Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Efficiency Failure

I have come to the conclusion that it probably takes me an unnecessarily long amount of time to complete all of my homework assignments. Just when I was starting to think I was efficient, the semester hit me full force and then I realized I was so wrong. Assuming that I don't actually have more homework than the average student, and after examining my behavior when I work on things, I can conclude that I have an efficiency problem.

The main source of the problem is attempts at multi-tasking. I don't mean that I physically try to completely two homework assignments at the same time; that would be madness. These are much more subtle attempts, and I don't know how they worm their way into my work-time.

I start out by working on the assignment, either starting at the beginning or picking up where I left off. A few minutes in, I check my e-mail for anything relevant from the professor or any partners in group projects, which generally leads to me checking irrelevant e-mails just because they're there. If this doesn't lead to something completely tangential, I sometimes check Facebook "real quick" before returning to my task.

Eventually, something about my task will frustrate me. This happens most frequently with programming assignments, because there are so many possible errors and so many ways to fail. It also happens with long, odious tasks, or assignments that I'm fairly certain have to learning value. When my homework frustrates me, I make an effort to focus hard and knuckle down, blocking out all distractions until my problem is solved.

That is a lie.

When my homework frustrates me, my automatic response is to go to Facebook and make a status about it. Then I check my messages and notifications, look for amusing things in the News Feed that "need" my response, and check my notifications again to see if anyone has commented on my status yet. It is so pathetic. Moreover, it probably wastes an unbelievable amount of time.

I then, eventually, think about returning to my task. If I am remotely hungry or desiring of a snack, I deal with that first. You must understand that if, when I'm working, I've entered that magical state of "flow," I have to be close to passing out from hunger before eating anything, but we're assuming that I've just finished a lengthy stroll on Facebook. Before I get to my task, I find a meal or some popcorn or something and waste a little time with that. If it's an especially unproductive day, or my deadline is a little less pressing, I'll watch an episode of Leverage before continuing my work.

"Continuing" isn't especially accurate, I suppose. "Starting" is more like it.

Mercifully, once I've been at a project for a decent amount of time, I do enter that state known as "flow" and can obsessively focus on my task. Comparing me to an object that is the subject of a physics study, I suppose I must overcome my high coefficient of static friction before I get moving, and after that I'll keep moving until an outside force makes me stop.

I suppose, then, I must make an effort to lower my coefficient of static friction. The most sensible way to do that is to ban myself from Facebook and all other non-essential activities for the duration of a pre-set homeworking timeslot. This is presumably easier said than done, but I ought to try.

And I imagine I'm not the only person out there with this problem!

1 comment:

botsfri said...

Good news/Bad news,....Apparently, you've inherited an unenviable trait from your parents.

The “Good News” is, it has been proven to be manageable, by quiet, intellectual music (classical preferably) playing in the background,…with the InBox, Facebook, and phone in the “Off”, or “Off-the-hook” position.

Set a time, one or two hours where you’ve chosen to be focused on the task within said environment.

What transpires is magical….as the impasses are worked out in a relaxed, focused condition, as opposed to running to a trivial diversion.

Prayer is also quite helpful… 