Optimization problem.

This was actually meant to be posted way back in December, but I never got around to it due to finals. I’m dredging it back up since I’m entrenched in midterm season and I don’t want to write a brand new post.

 

I have a problem, which is that I am absolutely terrible at optimizing my time. There are so many things that I’d like to do, but I end up doing very few of them. For everything that I might want to do, I’m constantly weighing factors like how much time they will take, how much effort I want to put into them, how much I will enjoy them at the time, what sort of long term benefit they might offer, how much they will benefit other people, and the list goes on. My main problem is focus. Or rather, lack thereof. Even if I know I want to do something, I have the motivation to do it, and I set aside time to get it done, I often can’t focus on the task and end up either taking way too long or not getting anything done at all. This is a terrible feeling and makes me very stressed, but I’m not really sure what to do about it. I’m already going through the motions, setting up schedules, check-lists, putting myself in the proper environment / mindset to do work, but in the end it’s still very difficult for me to get things done.

 

My general solution to this is to add a social motivation to whatever I do. That is to say, if there are other people relying on me to do something or working with me, then I am far more likely to be proactive in getting things done. I always try to do homework in groups, my recreational activities are group related (I don’t like to play games or otherwise have fun alone), I work out with other people or else play sports with them, I cook and eat with other people, I clean with other people, I plan things and make big decisions during meetings, and I make this blog public online so that I can focus well enough to post often. I think if I did not feel as though I was letting my readers down, I could not bring myself to write this post in the first place.

 

This requirement of a social factor makes the problem of optimization frustrating. It’s already hard enough for me to get things done when I know exactly what I want to do and how to do it, but what if there is much more uncertainty than that? What if I can’t add a social motivation to something that I want to do, or I try and it doesn’t work? How can I be sure that I will truly do what I want and get what I want out of life if I am subject to such limitations? I can barely even manage to wake up in the morning on time, so how can I expect to have a positive effect on the world? These are all questions that I’ve been struggling to answer, and hopefully this blog will help me work through these thoughts. Even just writing them out makes me feel a stronger sense of purpose, and perhaps that will make it easier to get things done. In honor of that, I’m going to list here things that I care to devote my time to. This is not so much specific tasks, but rather things that I consider meaningful in general.

 

Things I want to devote my time and attention to:

– Having fun (this is mostly a matter of perspective- I can have fun while doing anything, including homework)

– Working out / playing sports (ultimate, badminton, rock climbing)

– Eating well and inexpensively

– Building close bonds with my friends

– Meeting new people

– Being a good leader and worker for CalSol (solar car team that I’m part of)

– Finding a job so I can become more self-sufficient

– Learning as much as I can

– Helping people

– Defeating my adversaries

What a list! Right now the most relevant of these to my life would be the “learning shit” bit… unfortunately I do not feel as though I am learning very much in a couple of my classes. I wish I was taking better advantage of my education here. There have been a few classes that I have learned a lot from, but otherwise I feel like I learn just enough to get the general idea of the class and nothing more. I don’t even really care about the grades that much – I would like to get A’s, but my desire to learn is stronger than my desire to succeed. If I truly understand the material, then good grades should flow naturally from that… or at least that’s what I’d like to happen. My plan to get A’s this semester is endangered, but even more important than that, I’m not learning as much or as efficiently as I should. I need to be learning a lot every day.

 

It’s all a work in progress. I am always optimistic, even when I complain about things. I know that I have a good life now, I just want to do better. I believe I can always improve myself. Making better decisions and optimizing my life are all just a big part of that. What to do…

 

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