I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t long after I embarked on my wacky monastic engineering journey that reality (and terror) hit home. Questions like ‘What have you done?’ and ‘What the HELL are you doing?’ ricocheted around my head alongside images of destitution and bankruptcy.

I also became paranoid that the year would devolve into me lying on the couch binge watching television and movies. No! I want to create more, so I set myself personal KPI’s.

I know. Not exactly the first thing that leaps to mind when talking about a monastic journey. Good friends laughed. They suggested that maybe I should take a page from raising toddlers and call it a sticker chart instead.

So here is my sticker chart for January/February:

In hindsight, relocating to Cairns and doing it all in one big bang was a good plan. It wasn’t till we arrived in Cairns that a backlog of fatigue unfurled. I was horribly burnt out. Waiting several weeks for our life to arrive in a container forced a much needed reprieve. I had a long summer break with one guiding goal: 4pm. Pool. When I started the monastic engineering experience on the 12th of January, I was refreshed.

Create.

No sticker.

I created three things this month, but haven’t finished the project I set out to build. I’m still waiting on a few components from China (it has a hardware element) and I’m finishing other elements while I wait. So no sticker for creation this month. Fingers crossed everything arrives and I can finally assemble it all soon. I’m going to need to pipeline these projects better so that raw material shipping times don’t sink me.

However, I created and released two chef cookbooks, ‘credentials’ and ‘docker-images’. These cookbooks and a couple of supporting articles, helped me level up on managing systems with docker.

I completed a project that featured no software at all. I find building things within the constraints of the physical world an interesting exercise. This month I completed a set of shade umbrellas to stop some palms from getting burnt in the midday sun.

no sticker

I started writing again. Trying to explain concepts to others help me learn them faster. This month the articles covered:

Read.

thomas the tank engine sticker

Finished reading three books:

Steal like an Artist – Austin Kleon

Despite the link bait title, this book was not about stealing at all. It was a great, easy to read book on unlocking creativity by adoring and understanding those that inspire you the most. Study their work, understand who inspired them, reference and love them.

Browsing and seeing different workspaces is one of my most favoured, I just lost a couple hours browsing the internet themes. So I was pretty excited when I got to the great little section on workspaces. Austin suggested that splitting them into two broad categories, digital and analog. Where the analog area is for generating ideas, and digital is for editing and publishing them. This has some parallels with the use of tangible objects during the ideation phase of design thinking. So I got my own digital workspace cranking this month, but the analog is still a work in progress. I also like Austin’s ideas about writing fan letters. Writing praise for someone down should force me into a deeper understanding of their work.

A photo of my digital workspace.

Show your work! – Austin Kleon

Similar, easy to read coffee table format as ‘Steal like an Artist’ and just as good. It followed a similar rhetoric as Jeff Attwood’s ‘How to Stop Sucking And Be Awesome Instead’ but, yet I still found a couple of new pearls useful. The most liberating, was ditching the idea of guilty pleasures. Summed up with a neat Dave Grohl quote ‘I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.’. The chapter on funding your work was quite good as well, blasting out of the gates with my favourite quote of both the books ‘Even the Renaissance had to be funded’. Austin goes on to challenge romantic notions of art and money, and explores some standard ways of funding projects (kickstarter, selling services, selling projects).


Getting things done – David Allen

Several years ago, I stumbled upon ‘Inbox Zero’ as a way of staying on top of emails. It helped manage the flood of digital communications that was bombarding me. Inbox Zero was part of a getting things done craze that floated around the software development community. Much of it stemming from David Allen’s work, and his book had been sitting in a ‘too read’ pile ever since. This was a liberating read. For the first time in a long while, I feel as though I’m finally ‘on top of things’. The big things I took away from this book were collating and capturing everything. All those ideas, projects, to do’s, to read’s and then systemising a way of working through all this stuff. The minimalist approach to managing projects was also useful, especially for smaller projects. State a goal, desired outcome and next action. It is a lightweight way of defining the project, and the actions you need to perform for completing the project.

Exercise.

octonaughts sticker

Ran twice a week. 31km. Acclimatising to summer in the tropics has been brutal. I think I sweated 2kg that first run.

Despite my sticker chart, I still question myself daily with ‘What the HELL are you doing?’ But I’m starting to find it healthy. It pushes away complacency and forces introspection. Is this really how you are going to spend the day?