On Productivity and technical education

Monday, 29 March 2010

A spirit of the moment note on productivity. In other words, If I was given five(few) minutes to talk about productivity, this is what I might say on my feet.

  1. Do not multi-task.

  2. Free up your brain by using pencil and paper to record every "todo" item and "projects". (think GTD)

  3. Relax. Physiology affects Psychology.

  4. Plan the next course of action before you take a break, whether it is a five minute break or leaving for the day.

  5. Aggressively avoid time sinks like email, chat and social networking sites.

  6. At the end of everyday, note down the top Three, yes only three, things that would like see completed the next day. You can have more than those three on the list, but completing the first, most important three should be enough to tell yourself that the day was successful.

  7. Manage Expectations. If we can define productivity as a ratio of what was done to what was expected of you to do, the first thing you should know is, What is expected out of you?. Many a times we will be carving the mountain when all the user/boss/team/client wanted was a donkey.

  8. Ship. Shipping working code is a huge productivity booster. Once you have made your choices (either by design, or forced by constraints), take the shortest route to "Ship-worthy" implementation.

  9. Use slack periods to get mundane stuff out of the way, from cleaning your desk to getting "administrativia" out of your way.

On technical education

Some choice quotes from this article -- 10 lessons of an MIT education which can be generalized to any technical education, whether earned in a university setting or self-taught.

Knowing how > Knowing what

'Knowing how' is placed above 'Knowing what' in technical schools because 'Knowing how' can be tested.

At certain liberal arts colleges, sports appear to be more important than classroom subjects, and with good reason. A sport may be the only training in "knowing how"-in demonstrating certifiable proficiency-that a student undertakes at those colleges. At MIT, sports are a hobby (however passionately pursued) rather than a central focus because we offer a wide range of absorbing "knowing how" activities.

So, test your learning, as early and as often as possible

You can fool very little of the time.

An education in engineering and science is an education in intellectual honesty. Students cannot avoid learning to acknowledge whether or not they have really learned.

You must measure up to a very high level of performance.

The expectation of high standards is unconsciously absorbed and adopted by the students, and they carry it with them for life.

Knowing what is the benchmark for high quality work and knowledge is the first step towards excellence.

Learn Subjects that have permanent value.

Learn, or relearn the fundamentals. Mathematics, logic, computing. Mathematics is the queen of sciences.

The future belongs to the computer-literate-squared