Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

18 Oct 2013, 23:17 p.m.

A Mediocre Day But A Good Week

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2013 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Mel Chua visited Hacker School last week and especially entreatied us to blog about bad days, days we felt demoralized or unproductive. It helps her with her research. Well, Mel, here you go.

It's a Friday, and we get Fridays "off", that is, we don't have daily checkins and the facilitators don't have bookable office hours and some of my colleagues are gone and it feels muted and off-kilter. On September 27th I'd thought that I'd be working four days a week, but I look at colleagues who come in every single day, including weekends, and feel FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. So I've started coming in for half a day on Fridays, but it rarely feels as good and productive. I think by the end of Thursday I could really use a break to recharge. So that's one thing. I think from now on, if I come in on Fridays, it should be to accomplish a very specific task, and I should leave when that task is done or when it becomes clear that my energy or cognition is flagging.

Last week some of us joked around that we should do the opposite of Casual Friday: Fancy Friday we dubbed it. So today I came in wearing a dress, a bit low-cut at that. But I didn't see anyone else in suits or gowns or similar, so I didn't feel as comfortable in what I was wearing. For next week, if I come in on Friday, I may try a pantsuit.

I arrived around lunch time I and brought my lunch, which is good because it makes me feel good to be frugal. But I read a depressing and not particularly edifying message board as I ate, and I should probably save that kind of thing for the weekends or my couch at home.

I started off my work with the vague goal of "learn about unit testing" and it took me a lot more reading, sighing, and moping time than it should have for me to ask for help (thank you, Ryan, for our impromptu chat in the kitchen that led me to understand when to use assertions and when to go for mocks, and thank you to HSers who chatted with me about Mock) and to reduce my aims to something more manageable. Next time: follow my own advice, and ask for help after fifteen minutes of feeling stuck. Also, "learn about x" is an okay way to start surveying the problem space and the solution space, but "try a single implementation/example of x in a toy app" is a much better goal for an afternoon.

I drank coffee when I should have had water. I ate licorice when I should have snacked on edamame. So I got jittery and sugar-crashy instead of focused.

I chatted with someone, and I was judgy or negative when I could have been more thoughtful and constructive.

I helped people with git problems and questions, which I'm glad about, but I missed the opportunity to ask them about their learning styles first and organize my thoughts a little accordingly. It felt haphazard.

It took me way too long to start listening to energetic productivity-provoking music on my music player; maybe I'll just set a reminder to make that happen around 11am every weekday.

And there's random other stuff on my mind, e.g., having to grab my old mail off the OCF's servers by Sunday.

So, Mel, overall, today I started off in a low-energy, non-driven mood, and I didn't take the kinds of steps I know I oughta take in order to fix it. But nearly every time I spoke with someone, it shook me out of my rut, and helped me gather the activation energy to do The Right Next Thing. So it could be that Fridays I should just try to arrive in the morning and set up a pact with a few colleagues to do a check-in conversation every 30 minutes. (It's easier to set up that sort of thing upon shared arrival in the morning.)

Hope that helps you. It helped me.

What did I accomplish today? I implemented a few docstrings and started learning how to use __repr__. I showed some people how to work with branches and multiple remotes in git, and how to fork and make pull requests on GitHub. I reported a few bugs in one product and made a pull request for another. I used "git cherry-pick" for the first time, with Alan's guidance. I wrote most of a test that uses "assert" to check that there's a path from Independence to Portland given the links between cities in my game. I got emacs to give me two side-by-side buffers. 3.7 hours tracked in Project Hamster, 2.9 of learning and .8 of teaching, plus a few more of faffing about on the net or in conversation. But I surpassed my 20-hour learning goal for the week -- I'm around 25 -- so this week overall I've done well.

In retrospect, today felt suboptimal in contrast to a usual Hacker School day. Today I plateaued. I think after some rest this weekend I'll plunge in fresh on Monday with clear goals and better discipline.