06 October 2007

All-administration day

Over at Academic Productivity, Cal Newport reports that the best professors carve out at least one day for only research and many also devote one day to just administration. The first idea is pretty obvious. It's hard to think deep thoughts if you're constantly interrupted. The second idea is an application of batching.

Cal suggests that graduate students do something similar. Spend one day on administration, one day on big ideas, and three days on normal research activities. (Cal, you don't work on weekends?!)

I'm still trying to figure out what the heck is going on, so I'll pass on the day devoted to big ideas. However, I think I can certainly incorporate an administration day into my week. Hockey practice last Wednesday really exhausted me because of both the physical exertion and the fact that it stretched my waking period so long (I wake up at 5-6 am and hockey practice ends at 11 pm). I realized that I should expect to be exhausted on Thursday (the day after), so Thursdays make ideal all-administration days. Some things that I can do on administration days: write blog entries, post photos on Flickr, pay credit card bills, look over my finances in Quicken, save .pdfs of papers and input their BibTeX info into Jabref, grocery shopping, etc. I'm even going to try moving my weekly review to Thursdays (formerly on Saturdays).

I've also thought of a way to make the batching process earlier. Anytime I have a task I want to do later, I can send myself an email to my gmail account. For example, if I want to save a copy of the article arXiv:0705.1002, I can write an email with subject title: "save pdf" and the URL inside the email body, then send the email to username+p@gmail.com. The postive sign and letters after it will be ignored and the email will just go to username@gmail.com, but I can use username+p@gmail.com to filter the email into a special label called "process." Then on my administrative day, I can simply go through that folder. I got this idea from an article about "generate unlimited email addresses" on digital alchemy.

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