Posted on November 29, 2017
Today, I finished 1/3 of the Intro to Python for Data Science course. Perhaps even more importantly, I wrote my first Airflow job and made my first pull request and commit as a member of the engineering team at my company. My progress is less than I hoped, but I’m still on track to finish this course by end of tomorrow. The key to doing so is discipline, and that comes from being present, having a structure that defaults to my goals, and managing my energy levels.
At several points in the day I was distracted by online articles, ad-hoc requests or Slack messages from colleagues in other departments (this kills an engineer’s productivity, yet may be a natural tendency of non-engineering colleagues), or my own thoughts about random topics, work and otherwise. I need to be present each day in the morning, at the office, and in the evening. Only then can I do the deep work that is learning a new programming language and skill. However, I have past templates for how to do this in Scott Young’s MIT Challenge, Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, and my own work schedule in grad school. Moreover, I’m working at a company, in a culture, and with colleagues who support my learning, growth, and the depth this requires.
Today I learned:
- When I sit down to work, I need to be present. Tomorrow, I’ll stay focused only on that specific thing I’m doing, not even thinking about future or unrelated matters, let alone worrying, planning, analyzing, or calculating things beyond what’s in front of me. No coffee, no browsing, no Slack when I’m inside a work block.
- My daily structure must reach my goals by default. My goals are to do best in class work in my new job, learn Python for Data Science (this Datacamp December challenge), and learn enough Chinese to talk to family over the Holidays. This will not happen unless every day is organized around these goals, I push myself when I’m at my best (I’m a morning person, recharged by exercise, and need a good night’s sleep), and I know that each day, hour, and minute clearly maps to the goal. Long story short, I’ve set up a new daily routine and will pilot it from tomorrow onwards.
- Managing my energy level matters is the most important thing. Today, I was distracted in the morning and saw my energy and motivation dissipate, while negative thoughts have had the same effect in the past. In the afternoon, an unexpected coffee gave me plenty of energy but also caused me to stay up much later than I had planned, to the point that I’m writing this post after midnight, as my mind wanders and procrastinates. I need to save my greatest energy for my mornings and ensure that I have steady energy at other times of day, so that I’m as positive, present, and focused as can be when I work. All nighters, late nights, and any time wasted on the computer are a result of not maintaining or channeling my energy properly.
January 2018 Update: Not much to say, except that this stalled in early December with new priorities at work, learning Airflow, Postgres SQL, and PostGIS, and other new opportunities that came my way. I’m back at it now, to finish all 20 Python Data Scientist track courses by Feb 2016. Or earlier.