Sometime in the past couple of months I took a little diversion from my daily art projects and began working on something new. Specifically, I started learning Flask for web development.
Some portion of the shift is that I got interested in web development with Python and the other is that my wife and I welcomed two little girls into the world. The twins have definitely changed things at our house and my morning routine has changed significantly. Lately it’s been easier to sneak away time on a computer rather than down in the art room.
Note: For those of you who don’t know, Flask is a light Python web framework. I use Python on a daily basis at work so learning a Python web framework was my preferred choice.
I learn best by gathering information and making things. Initially I planned to use Flask to build a site for my wife. I took a basic Udemy course on Flask and then I started building the site. The Udemy course was a great introduction, but I ended up needing a little more information and started supplementing with Miguel Grinberg’s book. Flash forward a few weeks and I changed directions to pursue another project that I’m affectionately calling “Clarity.”
Background – Values, Projects, and Goals (Objectives)
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is journal. I write a page or two and then review my values, projects, and goals. I’ve been doing some form of daily journaling and regular goal setting for a few years. I strongly believe in the power of written goals and journals. I have so many ideas that anything in my head is quickly overrun with new ideas. The process of writing down and reviewing my areas of focus keeps me on track and accountable.
Most of my goals relate to side projects and the reality I’m focused on creating. I have a fascination and obsession with side projects. Thinking back, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a period without some type of side project. The way I choose projects has changed over time and I currently choose based on how well projects line up with my values and what feels right.
All projects come with a list of things to get done. As a result, many of my goals are focused on the incremental steps to move a project forward. I have written goals ranging in time from monthly up to 5 years. The 5 year goals always seem a bit abstract and I focus more on the one month to one year goals.
Changes and Time
I’ve noticed that my values, projects, and goals tend to change over time and reflect my evolution as a person. I also have periods of extreme productivity on projects and periods where I can’t seem to make any headway. Lately I’ve noticed that I begin to struggle when the objectives feel inauthentic. I use my inaction as a clue that I might need to change directions.
Even though I have a solid process for journaling and managing goals, I wanted to create something more insightful. Effectively, I want to see myself more clearly by observing my own actions. That idea was the seed for Clarity.
In other words, I decided to gather data on myself as a way to see what’s really going on. I knew that the tool would need to track my values, projects, and goals. With a rough frame framework in mind I started thinking about how to translate my morning routine from paper to software.
This is a rough sketch of Clarity:
Tracking and Measuring
Some people seem to have greater clarity on what they’re working on and towards. My process for moving side projects forward feels far more iterative and always involves false starts and diversions.
My theory is that by observing and measuring myself, I might be able to keep myself focused on the values and direction I want to manifest. Focus will also help me make more directed progress on my side projects.
The other benefit of tracking what I’m working on is that it gives me a way to review what I’ve done in the past. Looking back and seeing progress always helps me move forward. Additionally, it creates confidence that what I want to create can be created.
Our lives change over time and our core values shift as well. My theory (based on personal experience) is that we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves if we analyze what we value, work on, and think about. Effectively that’s what this tool is about . . . developing greater self-awareness and clarity.
What’s wrong with paper?
The main reason I decided to build a tool rather than continuing to track my progress on paper or looking for an existing tool is that I wanted something to build. That being said, there are some huge benefits of moving away from paper.
The image below shows a couple years of notebooks. Amazing, right? Yes, yes it is. Until you want to look back and find something. One of the big benefits I want to get out of digitizing my ideas is a greater insight and organization. I’m planning to put tracking and structure in place. I’m not seeking organization per se, but it would be great to make a little more order from the existing chaos.
My primary goal at the moment is building an initial version of the app and getting it online. That primary goal leads to many sub-goals and I’ll be talking about those as I build. Stay tuned . . .
Note: As an aside, I have a minor aversion to the word goals. Even though a lot of what I do looks like goal setting and planning (probably because it is), I prefer to call them objectives. When I started building Clarity I decided to call them objectives and I use the two words interchangeably.