On Unkept Promises & Productivity

I have an irrational fear of appearing hypocritical. This fear is best demonstrated in my inability to complete what I said I would:

Every important algorithm or data structure that I come across in [Robert Sedgewick’s] Algorithms, I will write about right here on this blog.

I wrote that three months ago. Pathetic that I haven’t posted anything about Algorithms, right? Probably.

Let me explain to you how this promise went unkept, and you’ll learn a couple of morsels relating to productivity.

In the post where I told all of you that I would write about algorithms and data structures, I said that I would do the necessary reading on the bus ride home from my internship at TMC Bonds in New York.

It became crystal clear to me within the first few days of my internship that the stamina required to do that was something I simply did not have. Eight hour work days were new to me, and so I decided that reading Sedgewick would come on the weekend.

It became clearer within the first few weeks of my internship that Saturday and Sunday were necessary to recharge from the week that was; reading a textbook did not fit into this idea well. Thus, I was about a month out from where I had started, and no progress had been made on my conquering of the textbook.

But why? A feeling of paralysis as a result of not starting the textbook when I was supposed to. As the summer progressed, the less possible it seemed to do the task at all and fulfill the promise that I had kept. That’s one problem.

An additional problem is the wide expanse of things I’m interested in doing at any given time. Since middle school, I’ve kept an agenda of assignments and goals in my head. I’ll chalk it up to changes in my neurochemistry that prohibit me from keeping the agenda as well I used to, now that I’m at the ripe old age of 19. As a result of this change, I am implementing a trick from a friend at Michigan: the Post-It system. Make a Post-It note for everything you need to do. Once it’s done, get rid of it.

It doesn’t require much of an explanation. I’ll let you know if I’m still doing it once I’m at school.

What can we learn from this boring, self-centered post? Two things:

  1. The longer a task goes on the back burner, the harder it becomes to start it.
  2. Trying to keep all of your ideas organized in your head is damn pointless.

You would think that after 19 years on this planet I would have figured this all out by now, but it is clear that I have work to improve on. We all do, I imagine.