Escaping The Drudgery

By Andrew Price, 2006-01-18 00:24:01 in General.

I shouldn't waste much time in writing thise entry because my Database Systems exam is tomorrow morning and I really haven't done enough studying for it. I'm not the only person I know of who is a sucker for distractions and procrastination at exam times, though. Several of my Computer Society acquaintances are also partial to occupying their minds with other things while perfectly good study time rushes past.

Now after reading around the web (yes yes, while I'm supposed to be revising) I think I've come across the reasons why we are so adept at turning a blind eye to what most onlookers would describe as the "more important" tasks. And they're not my ideas, they're the ideas of a couple of more noteable (dare I say "famous"?) characters from the world of computing. Here are a couple:

Hackers (and creative people in general) should never be bored or have to drudge at stupid repetitive work, because when this happens it means they aren't doing what only they can do — solve new problems. This wastefulness hurts everybody. Therefore boredom and drudgery are not just unpleasant but actually evil. -- Eric S. Raymond

I couldn't agree more. Reading through pages of theoretical notes about database systems is probably one of the most boring activities I've ever had to face. It's no wonder I've been seeking out more interesting things to put my mind to, such as learning python, reading up on YAML, awk, sed and other specifics, tweaking my website's scripts and blogging more frequently than I have done in the past.

I think the way to "solve" the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you. Work on an ambitious project you really enjoy, and sail as close to the wind as you can, and you'll leave the right things undone. -- Paul Graham

I've been known to overrate Paul Graham's essays, and to be fair they have become quite one-tracked (talking mostly about startup tech businesses) lately but this one seems to hit the nail on the head. My procrastination has certainly been directed at learning things that are more interesting but just as computer science based as the things they want us to learn to get a degree. It also makes me question just how interested I am in computer science as a degree subject.

My first and foremost attraction to computer science was its powerful mnemonic links with creativity, design, language and in-depth problem solving - all of which I have great interest in - along with my fascination with the whole worldwide computing community, open source software and the technology industry. Since I've been at university I've learnt that this isn't the case. The real face of academic computer science has turned out to be a large mass of different notations and abstract theories intermingled with an intimidating amount of complicated mathematical models of what should be simple and intuitive ideas. In short, a lot of it is boring and I can't *use* it. This has left me quite cynical about the academic side of student life but now I've started it I have to see it through.

That's enough reflection for tonight. On with the revision. And maybe when these exams are over I'll do something creative and enjoyable to keep my brain from being dented by the die.


Sean Handley writes:

As Mark Twain said: "Never let school get in the way of your education" ;)

All our academic lives we've been jumping through hoops. And hopefully it's all leading up to a time when we'll have more control over our learning.

Good luck with databases.

2006-01-18 06:45:03

Sarah writes:

Here is a site I stumbled accross in my search for a cure to the evil that is procrastination.

Some of their quotes are pretty good too.

Hope you get back to work soon-ish


2006-01-21 21:24:32