This is part of The Blogging Gauntlet of May 2016, where I try to write 500 words every day. See the May 1st post for full details.
This post was put online at 12:00:07 AM. As per the rules, the post was not completed before midnight, and I must donate $20 to charity.
This post was further edited on May 21.
Now that my NIPS submission is done, I have time to write a bit about my feelings towards the student lifestyle.
The thing about academia is that workloads are incredibly variable. The week before a deadline is hell on earth, while the weeks after it can be incredibly relaxing. When you’re a student, work blends into your life. The time you can do your work is very flexible, which makes it easy to put off until you have to pull an all-nighter.
For the last two weeks of classes this semester, I had two final projects to finish, and it was a nightmare. At some point, I was waking up, going into lab, and not leaving until midnight, every single day. Some point in this destructive cycle, I noticed it was 1 AM, and did some mental calculation. “Hm, so I got up at 9 AM. I’ve been working for 16 hours. But, I went to lecture, and also got meals, so really I’ve only been working for 12 hours! That’s not…so…bad…”
And then the penny dropped. Working until midnight every day was my new standard. Working at least 12 hours every day was my new standard. Mind you, this is including weekends - I’m pretty sure the only day I took off was Sunday, when I convinced myself I absolutely had to not work today.
I understood this was incredibly unhealthy for me, but I couldn’t stop. My project was due Thursday, meaning I needed the poster done by Wednesday, meaning I needed to finish my experiment code by Tuesday because it had to run overnight. The timeline of my work shunted everything else out of my life, and I didn’t see any way to push free time back in.
At Berkeley, I’ve never been able to get my life into a schedule. I’ll add things to my calendar, then not do them. Right now, I have a recurring event to write a post from 2 PM - 4 PM every day. I’ve never actually written a post in that block. It’s a glorified daily notification.
When I have the freedom to arrange work however I like, it all gets done at night, or right before meals. It’s too easy for me to push it down the line.
I know some people who argue this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Procrastination happens when you don’t have the motivation to get your work done. Thus, if you accept procrastination, you’ll work exactly when you’re motivated to.
That’s true, but if I had the choice, I’d much rather average my misery over my entire life, instead of having it all pile up right before a deadline.
What annoys me the most is that I could have that choice, if I learned to use proper scheduling. But, I haven’t done so. Every time I try to use a productivity hack, I only keep it for a week at most. Then, I drop it, because vaguely organized chaos is a lot easier to manage than structure. Somehow, I need to hack it to make doing productivity hacks fun. I haven’t figured out to do that yet.
So until then, here I am. A procrastinating workaholic.