Maniac week

Inspired by Bethany Soule (and indirectly by Nick Winter, and also by the fact that my dissertation defense and the start of the semester are looming), I am planning a “maniac week” while Joyia and Noah will be at the beach with my family (I will join them just for the weekend). The idea is to eliminate as many distractions as possible and to do a ton of focused work. Publically committing (like this) to a time frame, ground rules, and to putting up a time-lapse video of it afterwards are what actually make it work—if I don’t succeed I’ll have to admit it here on my blog; if I waste time on Facebook the whole internet will see it in the video; etc. (There’s actually no danger of wasting time on Facebook in particular since I have it blocked, but you get the idea.)

Here are the rules:

  • I will start at 6pm (or thereabouts) on Friday, August 8.
  • I will continue until 10pm on Wednesday, August 13, with the exception of the morning of Sunday, August 10 (until 2pm).
  • I will get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night.
  • I will not eat cereal for any meal other than breakfast.
  • I will reserve 3 hours per day for things like showering, eating, and just plain resting.  Such things will be tracked by the TagTime tag “notwork”.
  • I will spend the remaining 13.5 hours per day working productively. Things that will count as productive work:
    • Working on my dissertation
    • Course prep for CS 354 (lecture and assignment planning, etc.) and CS 134 (reading through the textbook); making anki decks with names and faces for both courses
    • Updating my academic website (finish converting to Hakyll 4; add potential research and independent study topics for undergraduates)
    • Processing FogBugz tickets
    • I may work on other research or coding projects (e.g. diagrams) each day, but only after spending at least 7 hours on my dissertation.
  • I will not go on IRC at all during the week.  I will disable email notifications on my phone (but keep the phone around for TagTime), and close and block gmail in my browser.  I will also disable the program I use to check my UPenn email account.
  • For FogBugz tickets which require responding to emails, I will simply write the email in a text file and send it later.
  • I may read incoming email and write short replies on my phone, but will keep it to a bare minimum.
  • I will not read any RSS feeds during the week.  I will block feedly in my browser.
  • On August 18 I will post a time-lapse video of August 8-13.  I’ll probably also write a post-mortem blog post, if I feel like I have anything interesting to say.
  • I reserve the right to tweak these rules (by editing this post) up until August 8 at 6pm.  After that point it’s shut up and work time, and I cannot change the rules any more.

And no, I’m not crazy. You (yes, you) could do this too.

About Brent

Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Hendrix College. Functional programmer, mathematician, teacher, pianist, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in grad school, meta, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Maniac week

  1. heatsink says:

    How do you ensure that you will be able to focus for 13.5 hours per day? (In contrast to, say, having only enough energy to stare at a word processor.)

    • Brent says:

      Good question. The short answer is “I don’t know, I’ve never done this before.” The longer answer, i.e. things I am going to try which I hope will aid my focus, is (1) actively remove distractions (e.g. by blocking them) like Facebook, email, and IRC; (2) public accountability; (3) having a varied list of things to work on, so when I find my focus flagging I can switch to another task; (4) eat healthy food, and snack throughout the day (e.g. to keep my blood sugar constant).

      One might think there comes a point when you are literally, physically incapable of forcing yourself to focus anymore. Of course sleep deprivation is a real thing. But other than that I’m not so sure. Others have done this kind of thing successfully. So we’ll see what happens; I’ll be sure to write about it in my post-mortem!

  2. Yitz says:

    Good luck, Brent! I believe you’re going to do this. btw, just wondering, no mention of beeminder…

    • Brent says:

      Thanks! I’m definitely still using beeminder, e.g. to keep track of my time spent on research, my dissertation page count, etc. etc. (Note that the Bethany I mentioned I was inspired by is one of the beeminder founders.) Do you mean you’re wondering why I didn’t say anything about using beeminder to keep me on track for this? I think it will be short-term enough, with enough other motivating factors, that I won’t need the extra sting of a beeminder contract. Though just to help track & visualize my progress I may set up a “maniac week” beeminder goal, with data points auto-populated by my TagTime “work” tag. But I will set the rate much lower than my true goal.

  3. Wow, good luck! This is an interesting project! Personally I think I’d try to do some exercise during the “resting” time, or my body would shut down already after two days of sitting still.
    I’m awaiting your post-mortem blog post with anticipation! :)

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