week online course in a community of independent creators that support each other to finish 1 creative project every week.

I pushed this from an idea at the beginning of March to something that's actually happening with 8 participants right now. (We first met on 31st March.)

I made some quick web prototypes and tested them every few days with people who might be interested in joining, most of them were, so I launched it as an experimental run.

(It's a Czech-speaking group, so the latest prototype is also Czech. Let me know if that's something you'd be interested in. We will sprint again soon with both Czech and English-speaking group.)

🚀 Innovation lab

I finished 3 segments of content for weekly online sessions with students participating in the Innovation lab (a seminar I co-create under the Charles University in Prague).

  • How to find your personal mission in projects
  • How to prioritize your next step in projects
  • How to give feedback in a team

🌱 Wellbeing Dashboard

Our team in The Greenest Company continues working on the app for HR managers that helps them understand what their employees need to be happier and more productive.

I wrote an article–interview with one of our clients, and I adjusted our business model to work monthly.

🎬 Videos

This is an experiment I've challenged myself to try. I got a new phone and I wanted to make a video as a novelty from what I normally do (write articles).

So I did. I wrote 2 scripts for 2 topics:

  • How to start anything (recorded but not out yet)
  • Why start making videos (only scripted, not filmed)

I recorded the first one (I planned on doing both but filming yourself is more time-consuming than I anticipated).

So I have over 60 minutes of video material for what I'd like to be a 5-10 minute video about starting things (by starting to make videos – get it?).

But I've delayed editing it because I'm a chicken who doesn't like to look at himself on a video. That is, by the way, another reason why I'm doing this – to get more comfortable with being on camera.

So I will eventually edit and publish the video online. Probably during April. Oh my. What have I done?

✍️ Articles

I returned to writing articles and I want to write more and consistently. I finished 2 articles this month, plus I made a new intro page for my Student Entrepreneur Guide.

Finished articles:

Articles in progress (coming soon):

  • Build your life in learning loops
  • How to avoid procrastination instead of fighting it
  • How to make a prototype from your idea in 5 minutes
  • Do whatever works for you

Last words and what's coming next

I'm still getting used to sharing things I make, and I keep looking for a way that's useful, feasible, and fun for me. And also convenient, useful, and fun for you.

So I'm going to adjust the way I share. Again. 🤷‍♂️

  • I'm going to publish one article every week on Sunday
  • I'll send out a brief weekly newsletter with the link to my article (instead of sending the article itself) and 1 or 2 ideas that are at the top of my mind including resources you can use to dig deeper.
  • Also, I'll keep writing this monthly reflection which is a zoomed-out picture of how my creative process evolves in time. (And because it keeps me sane.)

That's it.

P.S.: As you can see, these monthly emails are unpredictable – not even I know what is going to be in them before I sit down to write them.

So please tell me what you liked and didn't like. I'd be very grateful to know.

Or just reply to the email with something like: "Dope, bro." That's fine too, and it warms my chickles.

Take care and see you soon.

Bye 👋

Reflections

Ondrej Markus

I help creators design a system for work, so they can finish the right things while enjoying the process.