Scheduling Productivity

This last week has been less than stellar for me productivity-wise. The issues have been, to some extent, systemic.

One of my biggest problems has been a simple one of biology. I do pretty well in the morning. Getting settled in, catching up on e-mail, doing some coding… I cruise along until around lunchtime when I hit a lull and, if I’m lucky, end up in a stupor staring off into the space about two feet behind my monitor. Equally unproductive, but slightly less discrete is lolled back in my chair snoring slightly and drooling on myself.

I’ve tried various methods for combating this phenomena. It isn’t just that I’m worried someone is going to catch me, it’s how pointless it is. If I’m going to be productive, I want to be productive. If I’m going to rest, I want to rest. What I’m doing with this half-breed amalgam is the worst of both worlds — being unproductive in a really uncomfortable way.

I thought for a while that it might be the act of eating. Maybe energy necessary for running my brain was being redirected to my stomach, so if I reduce resources going to the stomach, I can keep the brain going stronger. This line of reasoning led to the not terribly successful experiments in boosting energy levels by not eating.

I did have some luck with the grazing pattern where I make a sandwich and eat it a bite at a time over the course of five or six hours. (A really good diet strategy, fyi. It significantly reduced my overall caloric intake.) Part of the reason I’m here at Sun for the summer is the people I’m around. When I go down to lunch I get to hear interesting people espouse unique ideas, and I think it might seem a bit odd if I just came to lunch and took two bites out of my sandwich in half an hour.

Grazing wasn’t a complete solution in any case. The central issue is thinking is taxing. If I was loading hay all day, I wouldn’t try to come up with some magical plan whereby at the end of the day I’m not tired. Because the work of an engineer goes on inside our heads, we are more apt to assume that we can simply change the ramifications of doing it with moral resolve. Just because the action isn’t visible however doesn’t mean it is less real.

The solution I’ve been relying on for the last week has been a tasty one: chocolate covered espresso beans. Coffee might taste like dirty water, but the magical font of Goodness that is chocolate manages to make it delicious. Honestly, I think if I stuck with it for long enough I could condition myself to enjoy the taste of coffee (much like I now enjoy beer, which pretty much every first-time drinker agrees tastes like horse pee).

The problem isn’t really solved though. I do manage to stay conscious through the afternoon, but my focus is sharp right after a shot of caffeine and sugar, and drops off again with increasing rapidity. The big problem is there isn’t such a thing as a free lunch — three nights this week I got home around 6:00 and was asleep by 7:00 only to wake up at 2am unable to get back to sleep. (And being up from 2-5am leaves one with the reactive efficiency of roadkill the following day.)

I suppose I could view making it through the work day as a success and say that it is unprofessional of me to consider my discomfort at home when structuring my schedule, but I’m pretty sure that is the express train to getting your soul sucked out. (Something that would ultimately not only be bad for me, but for Sun as well.)

I figure though that my specialty is systemization, and if there is solution to be had, I can find it. I’ve got a more formal set of ideas on the process for doing that, but for the sake of brevity I’ll not go into all that. I’ll just mention that the plan for the next week is to work 7am-2pm, go home, probably nap and then work another hour or so in the evening. I’ve not got the criteria yet for doing a more formal evaluation, but I figure I’ll at least get a sense of how it leaves me feeling.

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