Process Driven Year

2020: The Process-Driven Year

How you do anything is how you do everything, right?

So much of my life is so random. This means I must make decisions in advance -not when I’m not tired, hungry crabby, or stressed.

So, I’m betting my whole life on process. I have to create and submit myself to a process. Everything I make and everything I do must be governed by process. Not mood, whim, or passion.

More to the point, I’m going to recreate my life based on doing work in the following areas:

  • Domains
  • Standards
  • Process and
  • Results

This will be a long and dry post. But it’s “high time” to become deliberate and create a personal operating system for myself and be more than what I am. My ability to execute this will define so much over the next few years.

Domains: the Different Areas We Work On

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
-Mark 8:36 NAS

So if we want to improve, we have to figure out where we want to improve. I’m calling this “domains.”  We’re going to measure different things.

It’s easy to say in general terms want to improve the way that we do things, but that doesn’t really drive home that we’re really striving to have mastery of many domains.

The individual standards aren’t something I’ve built; I have to think through how to grade the different parts.

The important thing is that we’re working towards the goal 80% of the time. With a ratio of good 3.5:1 good days to bad.

The Easy To Measure Stuff

For the most part, measuring the below stuff is fairly binary.

Different people will require different plans to get where we want to be. But our “body” is more measurable than it’s not. Same with finances, environment, etc.

  • Body: This is how we care got our bodies; mainly fitness, nutrition, and sleep.  Are we doing a good job of celebrating our bodies?
    • Fitness Level: How fit we are right now? Can we do a pull-up? Run a 5k?  Where are we at?
    • Body Composition: How do we look? Do we have muscle where we want it? What do we weigh?
    • Fitness Program: Are we working out? Are we doing it “as prescribed?” Does it bring us energy?
    • Nutrition: Are we eating correctly? Are we on plan? Are we setting ourselves up to win? Are we prepping food?
    • Competitions: Are we training for some event? Are we where we want to be to put up good numbers and do our work correctly?
  • Finances: Things that measure our money.
    • Plan: Do we have a coherent plan for the events that are coming down the pike, like college, retirement, and our lifestyle?
    • Income: Are we making enough to fund that plan?
    • Contributions: Are all the individuals contributing as agreed?
    • Assets: Are we acquiring assets that produce income?
    • Balance Sheet: Do we have enough in cash, and are we earning enough?
  • Our environment: This is how we live and, in broad strokes, the stuff we have.
    • Is our home clean and organized?
    • Is it “peaceful/restful.”
    • Are our cars ready, maintained, and organized?
    • Is everything we own in working order, stored well, and ready to be put into service?
    • Can we find our stuff?
  • Schedule & Time:
    • Does our schedule support what we want to do across the domains?
    • Are we spending our time fruitfully, or are we frittering it away?
    • Are we transitioning well between activities?

The Somewhat Harder To Measure Stuff

Some areas are a little more touchy-feely. This can’t always be measured perfectly or reduced to a simple rubric. The questions are a start of the rubric.

  • Integrity:
    • Are we keeping our commitments to ourselves? When we say we’ll do a thing tomorrow, are we doing it?
    • Are we keeping our commitments to others? Are we reliable, do we show up?
    • Are we keeping our word? When we say we’ll do a thing, do we usually do that thing?
    • If we can’t keep our word, are we honoring our word? Sometimes we’ll let people down. When we do, how do we correct it and thus honor our word?
  • Personal Development:
    • What are you doing to get better, personally?
    • How are you developing relationships? Relationships are a big way to work on yourself and your life.
    • What skills are you currently developing? Even a hobby, pursued with fun and zeal, is its own reward.
    • How are you developing yourself? Do you have a plan, are you doing deliberate practice in your profession and hobbies?
  • Mindset and Attitude:
    • Are you “keeping it positive?”
    • Do you react well and have a plan for adverse events?
    • Are you being kind to yourself?
    • Are you developing your influence?
  • Profession & Contribution:
    • Do we have a profession and a plan for that profession?
    • What does that look like?
    • How are we contributing to the world?
  • Creativity, Portfolio, And Legacy:
    • What are we making? It could be a blog, it could be a book, or in my wife’s case, it could be welcoming new babies into the world.
    • Portfolio is our “body of work.”
    • Legacy: Is the stuff we capture that endures. What are we doing in this area?
  • Family: What my core relationships look like.
    • Relationship with my wife.
    • Relationship with my kids.
    • Relationship with relatives and core people in my life
    • Ability to be vulnerable and admit what I’m afraid of?
  • Content: I have to produce more content than I ever have in the last decade. I have no audience/platform anymore. It’s not a choice right now. This means:
    • Am I making content regularly on my schedule?
    • Am I promoting it?
    • Are people responding to it?
    • How am I modifying it?
  • Community:
    • Close Friendships: Do we have close friendships that we can bank on and trust?
    • Local Friendships: Have we developed a few core local friendships where we can fellowship?
    • Social Circle: Do we have a social circle so we can go out and have fun group activities if we want to? How many people?
    • Professional Network: What are you doing to develop your professional network?
    • +/-/= Do you have a Plus, Minus, and Equal in different areas in our lives?
  • Leadership:
    • Are we in a spot to develop our leadership over the long haul?
    • What does this mean?

All of these domains are areas where I want to excel. I don’t always know exactly what to do

Standards: How We Operate & What We Tolerate & What We Optimize For

Let’s take a moment to define what standards are.

The dictionary “A level or quality of attainment.” Okay, sure. Good start.

It’s that. But it’s the way we do things. [Aside]I’m not knocking McDonald’s. They are a budget burger place and serve their purpose. [/aside]

When we want to get a hamburger, we can go to (among many other choices) McDonald’s, or Gordon Ramsay’s Burger. Both will fry you a burger in exchange for some of your money.

They are both prepared with different standards in mind.

They are optimized for different things:

McDonald’s is optimized for price and duplicability.

Gordon Ramsay is optimized for flavor and presentation.

These are their standards.

And they aren’t necessarily wrong. If you went to McDonald’s and got a Gordon Ramsay experience, you’d be kind of honked off when it took an hour, and you wound up spending $100 bucks.

The Ways We Use Standards

There are three key ways we use standards.

  1. To constrain behaviors.
  2. To target our efforts
  3. To measure our progress.

We apply standards before we create processes.

This creates personalized standardization.

Standards As a Behavioral and Resource Constraint

The end usually doesn’t justify the means.

When we want to be financially secure, we probably want to do it without robbing a bank. Our standard is to not commit risky felonies to secure our financial future.

Or, we want to kill the ants in the house, but a flamethrower would burn the house down that we are trying to protect.

We might want a tidy, company-ready home, we should want to do it without having to take every meal outsid, or being alarmed at all times about the state of our home, or even without always cleaning up.

We also may have to adapt our standards because of current resource constraints: we may want to eat better but we don’t have budget for a “private gluten-free paleo chef” at the moment.

So, we will generally use “standards” at least in part to constrain our behaviors.

Standards Help Us Target Efforts

There are a lot of ways a person could measure “increasing our fitness.”

It could be that we mean to run faster.

It could mean that we can lift more, stretch more.

When we have a standard, we can optimize for something more specific.

When we’re just trying to “get fitter,” that could mean a whole lot of different- and maybe ambiguous things.

Or, reaching back to our housekeeping example, we might want to have a tidy house without spending an exorbitant effort on tidying it up.

That could be phrased: to have the tidiest house possible while averaging under 30 minutes per day tidying it up unless we’ve done something ‘extra messy.’ This way, we can make a process that fits our resource constraints and achieves the result we want.

By having “less specific” standards, this puts us in the hell of ambiguity and pushes us towards a place where we don’t want to live.

Standards Help Us Measure Progress (and replace goals)

A standard is a little different than a goal. It’s a bit more flexible and a lot less dramatic.

Since standards can be behavioral (exercise vigorously 5 days a week), conditional (have a mopped floor), or physical (have a 32” waist)…they aren’t nearly as emotionally charged.

Everything is less personal. We simply haven’t met our standard…yet. So, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Keep grinding till we make it.

And, we can almost always measure our progress towards (or away from) a well-stated standard.

Have we exercised? Where are we at?

I’ll concede that there is a little bit of semantics involved if you’ll concede that just a touch less emotion is pretty helpful sometimes.

Process: Steps We Take and Tools We Use.

This brings us to process.

Our process is “the steps we take and the tools we use to do our work.”

Generally, a well-designed process will be something of a feedback loop. It will include:

  1. Our intended outcome (the standards)
  2. The steps we’re using to get there
  3. The tools we might use to help us get there
  4. A way to know if we’re following the process.
  5. A way to know if we’ve completed our process.
  6. A method of course correction in case something goes wrong.
  7. A way the process can test its own effectiveness towards its intended goals.
  8. Some reliable way to determine if our process is working and efficient. Nobody to drive around the block three times to turn on the light switch in the bedroom.

If my year is about process, then generating individual processes is something I’ve gotta become the best in the world at.

Results: The Last Step.

Results are the last step, the final thing that we get. Our outcome.

What was everything for, if not results?

But there’s a problem with results, right? We can influence results. We can accumulate tiny advantages that add up.

But we can’t always control every result.

Can we talk about results a little more neutrally? Would that give us a chance to be a little more fair to ourselves? Can we take some emotion out of it, save the agony for another day?

Results might be something like this:

  • What we want (yay! We closed the sale!)
  • What we don’t wish to (ah, bummer, we didn’t close the deal)
  • Some of what we want (ah, they bought a lot less than we thought they would)
  • What we don’t want (well, they shared our proposal online, and now we have to backtrack with our existing customers)
  • A simple function of external factors (I got a year older because a year passed).

Now, let’s talk a little more about the way that we impact our results. In any given situation, results can be:

  • Almost completely related to our efforts. (We wanted a clean room, so we cleaned our room).
  • Somewhat related to our efforts (We started eating entree salad for dinner three days a week and lost 5 pounds. We also started running, too).
  • Not related to our efforts: a hurricane came in, and the trade show we were going to debut our product at was canceled. Our sales at that trade show were zero..

So even though there are a wide variety of possible outcomes, and even though we have a variable degree of influence, we can’t help ourselves. We focus on results.

That’s good.

The trick is to remember what produces results and work on what we can work on.

  • Our efforts. (How hard we work)
  • Our process (How smart we work)
  • Variance: (Things we can’t control).

Since we are human and competitors, we are always going to try. So when we decide where do measure (domains) and how to measure (standards), we can build a process that moves us from where we are to the result we want. And hopefully our process is related to the results we want.

Sounds good, but where are you starting?

Yeah.  Not counting my sidebar conversations, we’re 2,000 words into this thing.  And we’re gonna hit publish, right?
So here’s my path:

  1. Schedule time to pick out the standards we’re working towards across every domain.  Write all of these up and make them as specific as possible to my actual life (i.e., prescriptions for me, not platitudes.)
  2. Create a process that moves us towards our selected standards.
  3. Have a tool to measure if we’re on track or not.

OK, let’s get more specific.

I’ve picked 13 domains.  These aren’t the only domains I can think we might want to measure or achieve excellence in. 

. Here are the due dates for me to have something in mind for each plan.

  • Body:  Standards: 1/7/20 | Process 1/8/2020
  • Finances:  Standards:  1/8/2020 . | Process: 1/8/2020* 
  • Environment: Standards: 1/7/2020  | Process:  1/8/2020
  • Time:  Standards: 1/10/2020  Process: 1/15/2020
  • Integrity:  Standards: 1/8/2020 | Process   1/10/2020
  • Personal Development: Standards:  1/9/2020. | Process: 1/12/2020
  • MindsetStandards:  1/8/2020 | Process: 1/1/2020
  • Professional Development:  Standards: 1/8/2020
  • Creativity & Portfolio:  Standards: 1/8/2020: Process: 1/10/2020
  • Family: Standards: 1/9/2020 | Process:  1/15/2020
  • Content: Standards: 1/10/2020  Process: 1/12/2020
  • Community: Standards: 1/10/2020  | Process: 1/15/2020
  • Leadership: Standards  1/12/2020  | Process: 1/15/2020

This will be a good deal of work in the short term; I’ve made decent notes in some areas over the last few weeks.
So, it falls to me to finish this stuff off. Come along!

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Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is writing this blog. He's a startup veteran, having built a company called Simplifilm. This blog is about things that he's starting to - but may not actually - think yet. It publishes irregularly.
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