Polyphasic Day 7, and time management

Day 7 started off slowly. I woke up promptly at 4am after 3 hours of core sleep, but then for some reason I decided to stay in bed for “just one more minute”, and then woke up later at 6am. I find those early morning hours the hardest.

After that, though, I managed to get productive right away. Since my day is segmented by the 4 naps I’m planning to take (8am, noon, 4pm, 8pm), I’ve decided to use this segmentation to help with my productivity. During each section of the day, I aim to get a certain minimum amount of work done, and then the task seems a lot smaller. If I say that I want to get 10 hours of work done today, it sounds scary, but if I just get 2hrs done in every segment of the day then I’ll have 10 total.

To this end, I’ve written a list of available tasks on my whiteboard. Today, I’m only allowed to choose items on that list. Reddit is not on that list ;). So, at the top I have my main tasks, which are related to studying Dutch. I have 8 possible Dutch-studying activities I can do, which is important, because if I get bored of one, I want to switch to another Dutch activity instead of switching away from Dutch entirely.

Next on the list are my “reward” tasks. For every 4 half-hour units of Dutch that I complete (4 pomodoros, for those of you who have heard of the time management system), I’m giving myself 1 unit of reward activity. Most of these are also related to language stuff, but in another language that I want to do some work on (like Polish or Esperanto). Having something to look forward to after the other tasks seems helpful so far.

After that, I have a list of tasks I can do while I’m on break. Stuff like “cleaning the kitchen”, “pushups”, “stretching”, “cooking”, “go problems”. These are things that I can do for 5 minutes at a time in between my work units, just to do something a bit different, and occasionally as an aid to staying alert, if I feel drowsy.

Finally, I have a list of “once per day” items, which includes checking email, browsing twitter, and playing solitaire on the computer. I don’t really need to do these activities today, but it’d probably be ok if I allowed myself to do them each once (and hopefully this helps prevent me from filling my day with them).

So far, my average amount of language study per day has been 3.5 hours (spread over various languages). My 7-day running average has gone up to 4.25 hours, and I expect to see that rise further as I better adapt to the sleep schedule. My hours have been boosted by having easily available tasks, such as watching “Star Trek: Voyager” dubbed in German, which is something that I can also do together with Chani since she’s working on German.

Ok, time to get back to work! 🙂


6 Responses to Polyphasic Day 7, and time management

  1. Oasis88 says:

    Hi mate. I’m interested to know how you use excel to calculate a 7 day running average. I’ve been recording my language learning hours for the past couple of months but the most sophisticated modifications I’ve made to my spreadsheet are coloured boxes and pie charts.

    Is it as complicated as it sounds?

    Best of luck with your sleep regime.

    • doviende says:

      Here’s my formula…it looks a bit complicated because i wanted to be able to move it to several places and have it be very generalized:

      =SUM(OFFSET(INDIRECT(I14),I15-MIN(7,I15), 0):OFFSET(INDIRECT(I14), I15-1,0))/MIN(7, I15)
      where I14 has contents: 2011.F4 (which is a reference to the other sheet, which is named “2011”, and cell F4 there is the first cell that records the daily data for my dutch studies). This name of another cell is used by the INDIRECT function.
      I15 is the “day number”. It’s the number of days so far in the current project. This is used to go from the starting point (listed above as 2011.F4) down to the cell that contains today’s data.
      the MIN(7,I15) is so that it works at the start of the project, before there are 7 full days done.
      OFFSET is for moving a certain number of cells away from a certain anchor cell. As I said earlier, the anchor cell is the first cell of data for that project.

      So, what this does altogether is it adds the contents of the cells from DAYS-7 to DAYS-1 places away from the start, and then divides by the size of that range of cells (which is usually 7, but less than 7 if a full week hasn’t passed yet).

      Does that make sense?

      • Oasis88 says:

        That looks a lot more complicated than I expected. I’m sure that would make a lot more sense for someone who was a little better versed with Excel. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be me!

        Not to worry. I’ll play around with it and check out some Excel forums to see if I can cobble something together.

        Thanks for your help.

  2. I would like to know if you are/have been drinking excessive amounts of coffee or other stimulant to assist you. How is your diet and eating schedule?

    Off the subject of sleep, I study Arabic for a little over a year using RS and trying to read websites and listening to music and shows. What are some activities that you find helpful with increasing your intake of a language without getting to bored.


    • doviende says:

      No, in the past 8 months I’ve only had coffee once or twice per month, and I haven’t used caffeine at all in this experiment, except for today where I had a bit of Earl Grey tea with breakfast. As for food, I’m vegetarian and I try to cook mostly whole foods (ie, stuff that looks like what it came from, not processed into an unidentifiable form). I tend to eat müslix and yogurt for breakfast, and then cook something big for lunch, and then snack on the lunch food for the rest of the day whenever I get hungry. I like having lots of leftovers around so that I can eat it later.

      For language stuff, I tend to just have a variety of sources, and play some motivational games with myself. If I get board of one source, I switch to another one.

  3. Andrew says:

    Having little breaks and rewards like that which you get to do after working X amount of time is, I have found, HUGELY effective if not just downright necessary, you’ll go insane without that. It’s sort of like going on a crash diet and not having any days or meals off here and there: you’ll make a while, a few weeks, maybe even a few months, but eventually you’ll crash, binge, and end up sabotaging yourself, you’ll end up with less progress than if you had just allowed yourself the occasional break in the first place.

    Good on you for doing it right.


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