Doing more than one thing at a time.
It feels weird but I get more done if I have multiple projects running at the same time.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for some time, you’ll know that one thing that I’ve historically struggled with is consistency.
Here’s the thing: for me, it’s easy to start something, but once I get the initial fun bits of the work done, I start losing interest. It’s hard to motivate myself to do the less glamorous parts of the work. For example, creating the first few pieces of Transcribe was fun, using tools like Replicate and GPT-3. Now that it’s done, the tasks are less fun. There are lots of UX improvements I want to make, so that it’s more convenient for me to use. I also want to create a browser extension to make it easier to submit things. The list is long.
A similar thing happens to me when reading. It’s so much easier to start a new technical book. The first few chapters are relatively basic and do not require a lot of mental work. But as soon as things start getting complicated, it becomes harder for me to keep going.
I’ve been thinking about how to improve, and I wanted to share one thing that’s been helpful in the past few weeks. Instead of having just one thing to focus on for a long period of time, I’ve been trying to have multiple things. For example, instead of just spending all my free time on transcribe, I worked on a small command line tool (called huh) that I thought I would find helpful. Similarly, instead of just focussing on the one technical book, I read multiple simultaneously. This way, if one thing becomes too onerous, I just shift focus to the other and come back when I feel better.
I was thinking about this, and I came to a small realisation that this is one of the reasons why universities don’t just make you deep dive into one or two subjects across a semester. Of course, there are other logistical reasons (credit requirements, faculty expertise etc.) as well, but I think it’s easier for students when they’re not just focussed 24/7 on the same subject.
This is just something I’ve been trying in the last 2-3 weeks, so I’m still not completely convinced that I’m right. General convention of flow states and deep work do not recommend having multiple things vying for your focus, so perhaps it’s not helpful in the long run. Still, I’ve found it helpful in the last few weeks, so I’ll keep doing it until it’s not productive.
I re-did my personal website last week, in case you’re interested: param.codes
If you want to try out huh, feel free to install it! Install intructions here. Demo:
That’s it for this week, thanks for reading!