How long-time work overload killed my productivity

In October one of my lecturers from college warned us that the current semester will be the worst of all that we have faced during our education. Sylabus for it had three projects related to Artificial Intelligence, and one course with only implementation tasks for some machine learning algorithms. Well, as long as you plan your time, nothing should go wrong… You just have to make sure that all deadlines has been meet… Right?

Expectations vs Reality

As it turned out it wasn’t that easy as it sounded at first. Working full-time job with college is definitely a pain in the ass, and keeps you occupied for almost whole day, and even part of a night. When I finally had some time for myself I only wanted to rest and let my brain ‘turn off’ for a moment. And all the time I promised myself, that only about two more days and I will have some time for myself to relax. And then two days passed, and new deadline was already ahead.

That kind of process repeated for the whole four months. In a meantime I had some off-work and off-college time during Christmass/New Year, but it didn’t help. While I should be relaxing, I was also reading and making my college projects work better (or start working at all). Instead of getting closer to my goal, I was getting more sick of it with each passing day. Since I had everything planned, where did I go wrong?

Problem?

After going through analysis of those four months, I must say that most probably the main reason of my stress was trying to over-achieve. While keeping my perfomance at work (there I am paid for it, so it is my responsibility), it was getting hard to keep up with everything else. I stopped cooking meals for myself for sake of take-out that I could eat while working on a project, didn’t get out too often with my friends, wasn’t able to complete any video game, book or TV show. I didn’t attend almost any social event, because I had to work on my college assignments. But hey, at least my projects were going fine. But they didn’t.

In any sport competition based on endurance, you never go on your full performance from start to the end. That is a very easy way to get tired too soon, and to not have any energy when it is needed the most. The same was for me — after New Year, when all should start to get wrapped up, my performance was the lowest in years. It wasn’t even procrastination — I simply couldn’t get anything done. During Christmas break I got back to playing World of Warcraft as a way to relax, but during my work-on-projects time I wasn’t playing game, but simply stared into screen waiting for solutions to magically appear.

Solution!

Solution suddenly came to me during one of my seminars, when groups were presenting our results. As it turned out, it would probably be wise to check out what other groups were doing at the beginning of the semester. While their projects were related to the subject of the seminar, those projects has also been relatively simpler. So all the time that I spent wondering how to solve some of problems in my projects, they could simply go to some reference work for answers.

And that’s basically the solution. If you know that you are going to have over-load of work, don’t try to make everything top-quality and perfect. You don’t have to exceed anyone expectations — because if you try, you will probably give up in a middle of a way. Take up smaller challenges to keep up a good work, and only create new ones after you fulfill previous one.

Work smarter, not harder.


Originally published at www.blog.smyk.it on February 12, 2017.