Showing posts sorted by relevance for query RAGE. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query RAGE. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, 11 February 2016

My RAGE Planning Template

In my previous post, I shared my RAGE model for personal planning. RAGE standing for Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations. I described my journey as I went through my own introspection, splitting myself up into the many Personas I found myself involved in, and shared how I systematically made sense about my priorities and areas to focus on. As always, I tend to go over-the-top, I covered a lot of detail, which to me was quite valuable, but for others maybe not so :-))

The feedback received was quite encouraging to say the least, people suggested I dumb it down a bit, provide a template to focus on a more manageable (handful) of topics, the ranking matrix caught some interest as well. So in this post, I'm sharing a cut-down, generic template for anyone to use to make sense of just ten Personas. You can access the template here, available freely for download.

Template in a Nutshell

Template is an Excel document with the following sheets:
  1. RAGE List - this is basically the main board. You select the type of persona (choose between Personal & Professional), Give a name for your Persona (e.g. I, as a...) & fill out your Reality, Aspirations, Goals & Expectations. The board will automatically calculate the rankings, and dish out a planning priority.
  2. Persona Rankings - This is the crux of the exercise - for you to compare one persona against the others. Requires deep introspection - who are you really?? What is it that really excites you?? Which aspect of your life should you focus on more?? This is the persona ranking matrix.
  3. Look-Ups - The hidden data behind the calculations. You wouldn't usually touch this, but if you wanted to weight things differently, you can attach your own numbers to the weightings.
  4. Example Personas - I provide an example of generic persona types that you can use to get your own thinking going.
Master RAGE Board
Persona Ranking Matrix
Example Personas
If you end up downloading the template, and have experimented with it, OR you need some one-on-one help, please get in touch!

Introspection is worth it, you will be amazed at what you uncover...I hope you try this tool out!!!

Monday, 1 February 2016

My RAGE Model for Personal Development Planning

Over the last few months, I've been working on a concept I've come to coin as the "R.A.G.E model", which stands for:
  • R Reality
  • A Aspirations
  • G Goals
  • E Expectations
I am using this model to map out a plan for my own self, as part of my own personal planning. I am sharing this experience because it maybe useful to others, since the topic of finding a work-life-balance affects us all. The years come-and-go so fast, that we're so busy being busy, just living, surviving, making ends meet, meeting your current commitments, heads-down in work, rush-rush-rush, that we really don't take the time out, to pause, reflect, look deeply within ourselves, to map out what really makes us, us!! There's a lot of material on this subject of work-life balance, and stress - I opted for finding my own path, which I'd like to share...

I came across the concept of defining Aspirations vs Expectations vs Reality from another coach, colleague and friend. I mulled over it for a while, and then later coined up RAGE, to go further than just highlighting Aspirations vs Expectations vs Reality, but also include Goals to help make sense of the Aspirations & Expectations, keeping it real.

In this post I share an exercise of how I was able to identify the different streams of my life, prioritise them using rough quantitative formulae borrowed from agile product management like weightings to balance priorities, culminating in a future plan for tracking my goals going forward. This exercise required a lot of self-reflection, introspection, deep's about making sense of all the noise, including understanding my circles of control / influence, being self-critical and at sometimes a little harsh (with priorities) on myself, example: Is being a husband more or less important than being a Father, Is being an Individual (self) more important than being a Sibling?? and so on.

The end result is a tangible personal plan that I can use to track my progress from 2016 onwards. It is far from complete though, the next phase is actually implementing my plan, and monitoring my progress throughout the year. I intend doing so using a personal-kanban-style Trello board, culminating in time-tracking to measure the distribution of my time across my different personas (topic for another post).

I believe this tool is useful to both life and work. At the end of the post I share some of my ideas where I think this tool can add value to different work/life scenarios.

Please have a read, let me know what you think!! And if you're interested in a template to get you going, let me know.

How does RAGE work?

It's about understanding your situational context - YOU as a person, currently, are being pulled in many directions, how do you juggle all the things interesting to you as a person, plus give enough time to your work, family, friends, etc. What is this thing called "work-life balance"?? How do you know if you allocating enough time to the things that are important?? What if you're wasting (or spending too much time) on something that is essentially of little value or consequence to you?? What matters most to you as an individual?? 

Often this comes down slicing your life into two major categories: (a) Personal & (b)Professional. For each category, there could be further sub-categories, or topics. I call these Personas, and for each persona, I define Top-Level Subject as a sub-category.

In my case, my current reality, consists of 22 high level personas split between my personal life, and my professional life. I am being sliced in 22 different ways, only in 2016, and I've not included any higher level aspirations, like big dreams like travelling the world, owning a porsche, meet Bill Gates, get invited to the World Economic Forum, work in Silicon Valley or Run a StartUp in New York City :-)

I will explain the personas breakdown in the next section. This section talks about what RAGE actually is. It essentially means, take a particular situation or topic from your persona, and analyse the following areas:

  • Reality - What is the current status of the situation? What is currently preventing you from reaching the aspiration / goal / expectation?
  • Aspiration - What is your ultimate wish to accomplish? How does it look like? What does it mean to you and why?
  • Goals - How / What would you need to do to get to the Aspiration? How would you break it down? What milestones do you set yourself that will eventually reach your aspiration? Techniques like using specific measurable goals, something with a tangible outcome helps here, or it can be a story - the future vision.
  • Expectations - Based on the goals you've set, what expectations do you have (can it be quantified like a level of confidence, or percentage completion by a certain date, etc). Is the expectation too high?
In addition to the RAGE criteria, an Action Plan for each topic helps in cementing a plan that you can use to track progress against meeting your goals. It is also useful to keep track of how your expectations will change over time, taking snapshots of progress and re-evaluating yourself through your own personal retrospectives.

Personas & User Stories

Personas are about describing how you split yourself up - i.e. we as people have many stripes: 
You as a .... Individual Self, Husband, Father, Brother, Friend, Colleague, Teacher, Business Owner, Family-Man, Son, Daughter, Grandfather, Uncle, Social Worker, Community Member, etc, etc.  
So we have many commitments, relationships with people and business entities (including rights to meet), that demand our time, energy and focus - how do we organise ourselves so that we focus on the things most important and useful to us? How much investment should we put into relationships over self-joys? What is each Persona really about? What does it mean to be a Father, an Employee or a Friend?

Before I delved into my RAGE criteria, I had to understand myself: Who am I? What makes me Me? How do I slice myself currently?? And for each persona, what am I really trying to achieve as an Aspiration for that Persona??

I'm going to be brave and share my own persona list with you. Who knows, there might be something common in your own life, and you might share similar persona aspirations as I :-) ?? This is just capturing my current reality, and not looking into the future with dreamy eyes of who I could become (that ship has sailed long ago or has it?).

The table below shows the Personas for me, read as "Me as a..." split between my Persona & Professional Life, for each Top Level Subject area. For each topic, I borrowed a page from Agile user stories, taking the form of [As a....] [I would like to...] [so that ....] [...get something of value]

My Personas
(Me as a…)
Top Level Subject
Being a Brother
As a brother to four siblings, I need to grow our relationships & support structures (including continued financial support), so that our family unit appears strong and united, always.
Work Social
As a colleague in a work environment, I must nurture and grow authentic & sincere relations (not shallow, superficial hello, how you - but genuine relations), so that I am recognised as someone who values people and interactions, working together on projects, and when not working on the same team, I am a friend that offers a listening ear, advisor & mentor to colleagues as needed. Social interactions & sincere relationships in the workplace matter a big deal.
Community Member
Community Forum
As a member of the community forum, I must spare my time, resources and energy in committing to the good causes, so that ultimately we have a peaceful and safe neighbourhood for our families.
Home Affairs
As a family, living in any country, I need to sort out all Home Office requirements, so that we may live free in the country of our choosing.
Family Time
As a father and head of the family, I would like to invest my time, energy, love and passion into my family (wife, kids) so that we can nurture relationships, grow together and create a strong family unit, paving the way for a healthy, stress-free life going forward.
Lifestyle Choice
As a person living on this earth on borrowed time, I would like to make lifestyle choices, so that my family can live in the best situation & circumstances possible, that promote a safe, meaningful and promising future, where life is beautiful on all fronts.As a family, we would like to evaluate our lifestyle choices, our preferences and situational circumstances, and make changes (if required) to help us attain our ultimate lifestyle that satisfies our happiness criteria.
As a father, I must spend time with each child, building up a unique, loving and caring relationship, so that my children have good memories to take with them, such that they become successful (happy, content, confident, mentally, physical & emotionally strong) human beings.
Social Network - Being a Friend
As a friend, I need to maintain, nurture and grow authentic and sincere social connections, so that people see me as a trusted person they can turn to, so that I have a support structure in place for me & my family (and of course reciprocate to my friends).
Home Owner
Home Improvements
As a home owner, I need to continuously maintain the state-of-repair, redecorate & keep the property up-to-date, so that we not only enjoy the living space, but also be ready to sell (and make a profit), if and when we decide to leave.
Marital Relations
As a husband, I need to fulfil the rights of my wife, taking the relationship to new levels so that my marriage is successful, rock-solid, and future-lasting.
Health & Fitness
As a person I would like to reach levels of fitness & good living, so that I may lead a healthy & enjoyable life, with minimal medical issues
As an individual with interests outside of work / family, I would like to pursue my hobbies (Cycling, Writing, Art, Inventing) so that I have an outlet for my creative interests, and that I get joy out of doing so.
Wealth & Finances
As a person I would like to reach financial independence (by pursuing multiple investment streams) before retirement age, so that I don't stress when I'm retired (or in death) so that my family are taken care off financially. Must be within the realms of halal investments tracking as close as possible to Shariah.
Giving Charity & Helping Needy
As a person with extra means, I would like to help more in Charity (Sadaqah, Compulsory Zakaat, Lillah) so that I fulfil the rights of others (within my family, friends, workers, community, local and world), and in keeping with the guidelines of Islam
Motor Vehicle
As an individual with specific requirements for transport, I would like to invest in a new car soon, so that it is more reliable than my current one, and satisfies all present as well future usage needs (4x4 off-road, bikes, family-adventures, etc.)
As a Muslim / human being, I want to reach a level of spirituality that allows me to be content and at peace with the world, so that I may live life, according to the way of life of Islam, as a Muslim, and a Sufi, tolerating & living in peace with all beings (not matter what belief system others may so choose). I would like to elevate my spirituality so that I am at peace with myself, others around me, the world - so that I don't go chasing illusions, accepting the reality of the fragility of life (there is more to life than career, business, etc.)
Being a Child
As a son, I must cherish the remaining years with my mom, spoiling her, comforting her, taking care of all her needs, so that I fulfil the rights of my mother, set an example of caring so that my kids can learn from, and to show my appreciation to mom for her love, patience and support all these years. To maintain the Islamic & Indian traditions of taking care of ones parents.
Being a Son/Bro-in-Law
As a son-in-law and a bro-in-law, I must grow these relationships stronger, so that family are content with our life situation, and so that there is harmony overall. To being someone they can trust, count-on, and rely in times of need & support.
Being an Uncle
As an uncle to 12+ nephews and nieces, I must be a good role model, offering advice, help, financial aid, coaching and mentoring so that these kids have a decent chance of succeeding in life.
Blogger / Writer
Blogging & Writing Papers
As blogger, I need to take my writing to the next level, so that I gain personal satisfaction out of it, of not being afraid to create my own art, especially when "it just might not work".
Business Owner
Consulting Business
As the owner of AS3, I need to establish the brand, grow a client-base, and run this company as a real-one, so that I get valuable life/work experience from this venture.
Consulting - Client to MCA
As a consultant to MCA I must consistently deliver value, exceed client's expectations, so that my engagements are maintained, reputation remains in-tact, and overall ensure my client is happy with my performance, such that there is a pipeline of work always available.
Client Engagement Options
As a consultant, I need to diversify my clients engagements, so that I can manage risk and survive, as well as broaden my network within South Africa or overseas.
Service Provider Partners
As a consultant, I would like to take my relationships with other SPs to the next level, exploring opportunities for partnerships, joint ventures, etc. so that I improve my chances of success.
Knowledge Base
As a consultant, I need to keep abreast and up-to-date, with topics I specialise in, so that I gain the knowledge & ability to apply new tools & techniques to improve the outcomes of my engagements, and so that I personally grow my toolbox as a professional.
Job Hunter
Employment at Specific Company of Interest
As a job hunter, I must find a role & company that I like, value and will enhance my career experience, so that I climb up the ladder on my professional journey onwards & upwards - ultimately to fulfil my ultimate career aspiration (awesome company, awesome brilliant minds).
Potential Innovator / Entrepreneur
Product Development StartUp
As an aspiring entrepreneur, I must push forward on my ideas, take chances & risks on a startup, so that I can ultimately say I've tried this (possibly failed) and learnt a lot in the process.
Potential [Company] Employee
Permanent Employment, exit Consulting
As a potential Employee, I would like to attain a senior management position in an area I can add value, so that I build my career & increase my network profile (in line with my aspiration of finding awesomeness).
Programming - Software Development
As someone who used to enjoy coding (and was quite good at it), I need to keep my technical skills fresh, so that a) I don't become a dinosaur and b) to enjoy the feeling of creativity again, c) so I maintain my closeness to technology streams.
Software Professional
Seeking out People for Learning & Growth
As a software professional, I would like to learn & grow, seek out individuals, companies and interactions, to reach heights of excellence, so that I can not only enjoy the profession, but take me to new opportunities & experiences. I want to surround myself with people that motivate me, journey together to grow to the next level.

Phew! So that's over 20+ ways I must split my time up... Now for the next part, surely not all personas hold the same level of importance in relationship to another? There must be some way I can make sense of all of this by prioritizing the personas I'm most interested in...

Interestingly enough, my brother recently called me to help with the local school's governing body, they could do with my help. I said unfortunately, this topic doesn't occur on my focus areas for this year, I am filled up with other commitments, and may possibly consider that request for next year (i.e. Me as an active member of a school governing body). Now what is more interesting though, is I could add an activity under my Persona / Brother subject, and be able to support my brother indirectly helping in improving & strengthening our relationship, thus taking me closer to reaching my aspiration of increasing family bonds with my siblings!

So it certainly helps to have laid out your personal map...

How I ranked my Personas ...

At first I wrote down all by RAGE criteria for each Persona/Subject, and then prioritized my list based on the importance of the Aspiration alone. Then after much thought, I decided to get more closer to something I can actually implement, I need to treat personas differently. I had to come up with some way of weighting & ranking one persona against another. In doing so, I could then arrange my plan according to rank & importance of the persona itself.

So with this in mind, I created at 22x22 matrix of all the unique Persona / Subject Pairs, and went across from left-to-right, passing a value judgement when comparing one persona against another. For example, starting with Personal-Individual, going across and compare: Is being an Individual more important that being a Husband? and so on...

If a persona was more important in relation to another persona, it would get a value of 1, otherwise it would get a value of 0. I built in intelligence to track that if a value was 1, then the opposite relational-comparison, down the matrix, should return a value of 0.

I chose, for the first iteration to go the mutually-exclusive route - to keep things simple, and make the numbers balance. Of course, I could have went there OR route, meaning "If a persona is the same OR equal in importance" - this actually does make sense in reality, but I chose to park that formula because I'd just spend a good couple hours implementing the mutually exclusive rule, and I just didn't feel like reworking the formula again.

Anyway, the mutually-exclusive rule is useful because it drives home the point of distinguishing one persona against another, in true black-and-white, no grey in between. I either make a call or not - a simple forcing function that allows me to drive my behaviour changes going forward.

So this is how my relational matrix ended up:
Ranking Personas
Having entered the 1s & 0s, I then summed each row, and came up with a total. Then used a heatmap to identify the personas by rank (the higher the ranking, the darker the colour to red, the more important the persona).

Interestingly enough, the Persona that came out on top is my spirituality, followed closely by me being a Husband!! Prior to the exercise, I had prioritized my spirituality as something in the background, so this exercise brought to surface how important this topic is, since Islam is a way-of-life, and after much thinking and relational comparison, it appears on the top of the list (bringing to surface that my spiritual dimension is very important, which I've been neglecting for some time now).

I as a Husband on the other hand, did have prominence before the matrix, however, I would not really have put it as number one, because I was thinking more about my personal individual aspirations in terms of career & business, ahead of the family stuff (often taking family relations for granted and not investing adequate time and energy in those relationships to elevate them to the next level)!!

So this exercise has certainly given me something to think about! If only there was more than 24 hours in day ;-)

Difficulty Levels of Aspirations

In addition to getting a view on my relational-personas ranking, I wanted a way of ranking aspirations by importance. So I chose five levels of aspirations, and assigned a weighting (for points-scoring) to each one:

Level of Aspiration Aspiration Weighting
1 No Brainer - Absolutely Doable
2 Within the realms of Doable
3 Doable but with some Effort
4 Difficult but not Impossible
5 A Nice Dream - Stretch BHAG?

Like my formula in the ranking matrix, when I ran these numbers in the overall ranking plan, I got to thinking maybe I should reverse the weighting. If I really wanted to make some hard changes, I should instead focus on the most difficult things, and aspirations that fall within the realm of doable should be ranked low, since I have a level of confidence in achieving the aspiration.  This really is a matter of choice, some people prefer to focus on "low hanging fruit" since it is really motivating to knock-things off your TODO list building up momentum and confidence to tackle the harder, more challenging stuff...There is the risk of choosing the difficult aspirations that one gets bogged down and demotivated, leaving little time or lost time on the more doable aspirations...

Aspirational Importance or Happiness Index

In addition to having a view of the relative difficulty of achieving the Aspirations / Goals, I added another filter for defining the importance of the aspirations. Again, not all aspirations are equal, some are more important than others, so it made sense to rank the importance of aspirations, giving each one an arbitrary weighting:
Importance Levels Importance Weighting
1 Not at all Important
2 Slightly Important
3 Moderately Important
4 Very Important
5 Extremely Important

I was in two minds about adding another criteria for a Happiness Index - the idea was to quantify the level of happiness. Trying to answer the question, In reaching my goals & aspirations for a given persona / subject pair, what will be the resulting happiness index, i.e. how happy would it make me as a result??

Measuring happiness index has become somewhat of a fascination of mine, which I'm still experimenting with. I had this idea about Personametry (how nice if there was a device that could that?) so I am still trying to define my happiness matrix. For starters, I have been tracking two topics using a Trello board: One board for tracking my Happiness at Work and another board for tracking my Mood/Happiness at Home. The jury is still out on this...

So I decided that Level of Importance implies a level of resulting happiness. If I set something as Extremely Important, it implies a similar, if not equal, level of happiness. Hence I don't need another number.

Ranking Formula

Using the above quantitative techniques, it becomes possible to rank and sort the RAGE list by order of priority, using a simple points scoring system:
Persona Ranking x Importance Level (Happiness Index) x Aspirational Type
This is similar to user story sizing in Agile/Scrum - the higher the points, the higher the ranking / importance, and therefore should get your focus & attention.

Bringing it all together - the Personal Plan

I am using Excel to manage my RAGE list. With the Personas & Top-Level Subjects identified, for each subject, write down the Aspiration (e.g. I would like to complete a road race this year). Having identified the Aspiration, now work towards breaking down the Aspiration into one or more Goals (e.g. To enter 5 seed races by June, To ride 50km every weekend). Once the goals are identified, think about the Expectations - how confident am I, what's the probability of achieving this goal?  And as a final step, turn some of those goals into concrete actions.

Below is a snippet of my own plan - it has been ranked by highest story points, and I've also indicated the probability of delivery (in terms of my expectations of realising the goal / aspiration). This is just a first pass based on the simple, doable aspirations (I am actually going to change it to focus on the BHAGs Big Hairy Ass Goals)...
Snapshot of my RAGE Plan

Visualising the Persona Map

Whilst I've created a way to numerically rank and prioritize each specific Persona/Subject pair, and I can now focus on say, the top ten aspirations / goals, a table with numbers (as above), might appear to be a little misleading. I wanted a way of seeing the spread, and weighting of the rolled up Personas, one level up - this view is created from totalling up the points ranking (planning priority), giving a cumulative total for the main Persona/Subject pairs - basically a single view of how my life may end up being spliced:
How I'm being sliced up - TreeMap

Next Steps (Post initial sense-making)

Now that I've mapped out my life's demands for 2016, and have a reasonable idea of what my commitments and focus areas are, in relation to both life-and-work, I can now start planning to deliver on these goals. Using Excel is cumbersome, so I'm going to look at using Trello or Smartsheet to track and measure progress...I am also going to look at creating a schedule or a reminder system to help me monitor and track my progress to reaching my goals and ultimately my's a start!! I've also set up a personal Kanban Trello board to track any new topics for aspirations...I am also thinking of using HarvestApp timekeeping to start measuring amount of time I spend in each Persona/Subject pair.

I have shared my map with my wife - it's important to include the people in your life, their input is valuable as it provides different perspectives. It is also useful because this sharing opens you up to others, and makes them appreciate the challenges you're facing along the many facets of your life...

Of course this list can't be static, it needs constant grooming, refining and simplifying. I am currently grooming my list, rolling up similar personas, since the level of detail of the first draft is a bit too granular. Constant feedback, and updates from further introspections will happen, as well as, new ideas for aspirations must be tracked as well (you guessed it, I have another Trello board to track my new aspirations ;-)

Other Areas of Use

Apart from using this technique / tool for your personalised inventory checking, I believe this exercise will benefit others in areas such as:

  • As a student out of high school, settling on your future life choices can be daunting. So many choices, so many people with advice. You can use this tool to make sense of your options, and prioritize accordingly.
  • As a student just graduating from college, you too have to make choices around your next career aspiration. How do you choose the company that best meets your aspirations? What factors play a role in prioritizing? Use this tool to help you decide.
  • As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you're faced with many ideas and options to take your business to the next level, so how do you make sense of the next area to focus, which direction is going to add the most value??
  • As a person with ideas, or managing your product roadmap, how is one idea or feature more important than the other? In the same way as I've used personas, you can use the same deep thinking questions to help you sift through competing ideas - and prioritize by rank and value.
  • As a line manager, you have to manage people, set their goals and objectives. Wouldn't you like to use a more meaningful approach to setting objectives and expectations?? Using this technique will not only bring clarity to your team, but is bound to improve the relationships going forward (your team will look forward to defining meaningful objectives instead of seeing the appraisal process as a pain).
  • As a worker, you have many responsibilities, projects and tasks to take care of - how do you prioritize your work, time management and also do stuff that not only ticks the done boxes for tasks, but also help you grow in the company as well??
  • As a parent, how do you manage all the ideas, aspirations and goals you're setting for your children? Are you doing too much? Are you focusing on the right areas?? 
  • As a project office, how do you prioritize and manage the tens of projects under your portfolio? How do you value one project over another? 
That's a few areas just top-of-mind, I'm sure there's more...

Feedback / Coaching

If you found this topic interested, please share your comments on this blog.
If you're interested in learning more, or would like a template of the tool to use in your own life mapping and planning, let me know. I am glad to help out, to the point of running a coaching session taking you through this journey!!!

Friday, 3 January 2020

Year 2019 in Review, Welcome 2020!

I'm now entering my fifth year of time logging and keeping track of all my "life & work"-streams in an effort to make sense of my time sinks, cross-checking my aspirations & goals with reality, in the hope of tuning, re-calibrating areas to be more in harmony with my purpose / value system, sometimes triggering some decisions that could take my life-and-work in a different direction altogether. So I've become a bit of geek with the #quantifiedself so much so that I log almost everything all the time. This habit developed naturally as I spent five years consulting, needing to keep track of all my hours and tasks for billable hours. So I took this all the way into treating my entire life as one big project with multiple tasks that needed accounting!

In 2015, I spent a lot of time soul-searching to make sense of not only what I want out of my life but my work/career aspirations as well, since a major part of my life involves my occupation in the software industry. So I came up with a model called RAGE (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations). The way the model works is to split yourself into "Personas" sliced into Personal and Professional streams. Using some tools from Agile, such as user stories, you describe for each of your personas, your aspirations, reflecting on your current reality, then setting goals and expectations. Your personas are prioritised by value, which is basically an instinctive, gut-feel assessment of the value/importance of the stream, in comparison to the others. I'd created template and a matrix tool that allowed for easy prioritisation, and a template to help others on this journey as well. My hypothesis still remains valid that tracking time is one way of understanding where my time is being spent, proposing "I will naturally spend most of time dedicated to the persona streams that are of importance to me" - but the reality can sometimes be quite surprising!

In this post, I continue with my annual ritual of starting the new year by analysing what went down the previous year (2019), and how/what I would need to re-calibrate to get me on track with my life's journey-mapping into 2020:
  • Recap my personal value system - persona matrix & priorities
  • Snapshot of tracking my RAGE progress by milestone reviews heatmap
  • Performance appraisal - Did I achieve my intended outcomes / goals set in Jan 2019?
  • Quantifying every hour of 2019 - where did I spend my time, what did I do?
  • Does it look like I have my life-work balance under control?
  • Am I working too much, sacrificing my personal and family streams?
  • Am I enjoying my current job?
  • What are the main things impacting my future personal & professional aspirations?

Saturday, 2 April 2016

RAGE Life Logging, Iteration 2 of many, March 2016

Earlier this year I created a model called RAGE, which stands for Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations - a planning model that can be used in all sorts of manner. I'm using it to track my own personal & professional development. I ended up defining just over 20 areas of my life that I need to give time to, had prioritized these "Personas" and set about some goals to achieve for each one. I try to maintain a high level of focus around the top 10 personas, monitoring the rest in between. I am two months down into my tracking, this post shares insights for March 2016.

My goal was to start measuring my time spent in these various areas - either validating or invalidating my instincts. A friend of mine recently challenged me, quite rightfully so "Mo, why are you doing all of this?? Surely you know, deep down instinctively the areas you spending time in and the ones you're not? What did you learn from this data that you didn't know before?"

That is an interesting question indeed. I wanted to measure and quantify the time I'm actually spending against what I instinctively "know" I should be doing. For me, measurement is important because data often highlights interesting insights that we wouldn't have observed, or taken time to reflect - often because of the mental and emotional biases we all have.

One outcome would be that my measurements reflect one-to-one what I always knew; on the other hand, the numbers may just show weaknesses in my own aspirations. Just as you need to measure your progress with your physical fitness / nutritional planning, why wouldn't you want to measure how, where and what you're spending your life doing? Measurement allows you to take corrective action and steer your ship in the direction you'd like. Often we live our lives, day-in, day-out, accepting the routine as a fact-of-life, robbing ourselves of the opportunity to instigate meaningful changes...for me, being able to quantify my life, is helping define the person I want to be, in the next chapter of my life. Soon I'll be in my forties, we never know what's around the corner (quite literally, two weeks back I lost a nephew in a senseless armed robbery, 32 years old - life is cheap in South Africa)...

Am I Crazy??

In my previous post, I posed the question: Am I crazy for doing this stuff? I still maintain, nope I am not, maybe a little OCD, but I am so vested in this now more than ever. Besides, I recently found a massive Quantified Self community online and across the world that are engrossed in this area of personal measurement. So I'm really not alone in this journey :-)) I am going to start my own QuantifiedSelf meetup in Johannesburg this year, in what I hope will be the first of its kind in South Africa. Just take a look at this guy, from a few years back - this guy actually logged his life over a period of 6 years! What more vindication does one need? :-))

March 2016 Insights 01-Mar to 31 Mar (756.77 hours)

Monday, 23 January 2017

Applying the 80/20 rule to my personal RAGE model

Last year I shared my RAGE model (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations) that could be applied to both personal and professional development (I also created a template that other people could download and use for their own use here). My aim was to make sense of my life-work balance (I used to call it the popular "work-life" balance, but later decided that life is actually more important than work, and now I use "life-work" balance instead. I'm not yet won over by the "integrated work-life" idea just yet although I see the point that you really can't separate out "work" as it's an essential part of your "life" - but I maintain the separation as it helps me categorise my personas better). 

I started by defining personas (basically activities like husband, father, professional, individual, friend, colleague, etc) where each persona reflected some facet of my life, that would consume time & energy. For each persona, defined related aspirations and goals for the year(s). As time is the most critical resource, I needed to understand:
  • What activities were consuming the most amount of time?
  • How did reality (of actual time consumed) compare against my wish-list of aspirations (desires, wishes, fancies)
  • Find a way of relating my time spent on activities relative to the value / happiness gained from such activities
I used Harvest for time-keeping, which I maintained with as best discipline as I could, and started tracking all my activities from the end of January 2016 till December 2016. Going into 2017, I will continue to track my time, making a few modifications going forward.

Last year, my reading centred around self-improvement - I also studied the works of Richard Koch on the 80/20 principle (after having read about it in Tim Ferriss' 4-Hour Work Week). The 80/20 principle was inspiring and relevant to my experiment in exploring my life's activities. Since I was collecting the data of time logging my activities, I would have enough data to use the 80/20 tool to gain additional insights: Which 20% activities consume 80% of my time? Which activities do I most enjoy compared to my actual time spent? What are the vital few activities that have the highest impact in my life? What activities or personas did I start out with are actually irrelevant and can be assigned to the trivial many?

In this post I will examine 2016 under this 80/20 lens and share my revisions for 2017 year ahead. The experiment continues ...

I often get asked why do I invest my time in this experiment? Why do I share this stuff on my blog?
I believe in this experiment - when I started this journey I felt I really needed to inspect my life and not live on auto-pilot, doing the same things day in, day out (which most people do) ad infinitum. I wanted to examine myself, explore my value system taking myself to task: Am I really living the life I had pictured in my head or am I just fooling myself? When I began this experiment, I had not even heard of Tim Ferris or Richard Koch for that matter, or the group called Quantified Self. Now, after studying these people, I know I'm not alone in this, that reaching a state of self-awareness is crucial to making sense of the world, and most importantly coming to terms with reality and finding peace with ones self. Personally I've learnt that it actually does help to write things down, create personal plans and logs with some goals that can be measured and tracked using journals, introspection and other self-reflection tools (it does not have to be a thing assigned to your job in the workplace). This experiment calls me to order: why am I complaining I don't have enough time to pursue my own goals and interests? Why am I blaming the world and passing excuses on to others (like family commitments) when the reason for not achieving my goals comes down to just plain laziness, distractions & lack of motivation? Did I bite off too much that I could chew, am I being over ambitious? Do I need to slow down and see reality for what it really is? How do I adjust myself, re-calibrate on the few essential things that make me happy?

I write about this stuff because blogging is a hobby. It might not get me anywhere, I do it for myself, and take the risk of sharing this stuff in the public domain because it just also might be relevant to someone else, who knows. I also use this medium as an outlet. A lot of my blogging in the past year has been on self-improvement & self-discovery, both personal and professional, which is a phase I currently find myself in...the feedback I've got from both colleagues and friends have nevertheless been encouraging and thus further motivates me...I've shared the RAGE model with a few people, it strikes very interesting conversations indeed. Some people have even suggested I teach this stuff!

Inspirational Quotes

"Finding out what you love to do is a great feat in and of itself"  Derek Dolin

“There is no satisfaction that can compare with looking back across the years and finding you’ve grown in self-control, judgement, generosity, and unselfishness.” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” – Benjamin Franklin

“It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient one, too.” – H.W. Shaw

“The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali

For more quotes on self-discovery, click here.

2016 under 80/20 lens

Richard Koch's 80/20 Principle is a book that everyone should read. I'm not going to rehash the 80/20 principle, except state in the general terms of the greatest output / reward (80%) is achieved through 20% of the input (vital few), the law of non linearity and unbalanced systems; that 80% of success results from 20% of input.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

2018 Year In Review & 2019 Thoughts

It's that time of the year again where I look into the data for timekeeping over the past year to make sense where I spent my time, and cross-check with reality, in terms of my aspirations and goals that are split between different areas of my life by Personal & Professional areas. The idea is to gain insights from this data and re-calibrate areas of focus for the upcoming year.

Unfortunately, I haven't made much in the way of drastic progress in 2018 compared to 2017, the profile is largely the same - that my professional (work) life has consumed more time (a constant theme), my personal life in terms of family commitments are reasonably on track, and the biggest area of neglect is on my own personal, individual streams (hobbies, ideas, health and fitness). However, since I started the RAGE model experiment, I have made some good wins on other areas, so the model works, but there's still more to be done in this area - specifically around outcome-based goals.

Recap my RAGE Model (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations) Tracking

I wanted to map out the different areas of my life that defines me, split by two major areas: Personal & Professional. 
For each area, I defined some personas or streams. For example - in the Personal area, I'm a Husband, Father, Family-Man, Individual, etc. For the Professional area, I'm a professional (my main job), a colleague, etc.
For each Persona, I map out my current Reality, ideal Aspirations, and then from those two, set some Goals & align some Expectations to achieve.
Another aspect to this experiment was tracking my overall happiness and well-being. If I spent time in the areas of priority, the theory is it should count towards me being happier.
I prioritise the Personas using a simple matrix that defines how I value and rank them. I then use detailed time tracking to track the time spent doing activities for each area. The theory is that I should be focusing time and energy on the areas that reflect the ranking and priorities I set. This is the core data for analysis. For more details on how I actually do this, I am still using the manual ways as described in the original posting. Since the original version of the Personas, I'm now on version 6 which currently looks like this:
Current Persona Matrix Rankings
What this ranking does is basically show my decision-making rules: Life (Husband, Father, Family) is more important than Work (Job), which is more important than my Individual Personal streams (Hobbies, Pet Projects, Me Time, etc.). A simple-enough value system that I use to navigate through challenges.

It all looks good on the paper model, but in reality, the data highlights some food for thought that I really need to take action in 2019.

What are the big challenges for me?

What triggered my creating the RAGE model and start the detailed time tracking activities was essentially about accounting for my time, addressing the hard realities:
  • Being a professional, i.e. having a stable income stream is currently a hard reality constraint. I need an income to support my family - so this is something I should not compromise on - but I still need to control it - I should not be overworking, at the expense of my personal life interests. So the data on work hours is important. When I read about pursuing dreams, passions, etc. about breaking out, taking risks, quitting your job etc. the reality around finances, lifestyle and family stability kicks-in - it's not an easy thing to do...this is a hard reality. I have to think of ways to ensure I do my best work, provide the best service to my employer, but not let work over consume me at the expense of my other streams (which as the data shows is not actually happening). Unless I can find a way to create a passive income stream outside of my main job, this constraint is going to be around for a while. The outcome for this year must be to bring my work-hours to a decent level freeing up time to focus on my personal interests.
  • It's quite difficult to switch off from the office these days - even whilst at home, social media chats through Slack & WhatsApp are disruptions, that can't be tracked in hours - so whilst in "family mode", I must respond to chats - this time is unaccounted for. If I were to include all these moments as "work", then work-time increases...which is why this topic of "work-life integration" is becoming more mainstream.
  • The functions of resting and sleeping for a human being is something that must be respected, and can't be compromised. I maintain an average of 8 hours of sleep per night, so this is a hard constraint. Eight hours has been validated as the ideal, I can go on for a few days with less sleep, but it's not sustainable. This means that the rest of my time must be allocated around this, with Work/Professional consuming a large chunk of this.
  • Giving focus to my own personal interests as an individual, outside of being a Husband / Father / Family-Man, etc. seems like I'm sacrificing my own interests, i.e. putting myself last - and this is where the spiritual dimension of being a Muslim comes in to help - it's sometimes a struggle to deal with these frustrations.

2018 Data Insights - Tracking the Time / Hours spent

There was roughly 8,766 hours in 2018 (365.25 24-hour days), which I tracked and logged a total of 8,820 hours, which is not bad, the errors could be attributed to human error in logging (54 extra hours).

Where did the time go?

2018 Persona Hours, focus on Working Hours & Overall Happiness at work

There were 250 work days in 2018, excluding 12 public holidays. I took 34 days off as leave days, which left 216 work-days. Assuming an 8 hour workday, the capacity for work hours would be 1728 hours.
My actual work hours logged were 2155.4 hours, an excess of 427.4 hours as "overtime" which I don't really get paid for. This equates to an extra 53.4 days worked, an additional 2.5 months of extra work - which took away time from other areas, like for instance, time I could have used for my personal projects.
The table below summarises the major streams - highlighting in red, the months where work-hours exceeded the normal bounds. Overall split between life and work remains consistent with the previous two years, with my own personal individual streams taking much of the knock:

So it's clear that work-hours is an area to be controlled to free up time for allocating to personal, individual streams.

General Happiness & Well-Being at Work

I continue to track my overall happiness levels at work on a daily basis. I have also started tracking the bad days in terms of sleepless nights. In 2018 I had my fair share of stress at work that resulted in some nights where I hardly slept a wink, tossing and turning, worrying about issues at the office as well as my future in the company. This is a new stress that introduced itself last year, that I need to better manage. I tracked 12 sleepless nights, this is about 4% of the time. However, in general, the picture still looks good - I'm enjoying the work on the whole:

The last quarter of 2018 did see an increase in bad days - we had some challenges with the platform in terms of stability, new boss, changes in teams, and overall tensions and conflicts to manage & people resigning. This what triggered my blog post on workplace 3.0 last year. Additionally, my health took a bad turn as well in November. The number of "indifferent / neutral" days seems to be increasing - an area to keep track of. But in the grand scheme of things, there is more upside than downside at work, so this is still looking good! However, I do need to plan in personal time (leave days) more in the year to maintain a healthy balance.

Life in general is good, but my Personal streams are taking a knock

In general, overall - the time keeping does not contradict the priorities and rankings for my personas. I am also in a good space - health, wealth and mental space is in equilibrium (maybe this is because I've just done three weeks of of chilling out, relaxed summer vacation - back to office come Monday...). As I introduced the post earlier, on paper, I should be happy that my hours are reflecting the priorities I set & committed to...however, I can't help but feel a little down that overall my individual self interests are taking a knock...

In terms of the streams I see as my personal individual persona (i.e. the things I'm interested as person, outside of me being a Husband / Father / etc.), here's a view of the percentage focus per month (still highlighting the months where work exceeded the norm):

The positives highlighted in green:
  • Reading books - did well enough to track against my goal of 24 books, ended up completing 21 books last year. Not bad.
  • Spirituality - tracking very nicely, spent 10 days in seclusion in June, time well spent.
  • Me Time - this is time I spend by myself, thinking, exploring or even binge-watching shows ;-)

The areas of concern are:
  • Health & Fitness - dismal year. I had some health issues creep up on me last year. Not good.
  • Cycling - very little done. According to my Strava logs: 29 days, 47 hours, 585km.
  • Blogging - regressed big time - need to do at least one post a month
  • Entrepreneur - my ideas still collecting dust. Pathetic, makes me really wonder about this!

Major Outcomes for 2019: Intent

Broadly speaking, here's some outcomes I'd like to focus on this year, the detail in terms of specific targets is still tracked manually in the spreadsheet template:
  • Professional
    • Get work-hours down to a manageable level, target no more than 170 hours per month
    • Continue to build a strong leadership team thus removing me as a bottleneck, focus on strategic outcomes, less operational
    • Spread in more leave time, reduce sleepless nights to zero
  • Personal - Individual - Entrepreneur 
    • Spec out my Rage/Personametry product idea and get an MVP done, even if it's manual
    • Attend at least 6 Start-Up meet-ups this year
  • Personal - Individual - Health
    • Improve current fitness state - there should be no 0% activities in a month
  • Personal - Life & Family
    • Introduce consistency & routine into happiness building activities - at least once a month we should develop a routine around the things we enjoy doing as a family

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

On Self-Awareness

This year I've been focusing on self-awareness, which in my case was really about taking stock of myself in asking searching questions. It started toward the end of last year, when I first began to make sense of a model that I coined as the RAGE model (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations). In the course of this year, I had applied RAGE to not only a number of my personal & professional situations, but also used it to help guide a few friends and colleagues. I realised that many people find themselves in situations, when faced with different choices, are often conflicted about these choices, find themselves searching, reaching out to me(!). What surprised me most was how I was able to give neutral counsel, often by re-applying the techniques I've come to use on myself - the crux of it is really around asking searching questions. So I decided to use this blog post to capture my learnings to date, as references to the topics I've come across, share them with the very least, I can come back to this post for a refresher when faced with my next dilemma. I myself am still learning...

This post is taking me more than just a few days to write, so I'm releasing it incrementally. There's still some empty sections that will be filled up as I go along. It's broken up as follows, you can read each section independently:

Sunday, 1 May 2016

My RAGE life logging April update

At the start of this year (2016), I made a firm resolution to keep track of the things that matter to me, in whatever aspect of my life (which I call "Personas") [As a Husband, Father, Blogger, Professional Consultant, Friend, etc.] - when I developed a model called RAGE which stands for Reality Aspirations Goals Expectations. 

For each Persona, I interrogated each strand: What is my current reality (the situation as it stands - is it good, bad, healthy, needs work, etc.).  What are my Aspirations (where would I like to ultimately see my self as this person?). Can I set some short, medium, long-term goals? What can I expect to achieve (given the reality)?

I ended up creating a set of 22 Personas, which I ranked and prioritized toward the tail end of January. I then decided to track the time spent in each of these roles, checking against the goals that I'd set. Since February, I have logged a total of ~2,236 hours, which roughly works out to 93 days (24 hours) which is just over 3 months of data. I have religiously logged every activity related to a persona, using the popular timekeeping software from Harvest. And now that it's become a habit, I will continue to do so for the remaining 9 months, lets see how long it goes on for.

April Insights

Three months of data has now revealed some interesting insights - the month of May has called for a course correction. More of this later. Looking at April, this is how I spent my time:

In terms of the top 10 areas I spent my time in April:

And comparing the last three months, for each of the Personas, according to the rankings I set out for in the beginning of the year:

The shaded area in yellow shows the top 10 personas that emerged from my ranking exercise at the start of the year. There were some obvious red areas that has now forced me to recalibrate going forward into May...

Here is a month-by-month view of the top 10 areas:

Recalibrating Personas for the next 3-month Iteration

Given this data, it has forced me to re-assess some of the areas in my life. One of my hypotheses was that I may just be infatuated with a certain area, the proof would be that if I was really interested and committed to something, then I would make an effort to work on it. It so happens, after much reflection, I have now adjusted my personas in the following way:
  • Improving my technical skills as a coder is now more important to me than being an investor, job hunter, software professional or a potential company employee. Moved up from 7 to 13 in the rankings.
  • Whilst being an investor is an aspiration, the fact is that I don't really have tons of money to invest in, and that trading in JSE is more of an experiment in savings than a major part of my life. If I were to ask myself the question "who am I really?" I would rather identify myself more as Coder/Software/Innovator than an Investor. So Investor has moved down from 14 to 8 in the rankings.
  • Job-Hunter: This has become a background activity. It is no longer as important as it was to me in the beginning of the year. With all other things going on in my life, I am comfortable with my current situation, and therefore this persona does not need prominence in the top 10 anymore. I will still respond to head hunters and seek out potential opportunities linked to my aspirations, but it's now becoming a stealth activity. Moved down from 15 to 6.
  • Potential Company Employee - similar to job hunting, this persona should really disappear off-the list, anyway it has moved down from 12 to 2.
So I've re-calibrated my Personas, meet Persona Ranking Matrix Version 2 for the next 3 months:

Outlook going forward

With the recalibration done, the tracking history, with the new top ten looks like this:
New baseline for tracking


Since the start of the year, I've made a commitment to focus on improving the areas of my life:
  • As a Husband, I've made headway into spending quality one-one-one time with my spouse. I just need to maintain it going forward. Doing this has taken a hit on my work, but being a consultant, it has made it far more easier for me to set aside time, during the work-week. I believe that alone time is important to nurture and grow the relationship, time with the kids is seen as family time (a separate activity). I will try to continue to taking a morning off out of my work-time to focus on this.
  • As a Father, I'm spending a decent amount of time with my kids. My eldest son has most of my time these days because of his interest in becoming a Hafiz.
  • As a Muslim, it is becoming a constant background activity again. Whilst some people (Muslims) might be surprised by my openness, praying 5 times a day is kinda expected, and the norm - but in reality, it needs work. Not only this, one needs to go beyond the basics and really try living completely, it's a state of mind and heart, that is quite difficult to achieve. I am on the road, there will be uphills and downhills...since starting tracking data again, I am hitting a rate of completing one complete Quran recitation every three's a start. I try not to be dogmatic in this area, I'm no saint...being in control of emotions / anger / discipline / calmness is the ultimate aspiration (and I'm quite far away from that!).
  • As an Innovator/Entrepreneur - the going has been tough. The hours I spend focusing on this is the early hours of the morning, and weekends. Being a consultant again helps, as I can take time out from work (which means not getting paid) and focus on my ideas. I am pleased with the progress I'm making with Personametry, and have decided to focus on just one idea at a time (I have tons of them).
  • As a Technical person, software programmer or coder - I have decided to focus on this more. If I am to start up my own product, like Personametry, to save money and resources, I should just do it myself (which means learning to code in the modern web app / iOS / Android frameworks). I'm an old C/C++/MFC/Windows coder...
  • As an Individual, pursuing hobbies, health and fitness is really a weekend activity. With winter coming, I need to look at better ways of indoor training, and also complement training with other learning activities (like podcasts, etc.). I have regressed on my cycling since March (used to ride alone on the road, but recently been put off by the crime and now looking at cycle parks as the safer option)...I also need to work on cutting down the time I spend Resting/Sleeping, trying to bring it to around 6 hours of sleep every day, and need to improve my boot-up time, takes me 30-45 minutes from the point of switching the alarm off, to hitting the keyboard!!

If I were to map my 24-hour day....

The experiment's a version of how my 24-hour day could look like going forward the next three months:

What else am I up to?

Personal Kanban

This is a post for another day, just to give you an idea: Before my RAGE model, I maintained different Trello boards for the different things I was focused on. Each board had its own TODO list, which made it difficult to track. I also had one board called my "General Brain Desktop" as a dumping ground for any idea/thought that popped in my head. These boards grew over time, making it a bit I'm in the process of consolidating ALL into just one board, my Personal Kanban board. So far I've got hundreds of cards spanning all 22 Personas. I've shared this board with my wife, so she has a view into my mind-space...

Personametry Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Tracking w.r.t. Stress Monitoring

For the month of April, I've logged my heart rate diligently, daily day-in, day out. Took it to work every day, took samples before-and-after meetings. Took samples when I'm driving. Took samples when I was doing this (blogging), or playing with kids, or spending time with my wife...This experiment is about measuring my HRV and drawing relationships between HRV and Personas/Activities - and checking if I could get some readings about Stressful situations...Expect another blog post in May.

Jozi Quantified Self & Personametry Meetup Group

I went out on a limb and set up my own Meetup group for Personametry. Twelve people have already signed up for this, so I need to work on running my very first meetup soon...