Sunday, October 25, 2015

Reflections on "don't break the chain"

For about 1 month I tried writing up one idea per day on this blog. This was largely a selfish task, a way to get some ideas down that had been swimming around my head and distracting me. I find that once I do this they stop diverting my attention, and it allows me to start working toward an implementation or something actionable (these are also the main reasons I use TODO lists, Wunderlist being my current favorite).

I was also testing the Seinfeld "don't break the chain" productivity approach.

Some observations

  • The biggest problem with the "uninterrupted chain" approach is that blog writing represents only a small fraction of my overall writing output, and my writing output is itself only a small fraction of my overall work output. I think that writing something everyday is key, but writing up new ideas is probably less useful than working on papers or posts that communicate the technical work I am doing. Perhaps I need a "meta-calendar" that would allow me to string together days that I write in any forum for a particular audience. For example, I should probably keep an academic writing calendar separate from a calendar keeping track of public-facing posts.
  • Writing new ideas in a public forum is tricky when you have to worry about patent issues, which is yet another reason why the patent system is so badly broken.
  • Writing a new idea every day is a good forcing factor, but it might be better to linger on particularly good ideas for a few days. In this spirit I am planning to return to some of my posts and beef them up a bit with mock-ups.
  • It is much more fun to write when you aren't too worried about related work. I think in academia the literature survey can be a terrible, idea-quashing instrument. Sure, somebody probably did something like your thing at PARC in 1992, but it is best to take a few minutes to get your idea down first. Almost certainly yours has some novel components, and it might be more than that. At worst, you've lost just a few minutes of your time, and as time wasters go writing down ideas isn't so bad.

No comments: