PMPM - Project Ivy: First Steps

This is part of a series that touches on practical magic project management from the perspective of my own personal 12-month project. Here are the prior posts:

Case Study: Project Ivy
Eating My Own Dog Food

The point of this series isn't to brag (or to whine) about my progress. It's also not going to be an overly personal info. dump (I don't get very personal here as a rule). No, I figure that this series will be useful for a couple of reasons:

First, because I'm a believer in taking advice from people who follow it themselves. A business mentor should have a successful business. A spiritual teacher should lead a spiritual life. Someone offering advice on practical sorcery should have their lives magicked pretty well in line. And if I'm going to provide advice on setting and meeting goals, well, I should be able to do so myself.

Second, because no one is ever perfect and no one is ever done. My life is reasonably successful and settled, and I'd be ashamed to give magical advice if it wasn't. But that doesn't mean it's FINISHED. There's always more to do, areas to improve, levels to unlock, adventures to have. That's what I'm up to here. I may not always succeed. Sometimes I screw up, fail, and just slack off. But I think that's also really useful to share. The blog world suffers from a surface perfection. Sometime it looks like everyone's happy and fulfilled and doing just great -- except you. But that's an illusion. We're all just muddling along, sometimes kickin' it and sometimes getting kicked.

Finally, I have to admit, if the things I'm working on were easy for me, well, I wouldn't be working on them would I? So since I've set myself some challenges, I want to take advantage of accountability. It's a great tool for getting your own ass in gear.

The project was initiated on the Fall Equinox, so it's been about three weeks. This is a good time to check in. This project is primarily about changing habits (though there are some single point goals as well) and the general consensus is that habits take about three weeks to solidify. It's also past the overly enthusiastic honeymoon period. Honestly, one of biggest reasons for project failure is sprinting too fast right from the start. This is why the vast majority of New Year's resolutions peter out by Candlemas (or even before). In fact, I recommend starting slowly, easing into it, and conserving your energy for the ultra marathon that is any reasonably-sized project.

So how did I choose to ease in? Well during my planning I determined that Project Ivy (it actually has a better name, but it's personal) has nine goals, spread between and across the four areas of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. (Obvious? Yeah, but hey I don't need to reinvent the wheel here.) So does this mean that I immediately started working on nine different things. Hell, no! In fact even if I wanted to, that would be an absolutely terrible idea. I'm sure I'd burn out and end up giving up the whole thing.

First of all, some goals are super simple (do this thing, do it regularly). Others are more complex, involving sub tasks that can happen over time. Not to mention that different goals have different cyclical rates. For example, in my plan some items are daily habits, while others are monthly, quarterly, even annual routines. So I don't have to kick off everything all at once or do everything every day. That's deliberate by the way.

For example, let's say that your goal is to enhance your relationship with the local spirits of your city. You can decide to do that through a short daily offering, or a more elaborate monthly exploration. You can make a larger offering to the city (maybe to support its less fortunate denizens) quarterly. Depending on what makes sense for your life, you can choose just one of those ideas or a few. What you don't have to do is everything all at once, right now.

You knew this was coming, right?

So how did I get started? Well, a significant chunk of my project has to do with forming some new habits, so I used the concept of keystone habits. This is an idea that comes from the book The Power of Habit (which I'll be touching on again soon). Keystone habits act as change agents, making it easier for you create lots of other great habits. They are a multiplying force for change in your life.

One of my goals is to get regular, outdoor exercise. This has always been a challenge for me. I'm much more cerebral than physical (shocking, right?). But during past times when I was getting regular vigorous exercise, I felt better physically and emotionally. Also, in recent years my outdoor time (hiking, camping, etc.) has been more limited than I'd like. There are good reasons for that, but that doesn't mean it's the best thing for me. The good news is that exercise is one of those keystone habits. It makes you feel happier and gives you higher energy levels, which makes it easier to accomplish other things.

So I started by focusing entirely on creating that one habit and so far it's been great. I'm getting out and walking/running 6 mornings or so a week for long enough to have me breathing hard and feeling it. I managed this by creating a strong external motivator for my habit, which is a great way to 'force' yourself to do something you don't want to do.

Meet my external motivation

Now, that's not the ONLY thing I've done. I performed an offering that I want to make sure to do monthly. And I started some preliminary tasks for enhancing my relationships with my ancestors. I do this work already, but want to broaden is so it's incremental improvement -- it certainly the right time of year for that. But by focusing primarily on one thing to start, I get a sense of success and achievement that I can roll into the next phase.*

* Note, the brain is a silly creature. It knows I'm manipulating it, obviously, but still reacts in the predictable way. Try eating on salad plates for a week and you'll see what I mean. You KNOW it's a smaller plate, but you'll still eat less as your brain goes "wow, that was huge plate of food!"

The next phase will involve continuing my habit (which is important because I'm traveling and need to see if it survives being in a hotel away from the furry motivation device) as well as adding a second daily routine. Plus continuing the monthly activity. I don't expect to spam the blog with this stuff, but I probably will check back from time to time with status and hints/tips for what seems to be working.

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