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Saturday, November 6

learning to be disciplined and getting work done early

Created: November 7, 2021 at 5:23 AM

Last edit: August 24, 2023 at 5:18 PM

As with the last post, this one is also published on Postulate

It's 5:30 PM. I type out an email to Gary, drag a PDF into it, and hit send.

It's the first time I've submitted a paper or paper revision for the class on time. The first time, I got an extension and was still two days late, pulling an all-nighter to finish the paper. I was four hours late submitting revisions for that paper, and one hour late submitting the next paper.

This week, I completed half of my paper revisions along with the entire week's homework for three out of my four classes by Monday night. For the paper, I even finished early enough to go through two rounds of revisions with Michelle.

I've historically been bad at doing things on time. Whether with class deadlines, clubs, personal projects, or applications, I knew how to work incredibly hard in bursts, but struggled with consistency, and usually just scraped by -- or missed entirely, suffering from the consequences -- when under time pressure.

"I guess I'm among the high school kids who always did well enough that they didn't have to learn how to really work and now I'm learning. Wack cuz I didn't think so before cuz I put hella time and energy into schoolwork, but it wasn't disciplined I guess," I texted Michelle.

Only this summer did I begin to value and practice discipline, inspired by the hard-working examples of Kristie, Linus, and others. Discipline then took the form of time-blocking and working at Wework 9-5, and it worked great.

In the eclectic polyrhythm of class blocks and assignments, I lost my footing. As soon as I found it again, the even less structured phenomena of club work was added to my burden. This is to be expected -- life proceeds in damped oscillations that reset under new conditions.. But working ahead wasn't something I valued before, so I stayed up late and reflected that California people seemed to complain much less about their work than New Englanders.

"You are the average of the five people around you" holds true, though, and following Michelle's example and a weekend of accidentally getting sufficient sleep, I found myself powering ahead on all my schoolwork for the first real time this year.

The feeling was magical. "You feel exponentially better about life and accomplishing your goals when you're on top of schoolwork," Michelle texted.

In sharp contrast, in the same week I fell heavily behind on TSL and Mock Trial work. Characteristically, I managed to scape by Mock Trial with minimal consequences, but the delays cost my massive TSL data visualization most of the attention it likely would have garnered had it been on time and reviewed and promoted properly.

Getting ahead on my club work is the next step in the pipeline. Vivien and Ally don't provide great examples of this as my mock trial teammates (sorry if you're reading this but you know it's true 😭), but Michelle does with her club work, and I'm sure I can find others too. After that, hopefully I'll be able to have a robust workflow for personal projects I've been putting off, or that come up spontaneously: blog posts, apps, and makerspace builds, and find others who have the same.

On the one hand, I'm exhilarated that I'm becoming so much more productive and less stressed. On the other hand, I'm deeply suspicious of deriving so much joy from productivity: what do I risk de-valuing when I center work so much? Interacting with other people is the biggest detractor to productivity that I know of: working efficiently and working alone are mostly equivalent states. Socializing is better when you can do so without the stress of overdue work hanging over you, I know, so I suppose the concentration of the two extremes support rather than annhiliate each other. But something feels deeply capitalistic and un-humanistic about prizing work output so highly. Is pushing myself in this way sustainable, in general or for my personal disposition? Are there certain kinds of work, such as more creative and reflective work, that I can't do well under such an output-optimization mindset?

I don't know. But I'll keep moving forwards and questioning.


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