Every year the president gets on TV and delivers a State of the Union address. The end of every year is always a great time for reflection so I’m going to do a new yearly tradition — writing a State of the Sam article. I’m going to lay out what a couple different areas of my life look like right now and how I experienced the last 365 days. Maybe there will be some interesting insights to be had. More likely, this will be something I can look at a few years down the road and see where I’ve been. This is going to be a very self-reflective post but I think there will be some interesting tidbits you can take for yourself as well.
PART I: PLACES I TRAVELED & THINGS THAT HAPPENED
1. Joshua Tree National Park: Went camping with Emily for the first time. We drove out to Joshua Tree National Park (about 2.5 hours from where we live) to camp for two nights. Such an incredible place and the place we stayed was nearly empty. Pretty awesome way to spend part of Spring Break.
2. Doha, Qatar: I had the opportunity to travel to Doha for TEDxSummit. The Summit was for TEDx organizers from around the world to come together and learn how to organize better events. I never thought I’d be travelling to the Middle East any time soon but I’m so glad I did. A great experience.
3. Portland, Oregon: Emily and I house sat for a friend as soon as the semester ended. Normally this wouldn’t be remarkable except a.) I’d never been to Oregon and b.) I was house sitting a “tiny house.” Really cool to get a chance to live in one of these for a week.
4. Prague, Czech Republic: I went to Prague for an internship and research opportunity and ended up living there for over two months. I had been to Europe before but never for this type of duration. Was really cool to slowly phase out of the “tourist” mindset and settle in to a kind of routine for a couple months. Would love to go back.
5. Berlin, Germany: While in Prague we went to Berlin for a few days to do some additional research. First time in Germany. Berlin is a seriously cool city.
6. Transcontinental train trip: I came back from Prague to my parents’ house in Michigan. Spent a couple days there and then took a train from Detroit to Los Angeles. Taking a cross country train trip was always one of those things I wanted to do so it felt good to cross it off my list. Cool way to see a large part of the country.
A FEW MORE THINGS
Organized TEDxClaremontColleges: After working on organizing this event for nearly a year we finally pulled it off at the end of September. It went really, really well. Brought together over 400 attendees and 16 speakers for a day-long conference.
Cassidy died: My childhood dog died back in Michigan the day before TEDx :(
Teaching assistant for Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s class: I got to act as a teaching assistant for one of my idol’s classes this year. His book is the reason I’m studying positive psychology in graduate school. Surreal experience.
See a selection of photos here.
I’m incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to travel so much. I had a couple of once-in-a-lifetime experiences this year (Doha and Prague) that will be tough to match. Looking ahead to 2013 I’ve already got trips to New York City (first time!) and Atlanta scheduled for conferences. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to expand my travel horizons even more over the next few months!
PART 2: BOOKS
A large part of my process is the raw product I’m utilizing to write, coach, and basically just live. In the case of knowledge work (or really, any creative work) a large part of that raw product is information. One of my favorite ways to learn and expand my own intellectual horizon is through reading books. I’ve been tracking all the books I read since mid-2007. I’m a nerd for data of any kind, but especially stuff like this.
Let’s dig into what I read this year, eh?
The entire list can be viewed in spreadsheet form here.
In terms of sheer number of books read, it looks like I clocked in at 50 books read (and I have a few days to wrap up my latest so I might make it to 51). This puts me at 20 less than 2011, 14 less than 2010, but 8 more than 2009 and 6 more than 2008. Reading less than last year makes sense since I started graduate school in September but had essentially from April until then to read uninterrupted. In terms of sheer number of pages read (something I don’t track) I’m sure this year has probably eclipsed all previous years put together (I read a lot of scholarly articles and other non-book assigned materials).
The main genres are Personal Development, Psychology, and Philosophy (especially if you collapse all the Buddhism books I read into that category). That seems about right considering my interests. Somewhat unbelievably it looks like I only read 3 fiction books in the past year. Yikes.
Let’s move into a selection of my favorite books from 2012, a look at the books I re-read in the past year, and what I’m looking forward to reading in 2013.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Foer: This book helped solidify my reasons for being a vegetarian in a profound way. I enjoyed Foer’s personal story that essentially wrestled with the question, “What should I eat to be a healthy, moral, and happy human being?” Considering Foer’s novel-writing background, this book did not read like a typical pro-vegetarianism informational book. It was engaging, moving, well-researched, nuanced, and ultimately entirely worth the time and money.
The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra: Technically, this belongs in the next section as I read it in 2005. However, at that time it was an assigned book for my freshman year Critical Thinking class. When I read it then it completely flew over my head. I decided to revisit it this year and I’m very glad I did. I’ve been getting more and more interested and involved with Buddhism and Eastern thought in general but I’m also studying science at the graduate degree level. This book investigates how physics and Eastern thought are actually much more alike than many people realize. A dense but very gratifying read.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport: Cal’s blog has been in my top three favorite places to visit on the Internet for a couple years now. I love his take on how to become an expert and completely endorse his view that passion for our work is developed and not magically “found.” Cal’s book takes that idea and fleshes it out in a very accessible way. I think this book came along at an important time in my life as I embark (hopefully) on a journey that will culminate in a PhD. At the very least, I care deeply about being remarkable at what I do and this book helped me clarify how to do that.
In addition to the books I described above, anything I re-read this year is definitely worth your time. Here’s what I cracked open for the second (or third or fourth or fifth time) in the past 12 months.
Getting Things Done by David Allen: I tend to read this book at least once a year (usually once the school year ends). It always serves as a great refresher when I’m feeling mentally burned out. I’ve been “practicing” GTD for about 5 years and I seem to get something new out of this book every time I read it. This was at least the 4th or 5th time I’ve read this book.
Ready for Anything by David Allen: I seem to read this one six months after I read GTD. It’s broken up in such a way that it’s easy to sit down and read a chapter or two and come away with a couple insights about how to move a project forward, gain clarity in some way, or just feel better about the work I need to do. This had to have been the 3rd or 4th time I read this book.
Making It All Work by David Allen: I actually read this book twice in 2012 (once in May and again in October). In May I was struggling with some really big questions about what my future was going to look like. And in October I had just finished putting on the TEDx event that I had been working on and stressing over for the past 11 months. I had pushed a lot of potential projects to the backburner in order to focus on the event so I needed something to read to help me get above the fray and gain some perspective. This book does an awesome job at that.
Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana: This is hands down the most accessible book about learning how to meditate I’ve ever read. It’s written in a very simple and engaging way and makes the case for why you’d want to begin a mindfulness practice in addition to showing you how to do so. I read it whenever my meditation practice starts to feel a little haphazrd.
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: This is the book that started it all for me in terms of going to graduate school and pursuing a degree in positive psychology. I was fortunate enough to be a teaching assistant for one of his classes this semester in addition to taking another one of his classes. That inspired me to sit down with his book again and give it another read through. It’s kind of like GTD in that every time I read it I get something new I hadn’t noticed before.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013
I’m almost done with the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series so I’d like to make sure I get that wrapped up in preparation for the last book to be published. Once I finish that I think I’ll start another epic fantasy series (any suggestions?). I’d like to read at least 1 or 2 of the Great Books to serve as a way to challenge myself. Finally, in terms of general genres I’ll be reading more of this year, I anticipate an uptick on the number of business/entrepreneurship/management books as well as Buddhism/mindfulness books. As always, I’m sure there will be a ton of psychology and personal development books thrown in the mix.
What did you read in 2012? Any recommendations I should throw on my wishlist?
PART III: PRODUCTS I LOVE
I try to research thoroughly nearly every purchase I make. As an ardent minimalist I think long and hard about any item I allow into my life. I try to make sure everything I have and use regularly is something I love. That results in not owning very many things, but what I do own I tend to really, really, like.
I think an interesting part of anyone’s process is understanding the tools they use to get their work done. If you don’t think researching the pen you use or the backpack you carry around every day warrants much thought you might want to skip this article.
I thought about reducing this list to only things I bought or acquired in 2012, but decided against that a.) because I don’t remember when I got some of these things and b.) I’ve never done an inventory like this so I think it’d be more interesting to get it all out now.
To make the list the item had to be something I either really, really love and/or use a lot.
Black Sharpie pens (medium)and Pilot G2: I spent 95% of 2011 and 2012 using black medium point Sharpie pens. However, I realized the main way I carry these around is in my front left pocket. Since the cap is separate from the pen I kept running into the problem where the cap would come off and my pen would be floating around in my pocket stabbing me in the leg and getting ink everywhere. I decided to find a click pen to replace my go-to Sharpie pens and ended up with the Pilot G2’s. They write great, don’t get my pants messy, and have a good clip. Can’t ask for more.
Large black hardcover Moleskine plain notebooks: This year I decided I wouldn’t use normal notebooks for school. I do most of my note taking on my computer anyway and regular notebooks tend to get nasty looking over time and are kind of a pain to carry around. For the past year or so I’ve been carrying around a hardcover Moleskine notebook for all my analog writing needs. I fill them up at a rate of maybe 1 every 9 or 10 months so it isn’t prohibitively expensive. The hard cover and smaller size than a normal notebook makes them great to carry around and the higher quality paper is much nicer to write on than a typical loose leaf notebook. Halfway through this year I switched from a ruled Moleskine notebook to a completely plain one and don’t see myself switching any time soon.
2008 Unibody Aluminum Macbook andApple Wireless Mouse: The computer I bought in the summer of 2009 is still trucking along. It’s starting to show its age in a couple places (for example, all of it’s little rubber feet have fallen off and have been replaced with little clear bumpers I bought online). However, it still does everything I need it to do really, really well. I imagine it’ll be upgraded in the next year or year and a half. Once the MacBook Air line switches over to Retina displays it’s going to be hard to hold back on upgrading my laptop.
Bose IE2 headphones: I had very nice Bose over ear headphones for a couple years. They eventually broke and I decided I no longer wanted to go back to the cheap headphones of my childhood. Luckily my lovely girlfriend stepped up and got these for my birthday in February. They are the most comfortable headphone I’ve ever worn and work great in every environment I tend to wear headphones, walking around, working out, working at my computer, and on airplanes. Love ‘em.
iPhone 5: I upgraded my iPhone 3GS in October. This is the first time I’ve ever been on the leading edge of any kind of technology. The phone is incredible and I love using it. I do a ton of reading and other legitimate work on it on a regular basis. Also, games.
Bodum French press andMr. Coffee blade grinder: Nothing too fancy here. The French Press gets the job done and the blade grinder falls into the category of something I use all the time and not something I love. Looking to upgrade this to a decent burr grinder in the near future.
Trek 8.2 DS bicycle: Got this bike when I first moved to California as I had no other means of transportation. It has been doing a great job getting me around town for the past year and a half. I’m learning to do a little bit of maintenance on my own and am looking forward to learning more about that aspect of owning a bike. If I get a car in the near future I may consider selling this and getting a more fitness-oriented bicycle for future athletic endeavors.
Tom Bihn Synapse backpack (black): My trusty backpack officially gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. Following in the footsteps of Rands and Ben Brooks I did a susbstantial amount of research before pulling the trigger on a purchase. I’ve never spent anything approaching what I spent on this Tom Bihn backpack on a backpack before. However, I can definitely say this is unlike any bag I’ve owned. It’s incredibly well made and really a joy to use everyday. Considering how much time I spend wearing a backpack, I figured upgrading to a Tom Bihn was a good move.
Merkur Classic safety razor, boar bristle shaving brush, andstand: A few years ago I received a classic safety razor and haven’t looked back when it comes to shaving. Even thought I’m sporting a bushy beard, I actually do enjoy shaving with this razor. I don’t remember the brand of my brush off the top of my head, but I know it’s a boar bristle brush and it feels incredible on my face. If you’re a man and still using disposable razors you need to upgrade your game and treat your face a little better.
Remington HC5350 beard trimmer: Like my coffee grinder, this falls into the category of something I use but don’t really love. If I remember correctly I had to buy it in somewhat of an emergency situation so I didn’t get a chance to do much research. With that being said, it does what it needs to do. I’ll upgrade this when it eventually breaks but it’s not high on my list.
Green canvas messenger bag: I once wrote a whole article about this bag for a friend’s website. TL:DR, this bag is awesome and I love it.
Amazon Kindle Keyboard (2011 model): I’m still rocking my 2 year old Kindle that has a slight smudge on the screen and a crack in the body. However, it does its job well and I love reading on it. The vast majority of the books I talked about in my last article were read on this device.
OXO LiquiSeal coffee travel mug: This travel mug is awesome. It does a great job keeping things hot but event more importantly is nearly impossible to spill. You can carry it upside down, throw it around, shake it, and nothing will spill. Important considering I spend a lot of time with it in my backpack.
Teavana tea travel mug: Yes, I have separate mugs for coffee and tea. Drinking tea out of a mug that normally has coffee in it is not a pleasant experience no matter how much you clean it. This tea mug has an infuser inside it so I can easily steep tea right in the mug. It’s also incredible at keeping tea hot.
Classic stainless steel 12 oz. Klean Kanteen: I don’t like drinking out of plastic and I hate paying for water. Enter, the super simple and super awesome Klean Kanteen. I don’t have to worry about it leaking (see above) when I throw it in my backpack and it can take all kinds of abuse without breaking.
For what it’s worth, I wrote 99% of this article completely from memory. I know the name and model of nearly everything I own because I thought carefully about everything I let into my life. It may seem like overkill to figure out what your favorite pen or travel mug is, but when it’s something you use every day it makes sense to actually enjoy what you’re using. Sure, it’s a minor inconvenience to use a crappy pen or a leaky mug, but I’m a huge fan of eliminating as many minor annoyances as possible. It adds up over time and even the smallest changes can make a big difference if you let enough time elapse.
If this all seems a little silly to you I encourage you to take a little bit longer the next time you need to buy something and make sure you get something you truly love. It’s kind of addicting to challenge yourself to have as little, but as high quality, as possible.
PART IV: SOFTWARE
A huge part of my life (both productive and leisure) is software. I spend a lot of time on my computer as a student, writer, and coach. My phone acts as an extension of my computer and allows me to do work more effectively in certain situations. I thought it’d be interesting to share the software I use and the reasons I useI these specific products.
First I’ll share my most loved/used apps on OS X and then I’ll do the same for iOS.
Spotify: Early last year I made the switch to exclusively using Spotify for my music needs. I don’t even have any audio files saved in iTunes any more. For $10 a month I can listen to basically anything I want and carry it with me on my phone to use offline. I don’t have to worry about backing up music files or filling up a hard drive. For someone who doesn’t care at all about building a library of music and just wants to listen to it without pirating, Spotify is perfect.
DayOne: This is a gorgeous journaling app. I’ve been journaling off and on for many years. I’ve been experimenting with using this app as more than just a journal — more like a daily log. I find myself opening it up and writing stream of consciousness when I’m feeling stuck or just want to work out an idea for an article. Lots of my most recent published work and school papers have started in DayOne as stream of consciousness pieces. The iOS version of the app is awesome in that they stay completely synced and allows you to quickly snap pictures and add text.
Dropbox: Dropbox ties together a lot of my OS X apps with my iOS apps. It also seems that Dropbox (and not Google Drive) is the go to method for sharing documents and files with my classmates in graduate school. Dropbox is amazingly seamless and I forget it exists a lot of the time. That’s definitely the sign of a good syncing/backup app.
Evernote: Evernote acts as my digital file cabinet. Anything I might need to reference in the future gets thrown into it. Any notes for projects I’m currently working on also get thrown into it. Its tagging and searching is so good I know I can find anything I throw at it.
Fantastical: This is so much better than using Calendar.app. I can just activate the quick entry dialog box with a keyboard shortcut, write “Lunch with Nate on Wednesday at noon,” and it adds it to my calendar. No drop down menus, no clicking, just type it like you’d say it and you’re good to go.
Flux: Flux is always running in the background and when it starts to get dark outside my screen starts to automatically get “cooler”. It’s effect is completely unnoticed after the first 20 minutes of using it until you decide to turn it off for some reason and realize it’s saving you from looking at the blazing LCD inferno that is a computer monitor at night. This thing saves my eyes and I love it.
Chrome: My browser of choice. Every once in awhile it pisses me off and I have to switch back to Safari. But for the past year Chrome has been what I’ve used the majority of the time. It’s usually quick and has a great suite of extensions that tie in with some of my most frequently used programs.
1Password: Good passwords are a must nowadays. So much of my life and important work takes place online. If my Gmail account or any of my other important accounts were victimized I’d e in a lot of trouble. 1Password helps me manage unique and gibberish passwords to increase the security of everything I do online. It lets me not have to memorize a huge number of passwords and prevents me from not having the same password for everything. Everyone needs to use this app or something like it.
Koku: This is the app I’ve been using the least amount of time so far. I had been using Mint.com to manage my finances for the past couple of years but was never a big fan of it. There were too many things happening on that site that I had no interest in and either had to figure out how to turn off or just learn to ignore. When I heard about Koku I decided to give it a shot and so far I’m really enjoying it. Very simple and clean way to manage finances.
Mendeley: In graduate school you have to read a ton of PDF’s. My first semester I took a thumb drive to the print shop and had them print over 700 pages. For the past two semesters I’ve been using Mendeley to manage all my readings and I’ve even been doing the reading right on my computer. The ability to take notes right on the document, highlight, and create annotations is pretty great and goes a long way toward keeping me organized.
Quicksilver: Another one of those apps (like Flux) where I sometimes forget it’s not a built in part of the operating system. Quicksilver lets me launch any program or file on my compter without ever having to touch the mouse or trackpad. Once you get the hang of it you’ll wonder how you ever used your computer without it.
Reeder: I have about 20 RSS feeds that I check a couple times a day and for the longest time used Google Reader for that task. A few months ago I started using Reeder and have really enjoyed it. It makes it easy to go through a list of articles using only the keyboard, it’s clean and easy to read, and allows me to easily export articles to Instapaper so I can read it on my iPhone later.
RescueTime: RescueTime runs in the background and watches how much time I spend using various applications and the amount of time I spend on each website I visit over the week. Every Sunday I sit down with the report it gives me and analyze how I’ve been using the time. This has become a very important part of my weekly review and helps keep me accountable.
Things: My task manager of choice for the past couple of years. I know a lot of people in the productivity/nerd racket use OmniFocus but I’ve been a Things man for a long time. It does everything I need it to do in a simple yet powerful way. I’ve become incredibly proficient at throwing random pieces of information at it and because I’ve instituted a regular weekly review I know I can trust the program and my system. This piece of software may be the most important (other than Evernote) to my entire work process.
WriteRoom: I abhor Microsoft Word. I also abhor Open Office. I do all of my writing in either TextEdit (if it’s small and impromptu) or WriteRoom (if it’s something longer, like this article). It just presents you with a black screen and a blinking cursor and you take care of the rest. No formatting. No font choices. Just write.
TweetDeck: For the past couple of years I’ve been using Twitter from their website. However, this year I had to manage two accounts for a little while and therefore needed an actual Twitter client. I had never used one before and was skeptical about how it could be better than the website for how I use Twitter so I wasn’t ready to put down any money for one. That left me with TweetDeck and it has been okay. I may be changing this in the future.
On my iPhone I try to keep my home screen as uncluttered and simple as possible. I don’t have any folders on my home screen because I think my most commonly used apps should be available with as few taps as possible. What follows is a few of the apps that live on my home screen and I use quite a bit.
Chrome: I liked Chrome for OS X so much I decided to give it a try on iOS. It’s great. I think it’s better than Safari. Give it a try.
The Magazine: This is a publication that puts out a handful of “articles for geeks and curious people” every couple of weeks for $1.99. It’s a beautiful app and so far the articles have been great. Look forward to the new issue every time.
Instapaper: From the creator of The Magazine, Instapaper makes it very, very easy to read things I find online whenever I want. I find interesting things to read all the time but I rarely have time to sit down and read them the moment I find something. I click a button on my browser and it sends it to Instapaper on my phone. I open Instapaper whenever I want and the text from the article I was reading on my computer is ready to go. It has become a huge part of how I consume information.
Reeder: A lot like the OS X version. Clean, quick, and makes it easy to do what it’s designed to do, read RSS feeds.
Check the Weather: A very smooth and simple weather app that provides information above and beyond the stock Weather app on the iPhone. It’s completely gesture based and is tied into the Dark Sky API so has the freakishly good short-term precipitation forecasts DS is known for.
Things: When CulturedCode released the latest version of Things with Cloud integration I rejoiced. Now, any task I add to my phone will show up on my computer and vice versa. I don’t ever have to worry about forgetting something I need to do thanks to this app and its slick integration with its OS X counterpart.
Fantastical: Again, much like its OS X counterpart. Instead of messing with dials and switches as I struggle to add a new event I can just use my natural language to type in what I need to do, when I need to do it, and it takes care of the rest.
Downcast: I listen to a handful of podcasts and before iOS 6 came out podcasts was part of the Music app. I was never a huge fan of that app and it was pretty bad for podcasts. I switched over to Downcast and have been happy ever since (even with Apple releasing a dedicated Podcasts app). It lets me subscribe and manage all my podcasts with ease.
My philosophy with using and buying software is similar to my philosophy regarding physical items I bring into my life. If I need to use it a lot, it better be something I like. That’s why I sought out something like Fantastical. I found myself resisting adding things to my calendar on my computer and phone because it was a pain in the butt. After trying out a handful of calendar apps I found something that made the process a little easier and removed that hesitation. For me, that’s worth $5.
If you find yourself thinking, “Man, I hate doing this thing on my computer or my phone,” multiple times a day you should investigate whether there are any alternatives out there for you. Chances are, there is. As long as you can resist the urge to fiddle with new software just for the sake of fiddling then spending a little bit of time to find something that works better for you is worth it.
PART V: WORK
As a full-time graduate student it might seem like the only “work” I have to do is centered around classwork. Doing the assigned readings, attending class, completing projects, writing papers, and taking exams is definitely a large chunk of what I spend my time doing. However, that only scratches the surface. I told myself when I came to grad school that I didn’t want it to dominate my life. I’ve worked hard to become more efficient and intelligent about how I do my work so I can have the time and energy to keep other endeavors going.
Let’s take a look at what my work landscape looked like for 2012 and what it might look like in 2013.
Classwork (readings, assignments, exams, etc.): From January to May and September to December I was enrolled in a full schedule of grad school classes. Needless to say I spent a lot of time reading and writing for these classes.
SamSpurlin.com articles: My article output on SamSpurlin.com has been severely curtailed over the past few months. The demands made on my time due to class and a little bit of lack of clarity with what I should be writing about has contributed to this. This is something I’m looking to improve in 2013.
SamSpurlin.com newsletter: For the first half of the year I was writing and publishing a monthly newsletter through my website. However, that seemed to stall once school started up again. I’m not sure if this will be restarted in 2013. If it is, it will probably be changed in format.
SamSpurlin.com Weekly Video Update: Another thing that I did off and on this year that needs to either be officially retired or revamped.
Sam Spurlin Coaching & Consulting: I was able to work with more coaching clients this year than I ever have in the past. I’m really loving this part of my work and hope to expand it in 2013.
Independent research: Over the summer I took on a research project while I was living and working in Prague. It’s still at a very early stage and needs a lot of work to move into something potentially useful. I’m also working with a classmate on another project that we’re presenting in Atlanta in February. In general, independent research is something I need to keep moving forward, especially if I get into the PhD program.
Independent evaluation: One of my classes this semester was developing an evaluation proposal for a real-life program. I met with the main stakeholder today and it looks like we’re going to move forward with actually doing the evaluation. If I get into the PhD program, this project will fulfill one of the requirements of my portfolio. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of my group members from class are going to actually be helping me with the actual evaluation so I might be doing this largely solo.
GettingHistoryDone.com: I started a fun little website where I could put quotes up from the autobiographies and biographies I read. I’m fascinated with descriptions of how people do their work and I’m also quite the history nerd. I don’t really have a commitment to posting regularly here so I’m not overly worried about how much time I sink into it. When I have some good quotes to put up I’ll put them up, otherwise I don’t worry about it.
P>P.com: I started this website to serve as the receptacle of all my writing that doesn’t fit with SamSpurlin.com. It’s kind of a mishmash of different styles, ideas, and themes but I think I’m okay with that. That’s basically why I created it. Sometimes I feel bad for not writing more regularly on it but it is kind of like GettingHistoryDone.com in that it’s nice to put something up when I have something to say, otherwise it’s fine to just sit there.
Claremont Coworking: One of my major projects while I was working in Prague was writing a proposal to give my university to start a coworking space for students. The proposal was written but nothing is really moving forward in terms of an actual space at my school. Opening a coworking space is still something I want to do, I’m just not sure how much time I can truly focus on it right now. I’m thinking about setting up the website and using it as a place to publish any articles I develop dealing specifically with coworking. At this point, the most important thing I can do is begin creating a community of people who are interested in coworking in this area. I’m not quite sure how to best go about doing that, yet.
Other entrepreneurial ideas: I’m always on the lookout for other entrepreneurial ideas to investigate. One of the main ones right now involves leveraging the presentation my friend and I are delivering in Atlanta.
Be a Better Indie Worker: This originally started as an e-course that was part business development for me and part school assignment for a friend. He no longer needs it for a school assignment but I think we’re going to keep working on it. I’m viewing it more as a living e-book/membership site at the moment. It’s still very much in the air and needs a lot of work.
TEDxClaremontColleges: I’m co-organizing TEDxClaremontColleges 2013. Organizing the 2012 event was incredibly gratifying yet stressful. I’m hoping the fact that I’ve already done it once and have a co-organizer this time around will make it more enjoyable. It’s a great opportunity to get experience organizing a large event and leading a group of awesome volunteers. Not to mention the contacts made organizing an event like this are second to none.
I think it’s safe to say I potentially have more than I can safely handle right now. On the other hand, maybe not. A lot of these projects are very long-term and only require a small amount of effort each week to keep them moving forward. At the same time, I don’t want to be spreading my attention too widely so that none of these projects are actually world-class and I’m mediocre at basically everything.
Looking ahead to 2013, I see a couple of changes in focus taking place. I’d like to bring back the newsletter but I think I might make it a quarterly endeavor instead of a monthly one that rarely gets written. Consistency is important and right now I can’t find the time to write a high quality newsletter every month (especially since I’ve only been averaging one or two articles on SamSpurlin.com each month). The same goes for the Weekly Video Update. Instead of failing at doing it weekly I think I’ll change it to a monthly video update. Another idea I’m toying around with is starting a podcast that will be tied to my site. If I do this it will take the place of the video update. I also know it will probably be more work than I’m currently committed to, so I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.
In terms of writing, I just need to do more of it. I think my idea repository is a little bit stale right now so the first course of action will be freshening it up. I’m going to come up with a couple series that will be interesting for my readers while also helping me plan out what I’m going to specifically be writing about. I think shooting for one article a week is doable, especially if I don’t force myself to write something huge each time. I think I’d even be happy with one every two weeks.
Some of this is up in the air until I find out whether I’ve been accepted to the PhD program at CGU. If I have, I’ll have to reconsider what I’m committing to in terms of non-school work. Being in the PhD program doesn’t necessarily make my course work more arduous, but I’ll have to take on projects outside of class that will cut into the time I have for entrepreneurial activities. For now, I think a lot of these non-school programs are actually supportive of what I want to do in the long run regardless of whether I get my PhD. For example, if I get my PhD I still want to open a coworking space and do coaching/consulting out of it. Therefore, it makes sense for me to keep working on SamSpurlin.com, getting more coaching clients, keep trying to build Claremont Coworking, etc.
Wrapping all of this up, I see a bunch of projects that I care a lot about and am excited to work on. At the same time, I still have a sense of unease about how spread out my efforts are going to have to be to give them all the attention they need and deserve. I don’t have any good answers right now other than continually asking myself what is truly the most important and listening closely to what my brain and heart tell me each time. Projects may fade in importance, a new opportunity may arise, or my priorities may change. I need to be open to any of that in 2013.