Time Management

All through high school I had really high standards for myself. Not the grades, mind you (I admit, humblebrag, my grades were always uncomfortably high, probably as an expected but still sad byproduct of this process (yes, I’m actually complaining about grades being too high. I don’t want my report card to have lots of Bs or Cs, but I really didn’t need to pour enough resources into schoolwork that I graduated as valedictorian, when there were so many other personally and socially meaningful things I could be dedicating effort into creating — but that’s a subject for another post (humblebrags all the way down. Somebody get some internet pitchforks and poke some sense into me))), but simply how I managed my time for doing homework.

In my opinion: not very well. I always spent too much time surfing the internet and doing things less urgent than homework, then ended up sleeping at midnight or one o’clock or whenever often to finish what I should have done earlier.

And yet, compared to many of my friends (definitely not all, though), that’s not late at all and the amount of buffer time I had between finishing work and having it due was positively luxurious. But then, I suppose, I didn’t have the same amount of math homework. But to counter my excuse, I had additional responsibilities such as practicing olympiad problems and preparing weekend presentations and translating the school newsletter. So I don’t actually know if my workload was significantly lighter than average or not, ergo I don’t know whether my time management skills were significantly better than average or not. It seriously doesn’t feel like they would be.

And allegedly, even when I’m procrastinating, it’s more productive than my friends’ procrastination, maybe even Paul Graham’s good type of procrastination. Often when I gripe about how much my former self procrastinated they will ask me what I’ve been doing and, after hearing the answer, tell me this. What have I done to put off homework? Oh, I did some olympiad math problems, committed to my GitHub projects, read a bunch of programming blogs, organized my old chemistry notes from two years ago, and surfed the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Yeah. Total waste of time. Meanwhile certain friends surf 9GAG whenever they get the chance. (Which is not to say that I don’t procrastinate in obviously unproductive ways sometimes — I surf reddit, YouTube, and TVTropes of course. Sometimes I even just read my own blog or dig through old folders in my computer. I’m weird. But anyway.)

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HabitRPG: harnessing the addiction of web games with cheap leveling mechanisms to destroy bad habits, avoid procrastination, and improve your life.

(Ironically, I discovered it on /r/InternetIsBeautiful.)

These claims sound a bit hyperbolic, but they are actually working on me. Most notably: for the three days after I discovered it, most of which has been spent at IOI selection camp away from school and worldly concerns, I’ve only gone on reddit once — and only for about two minutes. Instead, when I got bored of programming, I worked on economics homework, which is something that never came close to happening during the earlier iteration of camp. I just finished it and checked the to-do item off; as a result, I leveled up to Level 2 and unlocked the item shop. Yay! The sense of achievement is every bit as real as it is ludicrous.

I don’t know if I should be happy that I finally found such an effective way to psychologically manipulate myself out of procrastination, or sad that I’m so susceptible to psychological manipulation. I also don’t know if this game will be so effective after its novelty wears off, but considering the fact that I stuck with my last equally ridiculous sort-of-RPG for about three years, I can hope it’ll work for a while.

One of the unproductive things I’m trying not to do is staring at blog posts that don’t really have a solid conclusion and spending half an hour writing and deleting the last sentence, so I’m going to avoid doing that. Let’s be productive together!


List of things I did this weekend instead of studying for next week’s midterms:

  • create that Python gist from last post with all the atomic weights of the elements in it
  • arrange all the weights in said gist into a space-aligned periodic table
  • solve (read: walked through via chat) chaotic_iak’s non-hoax hidden puzzle
  • listen to approximately every Pentatonix video in existence (these people are just insanely skilled)
  • randomly play the piano and sing to myself for the first time in a few months
  • three separate commits on Gridderface (not that they’re big changes or anything)
  • go through tane.us (you’ll know when you reach the end)
  • update my pixelated avatar
  • attempt to use rudimentary trial-and-error to make my Twitter profile seamless
  • choose a new design for this blog and create a banner almost from scratch
  • write two random blog posts, including this one (but not the one-liner on AoPS about a certain troll polynomial)

What a productive weekend!


[A collection of summer vacation homework books]

Well, that was disarmingly quick. Less than 24 hours and all of a sudden all of my summer excuses for doing nothing important have been whisked away from under my feet. Old version of biology textbook and questions (thanks, Jonathan)… check. Two books plus one extra just in case from the reading list… check. All of the bookstore websites said there were no copies left, but we went to Eslite and handed the titles to the information desk girl and she said there were plenty of then on the shelf. Easy to find, too. And now I have to start working instead of endlessly refreshing certain web pages. And I am having tremendous difficulty with this.

I have always wished they would split our vacation periods into shorter blocks and scatter them throughout the year, because once vacation drags out, the amount of relaxation you can get out of it becomes less and less. I get sick of relaxing after a while and even the number of work-ish projects I have feel homogenous. I don’t even feel motivated enough to playing pointless flash games. (My most recent Anti-Idle save file is still on the old laptop and I don’t feel like getting it. If you don’t know what that is consider yourself lucky.)

I have finished Fahrenheit 451 and it was good, but not un-put-down-able with excitement. I imagine I’ll probably have to go through it again, especially the ending. But I wasn’t expecting they’d put any thrillers on the book list, only books with lots of room for interpretation and many places to discover a social criticism or philosophical message or metaphor for human nature. I don’t have any issues with that sort of things in a good book, but I have to wonder if we’re looking too deeply between the lines occasionally.

Anyway, this leaves one other book, plus the guided reflection assignments on them, plus eight chapters of exciting scientific reading and responses to questions! Wonderful. Also, it’s hot and sweaty and I’ve run out of descriptive words for this a long time ago, although obviously if I were a serious, attentive reader I should probably have been able to pick up a few extra relevant figures of speech from Fahrenheit 451.

Well, I like this segment of figurative language.

The pains were spikes driven in the kneecap and then only darning needles and then only common ordinary safety pins, and after he had shagged along fifty more hops and jumps, filling his hand with slivers from the board fence, the prickling was like someone blowing a spray of scalding water on that leg.

And indeed, it’s absolutely irrelevant and I’ve gone off topic again, but if I never got off topic then I think this post would be boringly short.

Okay, summer plans! The next week is the highly unofficial IMOCamp, which I am participating in not as a student or as a teacher, but as a more-or-less bystander providing a couple extra board games. Also I get to provide stories and maybe teach everybody how to get partial credit on problems. Then there are about two weeks of vegetating at home trying very hard not to do my summer homework, probably punctuated by a few trips to random places for the sake of getting out there. Then there will be three to four days of cramming. Who says I’m optimistic?

The point is that now, when I’m procrastinating, such as by writing blog posts documenting no events of significance whatsoever (e.g. this one), it is much more authentic procrastination because there are actually moderately important, non-self-imposed tasks being put off. So, I am quite possibly going to keep on blogging with the same frequency but greatly decreased post quality because I’m not blogging to blog anymore.

Nope, I lied; there is no point to this post, it’s just less boring than some of the alternatives at this point. At the pace and the level of perfectionism at which I’ve been writing “serious” posts, which don’t include this one, it could be winter vacation before I finish the IMO series. Oh well.

And no, no matter how much it looks like it, I did not select my books by how many numerically meaningful words they contained in their titles. If I wanted math I would have gone through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (read its Wikipedia description) again, but I read it a long time ago and would rather try something different. Furthermore, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is more combinatorially suggestive, don’t you think?

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Just Another Procrastination Post

[Paper, notebooks, more paper]

Work! Yay!!!

There are things I don’t do. I don’t play Tetris Battle, because it’s too mainstream, there’s no way I could catch up to everybody else, and Facebook games just feel corporation-evil to me. I don’t read 9GAG because reddit’s hivemind has, after showing me enough reposts for a lifetime, instilled an elitist mindset in me that considers it the dumpsters of the internet (and besides, AskReddit threads are way more interesting).

But still, despite all of these precautionary measures, I can find many ways to procrastinate. In fact, it might be argued that all this careful avoidance is the reason I’m so good, that I’ve adapted to my own productivity strategies. The internal conversation during a typical homework-loaded Sunday looks like:

Me: Okay. You have about six hours to finish all your assignments and you have lots of other responsibilities besides. Do something productive, dammit.

So I find my blog and start typing randomness into it, such as how annoying it is to be productive. Because, you know, judging by how I feel about older posts here, when I come back to read these posts five or ten years later, they’ll be really interesting. And besides, I bet there are still a small proportion of people out there reading about me. So this has to be a productive task… right?

Me: …okay, off the computer. There are a lot of assignments off the computer, and you get too easily distracted and can justify doing anything except playing the most clearly-defined games. Off.
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Where It All Begins

APMO 2012… Tuesday, the 13th of March. Cripes, I almost wrote 2011 again. It’s been far too long since my last full-blown competition, and I have still been feeling lousy. Where do I even start?

I had no idea what expectations I ought to have set for myself. I’m still keeping in mind that it’s not a standard test and there isn’t much of a “norm” to look up or down to. Just having the qualification to enter this stage is already rather significant. The only person I can compete against fairly, in essence, is myself, and I don’t know where the idealistic me should perform or if that sort of question even makes any sort of metaphysical sense. So I kept telling myself, whatever happens, happens. There doesn’t seem to be anything else. Besides, I did reasonably last year, I still have chances of maybe doing better next year or finding a further goal to aim for. Stop panicking, start preparing! The only problem being, of course, a certain chemotherapy-induced feeling of misery…
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