From the Ashes…

There must be something about the city of Phoenix that puts me in the mood to evaluate and take action. This is my second time visiting, both times to attend the Gartner CIO Leadership Forum. It’s one of the most informative and energizing things I get to do all year.

While attending the conference last year, I woke up in the middle of the night with my brain already in 6th gear. Many things were going right in my life, but so many other things were at best unsatisfying. One thing the GTD methodology has taught me is that writing things down is a great way to get your brain to relax, so I grabbed a notepad.

I’m not sure if I was being overly literal or overly dramatic in the wee hours, but I titled the page “Dark Phoenix.” I then wrote down thirteen changes that I wanted to make in my life. Some were habits to break (“more disciplined work hours”), others were aspirational (“learn any modern programming language – Max?”), and some were more targeted at things I was fundamentally unhappy about (“lose 2 pounds / month to 185”).

This list was the culmination and expansion of many things I outlined in my Let’s Try That One More Time post, written about two months earlier. Clearly, the ideas were still running around in my brain to the point where my brain said, “I’m tired of thinking about this. Wake up and do something about it.”

A year later, my estimate is that I’m running this list at about 65% efficiency. I got most of my productivity burrs ground down, put a hard stop to perpetual crisis mode at work, and focused on establishing healthy habits to take me into the second half of my life.

The most successful change was the weight loss. I started working on this in earnest last July, walking regularly and changing my diet. The changes were sensical, not radical. The exercise was moderate, but regular. I feel great and have more energy than I have in decades. And last week, I bought new dress shirts that have the words “slim fit” on the tags. I had some “Biggest Loser” emotional moments in the dressing room.

Other areas haven’t seen quite as much progress. I haven’t learned a new programming language yet, but I’m working on VBA for Excel, more for personal satisfaction than for any professional need. My artistic side also was a bit neglected, though that was due in part to moving to a new house and having to get things set up again.

There were some purges – Facebook and Google+ haven’t seen me since December unless it was for work. Most social media interactions are now on Twitter and LinkedIn, but even those are less common than they once were.

More things are now bubbling up, and the “Dark Phoenix” notebook in Evernote keeps getting new bits and pieces and clippings. I’ll be interested to see what changes the city of Phoenix inspires this time around.

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