Daniel Lemire's blog

, 5 min read

What I do with my time

I am not a very productive person. I also do not work long hours. However, I sometimes give the impression that I am productive. I have been asked to explain how I do it. Maybe the best answer is to explain what I do on a daily basis.

We are Wednesday. Here is what kept me busy this week:

  • Every night I spend an hour playing video games with my two sons. We finished Xenoblade a few days ago. It took 95 hours to finish the game, so about 95 days. We are playing Oblivion right now.
  • This week I spent an afternoon grading papers.
  • I spent probably an afternoon preparing a new homework question for my database course.
  • I spent almost an entire day reading a Ph.D. thesis and writing up a report.
  • I spent a morning running some benchmarks on an AMD processor. It involved some minor C programming.
  • I am writing this blog post and I wrote another one earlier this week. I often spend 3 hours blogging a week. Sometimes less, sometimes more. I also read comments, here and on social networks and I try to react.
  • I am part of some federal committee offering equipment grants. It took me a few hours to fill out a form this week.
  • I have been asked to be on the tenure review committee for the business school as an external. I have reviewed 4 or 5 files, looked up research papers, read the corresponding c.v.s and written up some notes.
  • I made bread twice this week. I make all the bread our family eats.
  • I spent a few hours working on furniture. I am building my own furniture for our living room as well as a few custom things for the house.
  • I spent a few hours on Google+ arguing with people like Greg Linden.
  • I spent a few hours exchanging emails with various people including graduate students.
  • Because I chair a certificate program, I had to answer a few questions from students. This afternoon, I wrote a long email to help the program coordinators. We are going to build some kind of FAQ for students.
  • I was asked whether my graduate data warehouse course would be offered next term. I explained to the chair of the IT M.Sc. program that it would be offered but that students can’t register right now.
  • Because there is much demand for this upcoming graduate data warehousing course, I prepared a long email with supporting documents to help move this along. I will be offering three graduate courses next term. And yes, I do all the grading myself. I am currently offering two though most of my teaching time is used up by the undergraduate database course that I am offering for the first time this term.
  • I spent a few hours this week arguing with a database student that, well, it is not ok if he is weak in mathematics. He needs to build up his expertise.- Someone submitted a problem to me about transcoding UTF-8 to UTF-16. We exchanged a few emails and I proposed a data structure along with a reference paper. This may eventually become a blog post.
  • I spent some time worrying that I am still without news about a paper I submitted 9 months ago to a journal.
  • I sometimes supervise Ph.D. students in the cognitive computer science program. The program is being reviewed right now. I spent my morning on Monday at a meeting with external experts.
  • Tomorrow, I have two administrative meetings occupying the full day.
  • I reviewed a report and some code from a Ph.D. student I co-supervise.
  • I picked up my kids from school yesterday and today. My wife did it Monday and she will do it again tomorrow.
  • I watched a dozen videos on YouTube. I have this amazing (but cheap) TV that can display YouTube videos. I really liked Using Social Media To Cover For Lack Of Original Thought.

I would qualify the current week as busy, but not extraordinarily so. It would be a much more relaxed week if I did not have a full day of meetings tomorrow.

Some things that I have not done:

  • I have not checked that this blog post has good spelling and grammar.
  • Before going to sleep, I watch a TV show or read books on my iPad. These days, I am watching Once upon a time. However, I do not watch broadcast TV.
  • I owe a couple M.Sc. students a meeting. I promised to email them last week, but I have not yet done so.
  • I have delayed a few meetings that were supposed to happen this week.
  • I was planning to do some follow-up work this week on a couple of research projects, but it looks doubtful that I will have any time at all. I constantly worry that I am just keeping busy instead of doing the important work.
  • I am trying to read The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing, but I am not making much progress. (This is not a joke.)
  • I used to spent a lot of time following blogs. I do not have much time for this anymore.
  • I am also not attending strip clubs or doing threesomes. I do not have a mistress.
  • Unlike one of my friends, I do not run a farm.
  • I do not travel.- I am not active in politics.
  • Other than swearing, I have no religious activity.
  • I do not have a side business. I do not consult.
  • I do not workout. (I compensate by drinking coffee.)
  • I do not clean up my office.
  • I do not shop for clothes.
  • Though I shower every day, I do not spend any time at all trying to look nice. I pick my clothes randomly in the morning. I am sometimes astonished how business-like some of my colleagues look.

Conclusion: I do not know what to conclude, but I am interested in how what I do differs from what other people do.