On Doing Less

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

As I described in my previous post, I struggled with too many tasks at the same time. I had to declutter things that are occupying my mind to regain focus and sanity. Things improved a bit after my first try, but I still felt strained by goals and to-dos. It seems the rate things get into my to-do list is much faster than I can process them. It adds to anxiety and despair. Despair in that I will always be inadequate, and I probably will never have time for things I love but have to keep postponing, like reading books of Noam Chomsky, Wittgenstein, and many others; learning drawing and violin.

As a self-taught programmer who knew little about computers just three years ago, I always feel the knowledge gap in many areas. Big words like compilers, low-level language details, computer graphics, architecture, assembly, etc. still intimidate me. This feeling gets amplified, especially when working with knowledgeable colleges. The imposter syndrome is real. And to overcome it, the only way is to learn and improve.

We live in an era where information and knowledge are accessible within just a few key stokes’ reach. It can be empowering and debilitating at the same time, ironically. Without a clear path, too much information can be distracting and counter-productive. For example, I’ve enrolled in many great courses on Coursera, but I only finished one. The apparent reason is that I was too busy. Apart from working, I read various tutorials and keep up with new libraries and trending technologies. In retrospect, none of these learning activities is more valuable than the Coursera courses.

One of the excuses I was telling myself is that these courses are not applicable right away. I need to be practical to do a better job at work. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I master mathematical thinking, building a computer from first principles, or academic languages. But as I gain experiences, the yearning for a deeper understanding of my field becomes conspicuous.

It’s time to change.

Here are what I plan to do:

1. Learn things that don’t change and ignore the trends for a moment.

2. Limit the number of tasks that I must finish in a day.

It is non-negotiable. If I can’t finish them, I’m not good at evaluating my productivity. Improve this core ability until I’m good enough.

3. Time boundary.

Set a definite time boundary beyond which I’ll stop working and wind down. If I don’t get to experience quality diffused mode, I’m fooling myself.

Time-slicing With Continuation-passing Style
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