January 1, 2020

The Phoenix Protocol

In my 2019 retrospective post, I wrote what was probably a cryptic statement to anyone who is not familiar with Iron Man 3.

Initiate Phoenix Protocol

What is the Phoenix Protocol?

The Phoenix Protocol is a series of mindset shifts and actions that point to one purpose: to start over and begin again. Like the lores of the phoenix, it is designed to burn everything to ashes so that one can rise again in a new form. And for those who aren't familiar with tech terminology, a protocol is a series a steps that you take to complete a given objective.

Doesn't that sound a little dramatic?

Probably, but for those who know me, I have a tendency to add a bit of flair and some sort of nerdy reference to mystical / heroric / folklore / legend when naming things. More importantly though, while it may seem dramatic, 2019 was a culmination of tests and trials that pushed me to a breaking point which nearly ended in a painful explosion of fiery abyss. So in many ways, the protocol was aptly named.

Why didn't you just iterate on your previous system?

Over the last decade, I had acquired a number of tools and techniques that have been successful in many ways while simultaneously falling short of my needs. As a productivity nerd, I had assembled a productivity system that contained many well known techniques like:

  • Cloud infrastructure
  • Getting Things Done (GTD) Methodology
  • Inbox Zero
  • Task managers
  • Password manager
  • Pomodoro Technique
  • Keyboard First Activation
  • Workflow automation

However, as I experimented and iterated over the years, the system failed to scale along with my time commitments and actually became more effort to maintain. Or if we use programmer lingo, my system had become this legacy codebase that contained many inefficiences and was very hard to build new features for. As a result, it was time to look at the pieces that mattered to me and start with a brand new rewrite.

So what did the protocol involve?

At a high level, it involves the following:

  1. Putting a hard stop on any new commitments
  2. Getting a proper handle on my current commitments
  3. Heavy self-introspection in order to figure out what my priorities are
  4. Aligning my time and efforts with my priorities and values

And as far as tooling infrastructure, I basically burned my old system to the ground and picking up the pieces as I design and build a new productivity system capable of handling my processes with minimum maintenance. This means re-evaluating:

  • Voice assistant tools
  • Task management workflow
  • Brainstorming tools
  • Cloud infrastructure

Will you keep us posted on what you figure out?

Absolutely. One of the ways I plan on tackling my fears around creating things is to do short form content. So you can expect a lot of short posts going forward that will help capture my progress.

Finally, for those who don't want any spoilers for Iron Man 3, you can stop here. The rest of this post is just a little bit of trivia for those curious how the Phoenix Protocol is related to Iron Man 3.

Throughout Iron Man 3, Tony Stark wrestles with what it means to be a hero outside the suit of armor which made him the hero people know and love. And as he suffers from the PTSD aftermath of Avengers, he ends up going a bit crazy as he does whatever he can to distract himself (i.e., building numerous versions of the Iron Man suit).

However, at the end of the movie, he manages to make peace with his inner demons and initiates the "clean slate protocol" where all of his suits detonate in a fireworks like display.

Iron Man 3 Scene

So in a lot of ways, Iron Man 3 helped to provide the final spark for me to create my own "clean slate protocol."