the tamago report

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Tag: time management

What I learnt from university

by MDY

I learnt to double-tap. One essay I wrote in high school was returned with red-rimmed comments: “Your thesis is bland, but it does the job”. First draft on paper, then the word processor. I’m still not sure whether Barthes and Foucault knew each other, or if the similarities were solely linguistic. I eventually found out that most university students stop at the first draft, which doesn’t do your cardio any favours.

I learnt to break things down. Coir is a mixed-material coconut fibre which is used, amongst other things, as the digestible bedding for worm farms. It comes in pallets which you have to first soak in water then, when the pallet has sufficiently expanded, crumble into an earthy dough that smells and feels something like dried-then-saturated expired Black Forest cake. It’s a task which can only be tackled piecemeal, and you’ll strain yourself if you over-accelerate the process. Barthes and Foucault didn’t come in pallets, but they were hard for me to digest. After writing a paragraph, I would allow myself ten minutes for restfulness to soak in. It took longer, but it did the job.

I learnt to eat apples. They’re light, refreshing, and easy to consume while trotting around campus. As snacks, they’re far more cost-effective than coffee and they make the worms happy too. I ate apples to stay healthy. To stay healthy, I avoided group study sessions (unproductive), excessive alcoholic consumption (mostly), and student politics (always). I read a lot of Literature, but not a lot of stories.

I learnt to beware opinions. Everyone expects everyone else to have an opinion at university. Opinions are like opossums: nice to keep in theory, but with a tendency to scratch off valuable body parts. I would prefer an owl to an opossum, or a falcon. When I was little, before I left home-away-from-home, I used to go to Jurong Bird Park and gasp at the acrobatic toucans. My friend’s year-old parrot enjoys hopping on my neck and cleaning my nostrils with her beak, but my other friend’s (much larger) parrot gets squawkily protective of her when I’m around. A lorikeet flew down and danced in a circle around my feet as I sat outside this week. I prefer birds to opinions.

I learnt to sleep early. At first, I would stay up late because I liked the virtual company of others my age. Then, as I came into increasingly-pervasive employment and (more recently) less-than-optimal health, I began to sleep more and socialise less. Partying was never my strong point: I much preferred (mostly) to write children’s poetry before sunrise. I lost a lot of acquaintances that way, but not as many friends as I would’ve thought. I learnt that the important people are the ones who befriend you for who you are.


Time Management

by MDY

The answer lies in Schopenhauer. Find a large piece of paper and divide it up according to your daily activities. You should end up with some very generic areas (“work”, “chores”, “learning Klingon”), as well as some other peculiarities more unique to your individual circumstance (“masticatory acts”, “world domination”, “studies”). In each section of your page, write down everything you need to do. An example from mine:

world domination

  • create teleportation device
  • gather army (+ unify ninja brethren?)
  • improve writing skills and publish a book
  • learn Klingon

and so on. As you complete each item, cross it off; as new items are born, add them to the page. This page is now your map, of time. Whenever you feel lost or overwhelmed, consult it and regain your bearing. There’s no compass-point, but you can only go in one direction.

Martyrdom is a short-term play. Some people love to moan about being overworked or under-resourced, and others immediately realise the source of the problem when they listen. Let the map direct your energies. Tell yourself you are wealthy in time, even though asset depreciation is inevitable. Stare down your complaints until they cease to burble and click their heels. Remind them that not everyone has the chance to write 3000-word essays, or have a job which pays them to work overtime. Consider yourself an entrepreneur: “How can I extract the most value from my limited resources?” Your smartphone won’t impart the secrets of enlightenment or scoring hot dates.

Make sacrifices. Those who ignore Maslow’s advice invariably get eaten by big green monsters, volcanoes, or the tax office. Exercise more, (social) network less. Discard your hobbies, or turn them into all-consuming passions exceeding even those of Klingon High Command. Keep an eye on your map and the expression you wake with every morning. Don’t waste time with excess baggage, including your own. Choose where you spend your time, if not with wisdom then at least in hope of more than same-day returns. The best investments grow in interest as their owners mature.

Five ways to meet and beat deadlines

by MDY

Why are they called deadlines? Because if you don’t get to them in time, something dies. That something may or may not be you. It may be your career, your reputation, your burgeoning relationship of sweet romantic passion. It may also be you. Whatever. Whether in business, leisure, or your gooey sham of a love life, deadlines are not negotiable. They don’t go away if you don’t look at them. And if you miss one, no amount of DRABC is going to help you. Here are five ways to walk the line:

1. Know thy enemy. Deadlines are like ninjas – you often don’t recognise them until it’s too late. Boss asking if you think you can have that report done by Friday? Careers advisor mulling over the due date for job applications? Hungry for a hard-boiled egg? Someone always wants something and they want it now. Or at least by a fixed date and time, in a fixed place. That’s the essence of a deadline. So you better get your typing/intervieweeing/tama-cracking on, and fast.

2. Pay attention. What are you thinking about if a ninja is attacking you? Not your favourite TV show, or the Higgs Boson, or what’s for dinner tonight. If you don’t give your deadlines the same existential focus, the ninjas will get you.

3. No luxuries. Most people spend their time on things like hobbies, social lives, “quiet time”, and so on. Don’t be most people. Get that urgent thing done now and let nothing stand in your way. You know who has lots of quiet time? The ones the ninjas got.

4. Triage. But what if you have multiple urgent things? Let’s say you’re applying for a summer internship at a prestigious law firm. Applications close in 5 weeks. Lots of time, correct? Correct – if all you’re doing is writing a cover letter. But you also have to

  • Research the firm;
  • Update (or write) your CV;
  • Withstand a barrage of existential questions like “What is your greatest achievement?”, “Explain the implications of our recent merger” and “if you were a ninja, what factors make you suitable for this firm?” (Hint: not good grades and a refereed CV);
  • Procure a copy of your academic transcript from your university;
  • Doctor the aforementioned transcript’s results; and
  • Repeat for the ten other firms whose applications close on the same day.

So you need to master the art of triage: identifying a priority order for all your deadlines, and all the tasks required to complete each one. In the above example, it might be that you place those 11 firms in order of “Least Evil to Work For” then work down the list. Or you might handle all cover letters first to maximise the miracle of Copy-Paste. If you’ve tracked your deadlines well, you’ll know what has to come first.

5. Learn to write (and think) fast. Self-explanatory, really, and it helps almost every sort of deadline. See this post for some pointers.

In brief: Just don’t die.