Friday, August 27, 2010

An Asynchronous Life for the Happy Hacker

I used to use notepad + a little bit of discipline to organize the non-hacking things in my life. Now, i have the EpicWin app; its... EPIC.

poll() loop
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view), EpicWin doesn't interrupt my day. This can be a problem when the flow has set in and morning turns to night; my love comes home to find out that well... I didn't do anything for her and now I have to deal with wife-aggro-damage-control. Using the alarm clock, I set three interrupts for 9:30am, 1:30pm, and 8:00pm. I use these interrupts to go get things done related to my life.

This really helps in finding balance between the awesome work I do and dealing with the mundane aspects of life. So, I thought I would share my quest list with the world.

Every Day Tasks
  • 75 pushups (+200 str)
  • 100 bicep curls (+150 stamina)
  • 100 crunches (+150 stamina)
  • Drink 32 ounces water [9am] (+100 spirit)
  • Drink 32 ounces water [2pm] (+100 spirit)
  • Take Afternoon Calcium +D [2pm] (+100 spirit)
  • Drink 32 ounces water [10pm] (+100 spirit)
  • Deal with Dishes (+200 stamina)
  • Take Evening ZMA [11pm] (+100 spirit)
  • Read Twitter [9am] (+50 social)
  • Read Twitter [2pm] (+50 social)
  • Read Twitter [10pm] (+50 social)
Every Sunday
  • Cook Level 3 Dinner (+300 social)
  • Read Current Book (+300 int)
Every Monday
  • Get groceries at HyVee (+100 stamina)
  • Cook Level 1 Dinner (+150 social)
Every Tuesday
  • Walk 6-12 miles (+300 stamina)
Every Wednesday
  • Get groceries at Whole Foods (+100 stamina)
  • Cook Level 2 Dinner (+100 social)
  • Watch The Colony (+100 social)
  • Go Drink'in at Buffalo Wild Wings with friends (+100 social)
Every Thursday
  • Prepare Level 0 Dinner (+100 social)
  • Walk 5 miles (+300 stamina)
  • Catch up on HN and comment as appropriately (+100 int)
Every Friday
  • Cook Level 2 Dinner (+100 social)
  • Take out Trash (+100 str)
  • Write blog post (+300 int)
  • Play Settlers of Catan/Mario Kart with friends (+300 social)
Every Saturday
  • Solve one PhD problem (+300 int)
  • Walk 3-6 miles (+300 stamina)
  • Publish and post edited blog post (+300 int)
  • Grind on Bills and Validate Financial Integrity (+200 int)
  • Hang out with Family 2.0 (+200 social)
  • Clean Kitchen (+100 stamina)
  • Fill vitamins for next week (+150 spirit)
aside) 3 segment work day
I'm one of those people that can hack all day. Sit in front of a computer and enter the flow. This is great for research, hacking, making things work, and getting things done. Problematically, I have to interact with the world beyond my the limits of my skull, and my mind is supported by a problematic human body that is frail and needs to get out into the light. Ergo, I have to control the flow before it destroys me.

While I wish I could hack all day and all night, I limit myself to a maximum of 12 hours a day for work/hacking. While 12 hours is way more than needed, I break it up into 3 segments. I think anywhere between 2-4 hours is enough to get any serious task done (or series of tasks within one context). Once the flow ends, I switch to a different context. I call this the "Hardy Hack" since GH. Hardy wrote in his apology that 4 hours is the limit of time to get any serious math done; I extend this with the caveat that 4 hours is the time limit per context. If you finish the task in less than 4 hours, then goof off and have fun. The hard part is finding the discipline to make sure you are honest in how you plan your day out.

Tips for Asynchronous Behavior
  • Learn to think critically while exercising.
  • Channel all interruptions (i.e. cell phone or email) to occur during mundane tasks.
  • Have you significant other go through your twitter while you do the dishes.
  • Learn to negotiate with the your significant other to shard tasks.
  • Group as many mundane tasks together and get them done with (i.e. use proper cpu scheduling)


  1. nice post ).. I'm experincing the problem to making things planned.. epicwin make it interesting :) and your plan looks great :)

    with to have iphone + epicwin

  2. Funny post :D I didn't expect that when I came here from HackerNews! I have a review of EpicWin in my blog (read it here if you want).

    I drink 2 glasses of water upon waking up, but mark them as resistance. Spirit...? Sure?

    Also, I run every two days... And thinking while running proves to be pretty hard. I can barely sketch blog post ideas, less yet think about a theorem (even a lemma!). Are you really able to manage it?