Working process

Over many years of independent work during the PhD, I’ve pieced together components of a process for getting work done when there isn’t a pressing source of urgency.

Components

  • Blocks — Chunks (e.g., 25 minutes) of focused work.

  • Goals — Concrete goals for the day. The more concrete, the better.

  • Schedule — Dicing up the day to work on different goals.

Each of these can go awry. Figuring out the right way of executing them and how to combine them together is an art. I have yet to master it.

One key aspect in all components seems to be balance. Planning too much, one can create an over-engineered hot scaffolding mess that quickly falls apart. Planning too little, it’s easy to drift.

I think at this point, I’ve tried all eight combinations of the three. As of July 2021, I’m using blocks and goals but not drawing a schedule. This has been working pretty well, but I am noticing that without a schedule, it can be challenging to strike a satisfying balance in which goals I work on.

Auxiliary factors

Auxiliary factors include diet, exercise, distractions (mostly the Internet), home life, stress, and broader motivation. From the perspective of a core working process, they aren’t central components, but having any of them out of balance can disrupt the process.1

  1. It’s worth an explicit disclaimer that this last point makes life sound work-centric, with all other aspects—like “home life”—in service of the working process. For some, this may be true, but I don’t think it’s remotely that simple or true for me. 

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started 15 Jul 2021
disclaimer This is an entry in the garage. It may change or disappear at any point.