Rough Week and Data Collection

It has been a rough week. I’ve spent between 40 and 50 hours working on a school project that is for only one of my three classes. These semesters are so heavily end-loaded that I wonder if they were designed that way specifically to see if we crack under stress.

I certainly did. I had myself a good little nervous breakdown on Thursday, when I realized at 3 am that not only was my half-finished presentation not going to be completed by 10 am the next morning, but also that if I had delegated somewhat better, it might have been. My body, exceptionally pissed off that I had broken my promise of no more: tremendously late nights, bad or complete lack of nutrition, lack of exercise, and high stress situations and deadlines, decided that it had had enough. So I tried to go to bed and instead spent two hours crying. It was pretty epic. I haven’t felt that despondent since this summer, when I was attempting to juggle convention planning, Hackystat, a class and two CLEP tests.

So I’m contemplating action steps to take to make me hate my life less. After all, I’m a clever girl and ought to be able to think myself out of misery. And while it’s one thing to know that I will be so much happier when this project is over, and this semester is over, it seems as though there is always another project or semester. Steps must be taken and plans must be put in place to prevent future anguish.

I know that I am happiest when I have enough time to

  • Sleep between 9 and 10 hours a night
  • Cook and eat meals full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
  • Exercise for an hour a day
  • Drink copious quantities of water
  • Write
  • Read
  • Goof off
  • Socialize
  • Attend to personal projects and interests

I secretly believe I would be a deliriously happy housewife, as then I could cook and garden and bake and write and code ’til my little heart is content. However, since that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, other steps must be taken.

I must have seen this coming for a while. I must have known that just promising myself to stop abusing my body wasn’t going to do it. Or maybe Tom Inn’s class has made me even more introspective and self-reflective than I normally am. This whole semester I have been fighting the overwhelming urge to embark on sweeping new self-improvement plans (as I am occasionally wont to do.) However, I think I have reached a new stage in my life in which I have an increased ability to see through my own bullshit. I can make lists and strategies all I want, but realistically, I never manage to fully implement them, much less follow them to fruition.

So I have wised up. Instead of embarking straight into the “Fix Everything” stage, I am first gathering data.

I’m doing it in a way that was suggested to me by Janet Kingsolver, my 7th grade life science teacher. We were required to keep planners for her class, and she recommended that when we write down an assignment, we write next to it an estimate of how much time it would take to complete. Over time, she said, we would become good at managing our time and work schedules.

I never did this, but a decade later I am awestruck by the wisdom of it. I have begun to do it, but with a twist. I am keeping a spreadsheet in which I track the task, the category of the task, the day I estimate I will do it, the amount of time I think it will take, as well as the time it actually took and the day I actually did it on. Completed tasks are higlighted. Those that go over the time estimated are in pink, those that go under are in green.

time managment.JPG

My eventual goal is to develop an algorithm that can, given the category and the time estimate, output a time estimate adjusted for my estimating bias. That’s what the score column will be used for. I don’t want to be underestimating time, or overestimating time. I want to be accurate. Further, accurate is relative in regards to time estimation. Thirty minutes off for an 8 hour project is not much. Thirty minutes off for a 5 minute project is pretty significant, though. The score should be worse the farther off from the estimate something is. A score of zero is perfect–the farther away from zero a score is (in either direction–just haven’t bothered to figure out how to make google docs do absolute value), the worse the estimate is. (Note the big pink chucnk in the image. I was off by 6.5 hours in that estimate).

I have actually become somewhat spreadsheet-happy. I have a spreadsheet tracking the gas and electricity consumptions for our apartment, a spreadsheet tracking household spending for Alicia and I (to make sure we keep things even), a spreadsheet for my spending, a spreadsheet for my budget… You get the idea. I am a few hairs short of being like this fellow with a similar spreadsheet “addiction”. In fact, after reading this article I started a spreadsheet of books that I’ve read. I am also going to begin one for music I have listened to, and television and movies that I have seen. I have so much music that in order to hear it all I probably ought to take a disciplined approach. I might even discover a new favorite band! As it is, I often choose what to listen to semi-randomly, often with disappointing results. I feel that soon, spreadsheets will no longer meet my needs and I will need to move on to more substantial databasing stuff. However, for the time being, I am pleased with my solutions.

So far I have learned that I basically always underestimate the amount of time it will take to cook (when it’s anything more elaborate than a sandwich or something). I also underestimate the amont of time it will take to aggregate and present data.

Anyway, it’s almost 5 am and I think my brain is finally ready to shut down. I will continue this topic in the future–it is important to me.

But to close, a bit of a celebration. Here are some nice things that happened this week

  • I’ve had cause to use the phrase “emotional maturity of a blueberry scone” at least three times
  • Our new mattresses arrived
  • I figured out which bus will take me home from the City Centre
  • I learned a new recipe for mushrooms
  • I got to work alongside some truly awesome classmates who really showed their mettle in a difficult and unpleasant process
  • My blog is on the first page of Google search results for “beer fetching robot”
  • I ordered a stainless steel BPA free waterbottle with a sports cap
  • The clinic finally knows where my xrays are
  • I had a really interesting dream about Mark from Capability Scotland and I escaping from prison
  • I washed my sheets
  • I bought a new duvet to replace the old and literally moldy one
  • I discovered a flickr pool of redheads

Historic Day.JPG

Rough Week and Data Collection

7 thoughts on “Rough Week and Data Collection

  1. mutteringsfromthemoor says:

    I AM a deliriously happy housewife…but still I have lists and lists of things which need doing but never get done. I don’t ever get enough sleep. I set myself deadlines and they pass without a hope of anything being completed!

    I hope you have a better week this week. xx

  2. rachelshadoan says:

    Hush now, Mrs. Mutterer! You are bringing reality into my daydream of a life where I actually get enough sleep!

    But I am glad to hear that you are deliriously happy. It gives me hope! Perhaps soon I will find a way to live that allows me to fit that description too.

    I suspect this week will be better! The presentation is over Wednesday, and Friday my coursemates and I are having a potluck Thanksgiving party! Any suggestions on what I should bring?

  3. mutteringsfromthemoor says:

    A potluck party? Meaning no-one knows what anyone else is bringing? Oh heck, I don’t know. I think it’s always nicer to bring homemade if you can, or is that the point? I’m afraid to say I don’t know much about Thanksgiving. I could send you some homemade damson jam to take…but what would you serve it with? Scones and cream…not very Thanksgiving-y but yummy nonetheless…

    1. rachelshadoan says:

      I agree that it is always nicer to bring homemade! I was leaning towards a baked cheese grits casserole (very Southern American…this is the recipe I use, though I adjust it according to my mood I suspect we will all coordinate somewhat with the hostess so that everyone doesn’t end up bringing desserts. Poorly coordinated potlucks can be a disaster!

      I think in general, Thanksgiving is an underrated holiday. A good opportunity to make all those experimental squash recipes. One year I made an experimental pumpkin apple cheesecake. (I was working under the premise that if pumpkin cheesecake is good, and apple cheesecake is good, and pumpkin pie and apple pies use the same spices, then pumpkin apple cheesecake would be delightful!) My sister took a bite and said, “It tastes like church bathroom potpourri!” I’m not strictly sure how she knew what church bathroom potpourri tasted like, but it seemed a pretty apt description.

      I would unbelievably love a jar of damson jam to take! I would have to think of something equally delightful to ship your way!

  4. mutteringsfromthemoor says:

    Oh, and sorry to shatter your dream, but good books to read+bears to make+kids to get to school+chickens to let out=not much sleep for housewives!

    1. rachelshadoan says:

      I have always allowed good books to eat into my sleeping time. I remember reading Little Women under the covers by flashlight long after my bedtime.

      It’s probably best that you shattered my dream! It’s always good to have a realistic world view, though I suppose that means I ought to give up hope that someday someone will ask me to rule the universe in such a way that it’s a much nicer place. Ah, dreams die hard.

      I bet the little lamb took a toll on your sleep as well!

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