Saturday, July 25, 2009

on schedules (according to paul graham)

one reason why i don't love teaching has nothing to do with the actual practice of teaching. writing lectures is fine. the frustrating thing is the scheduling.

despite a few years' of experience, on my lecture days i still find it difficult to get anything other than teaching done.

when i count the hours, they are few:

2 hours of actual lecture,
1-2 hours of preparation,
1 office hour [1]

even if i were to work an 8-hour day, that leaves 3 hours left for researching, reading, or writing .. that is, if i actually have something worth writing up \-: ]

but does it ever happen, that i have 3 good research hours? occasionally, at most half the time. usually it takes an hour or two until i'm out of teaching mode and back into my crazy research self.

maybe i'm just weird.

then again, i can appreciate paul graham's most recent essay because it suggests that .. maybe i'm not so weird:

"When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That's no problem for someone on the manager's schedule. There's always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker's schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

i never thought about it, but having to remember to show up to class on time is already bothersome. it's not unlike:

being able to think about maths, when walking to work,
vs. not being as able to think, when waiting for the bus.

again, it could be my own idiosyncrasies. there's more:

For someone on the maker's schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn't merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work."

if this were true, then i'd feel slightly better about my shortcomings. among the mathematicians that i know, my own work stamina seems the shortest.

[1] this is provided that office hours occur only on non-teaching days. almost every semester and against my better judgment, i schedule one office hour when i don't have to be in the office at all.

almost always, nobody shows up. i should have my head examined.


Anonymous said...

I find myself doing the same thing. Also an academic, I feel as if my spouse would find me insane if he were to find the pages and pages of doodles that appear to be various versions of possible schedule options. Am I better off forcing myself to go to the office on nonteaching days, or better served stacking them all up so I'm crazy. Is a free day useful for writing or more useful for personal time. I also try and schedule daily gym time, but the gym in on campus. Anyway - I really enjoyed reading your post.

janus said...


there are plenty of blogs that talk about mathematics in the same fashion as in a seminar or a paper or a lecture. it's nice to know that someone appreciates the occasional blog post about mathematicians.