- Research - Solve the last 2 issues, code, write up research results into a paper and send out for review. Hard deadline of 24th Nov
- Write a Reinforcement Learning library for the friendly folks at at the DRDO. This is a a lot of work
- Implement the algorithms in chapters 9-12 of AIMA. (First Order Logic and planning, for anyone working through the book). Release the next version of the AIMA Java code.
Ravi Mohan's Blog
Friday, November 09, 2007
Experiments with Time Management
After viewing Randy Pausch's lecture on Time Management, I've been experimenting with various time management practices. (yeah I know how management-ey and buzzword-ey that sounds, sorry). It helps that I am going through the busiest month in my entire life, so I am more motivated than usual to make this work. The most successful habit I've adopted is to put a money value on my time. As Randy says in the first few minutes of his talk, people are generally willing to give you their time, but not their money. If you ask people to spend a quarter of an hour to help you arrange the furniture for a talk, they will happily do so, but they won't hand over 10 $ for no obvious reason. Once you start putting a dollar value on your time, though, strange things happen. For example, I decided not to attend Barcamp. (I'd registered, I cancelled it). Say an hour of my time is worth say a measly 25 $ (being a cheap outsourced-to Indian programmer). Travelling to and from Barcamp, and attending 3 or 4 sessions would take, at a minimum 6 hours. 6 * 25 = 150 $. Would I spend 150 $ to attend Barcamp? Not on your life! To be honest, there are other disincentives also - I really don't want to attend a meet which is so "implementation lite" - where there is so large a focus on things like search engine optimization (!) and blogging. People actually think blogging is a big enough deal to form "collectives" about blogging? - there is even a "collective" for "radical ideas" -- yeah right, that makes sense .. NOT. The mind boggles. I consider blogging the intellectual equivalent of writing a post-it note. I cannot imagine self-identifying as a "blogger" and making a big deal out of it. God have Mercy. Back to Time Management. Since I don't (in general) attend phone calls from unknown numbers/people when I am working, I don't have interruption issues. And once I concentrate on something, it is hard even for people (even if they are sitting right next to me) to jerk me out of the zone - I don't hear anything when I focus on work so they'd have to nudge me, and risk getting a laptop thrown at their heads) so I didn't benefit so much from that part of his talk. But the money value of time is an excellent perception to have. Would I spend 50 $ to have a good conversation with a friend/someone doing interesting things? definitely. He is also right about keeping a time journal. The result of such an experiment is the most horrifying document you will ever see in your life. The good news is that with such an abysmal base, you can make substantial improvements in a very short order. To round things off, a couple of snippets from a Phil Greenspun article. Ask a wage slave what he'd like to accomplish. Chances are the response will be something like "I'd start every day at the gym and work out for two hours until I was as buff as Brad Pitt. Then I'd practice the piano for three hours. I'd become fluent in Mandarin so that I could be prepared to understand the largest transformation of our time. I'd really learn how to handle a polo pony. I'd learn to fly a helicopter. I'd finish the screenplay that I've been writing and direct a production of it in HDTV." Why hasn't he accomplished all of those things? "Because I'm chained to this desk 50 hours per week at this horrible [insurance|programming|government|administrative|whatever] job. So he has no doubt that he would get all these things done if he didn't have to work? "Absolutely none. If I didn't have the job, I would be out there living the dream." Suppose that the guy cashes in his investments and does retire. What do we find? He is waking up at 9:30 am, surfing the Web, sorting out the cable TV bill, watching DVDs, talking about going to the gym, eating Doritos, and maybe accomplishing one of his stated goals. Retirement forces you to stop thinking that it is your job that holds you back. For most people the depressing truth is that they aren't that organized, disciplined, or motivated. This is so true it is not funny. And one doesn't have to retire to encounter this phenomenon.I know many people who drop out of the 9-5 rat race for various reasons ( startups, research , search for the meaning of life .. whatever), and then find that months and years pass with nothing substantial being achieved. Another interesting suggestion from the same article. publish a public Web diary of what you do every day, thus discouraging you from wasting time because you'll be ashamed to admit that all you accomplished yesterday was a 15-minute oil change and a trip to Target That is a very interesting idea, but a little forbidding, exposing one's lack of productivity to the world. But I should probably grit my teeth and try it for a month or so. If you want to see what this would look like for someone who is really really good at what he does (vs humbler mortals like you and me) see John Carmack's dot plan files (warning - Flash, sorry I couldn't find an html document of these and I am running out of my "write a blog entry" time slot). There's even a theory that these (Carmacks' plan files) were the origins of the present day blogs, no matter what Dave Winer says. While I don't quite have the guts to "dot plan" my puny daily efforts, I could probably list down what I plan to do each month on the first day of the month and a report on the last day of the month detailing what actually got done. So, as an experiment, here is what I need to do this month (November 2007) (client work excluded - privacy concerns blah).