Summer Solstice ’23

Last Updated on 19 August 2023

Midway points always cause me to reflect. Today is the longest day of the year – am I wasting it, or am I squandering it?

Summers are an interesting time for a professor – I’ve got a huge block of unstructured time; do I relax or do I achieve new things? I know the answer is “Do both” – but what’s the proper ratio? I set a goal for myself to do 3 hours of useful work towards those “achievements” I desire. But as I sit and reflect, that feels like the bare minimum.

So what are my goals for this Summer? I haven’t listed them out, and I probably should.

  • Lose 15 Pounds
  • Submit 2 Grant Proposals
  • Finish my Nerd Room
  • Reevaluate and Fix my Robot Operating Systems Curriculum
  • Create a Cross Country Ski Trail on my Property
  • Make a Video Game
  • Create a new Microcontrollers Experimental Device

Let’s categorize these goals a bit:

Need?Make me Happy?Make me Better?HoursGoal
100Lose 15 Pounds
200Submit 2 Grant Proposals
40Finish my Nerd Room
100Reevaluate ROS Curriculum
100Create an XC Ski Trail
?Make a Video Game
20Create uC Device

So what can I do with this information? Well the more checks something has, the more important it likely is. The hours are truly guesstimates, but they at least give me a rough number to compare the ratio time I should devote to the goals.

So back to my original question, am I wasting too much time? The answer is probably, I’ve only put work towards 3ish of these goals. Let’s do 3 things – establish the goal priority, reflect on where I am, and plan where I should go next.

Submit 2 Grant Proposals: All I have are general ideas and bullet points. I need to create 1-page summaries, then flesh them out. I also need to reach out to potential collaborators.

Reevaluate ROS Curriculum: I’ve decided to stick with ROS Melodic. All of our lab robots depend on it, and it would be a ridiculous amount of work to move them upwards. However I need to determine a better way to run ROS (something different than a VM). I have began experimenting with Docker to see if there is an improvement. In addition I need to add more Python into the curriculum.

Make a Video Game: I have wanted to do a project in Godot ever since I heard of the engine. I have all of the rough skills it takes and a (in my opinion) really good setting / premise / game mechanic idea. This would take a lot of learning but also serve as a great creative outlet. It’s a bucket list item for sure.

Lose 15 Pounds: I’d like to have a more trim appearance. I’ve put quite a bit of work towards this goal already. It’s not really a “sit down and work on it” type of thing, but more of a lifestyle change. This is something I’d like to create a separate post for.

Create uC Device: I have a really fun idea for a black-box device that can be used in microcontrollers. All I have is an idea. But I know exactly how to implement it – it just needs done. I could probably pound this out in a day if I work efficiently.

Finish my Nerd Room: My nerd room in the basement is 70% done. It has a floor, it has painted, stained and top coated walls. I’ve even moved in some furniture. All I need to do is make a lot of shelves, a table, and put in the drop ceiling. (plus a ton of little things)

Create XC Ski Trail: This goal partially links to my “Lose 15 Pounds” goal. I’ve been doing a ton of bike riding, and it’s almost a habit. But what do I do when the snow falls? I’m thinking Skiing is the next best thing. I’ve got a rough trail already laid out, but I’d like to have it be wide enough for my big tractor go go through. That way I can level some bumps, pull out stumps, move away logs, etc.

I’ve been doing A LOT of bike riding this Summer.

The Plan:

Let’s relegate the Nerd Room to weekend work, because that’s how it’s been in the past. Losing 15 pounds is already sort of distributed. So how about a day focusing on each thing? Then when something gets wrapped up, I take it off the list and everything gets worked on more frequently. I like it. Let’s see how it goes.

I should add, that there are several other work, consulting, research tasks that I have to prioritize over these things.

Final Reflection

It feels like I haven’t done much yet, and feel a little bit down because of it. But I know that’s not true. I’ve been pretty busy this Summer, I think that my effort is being spread too much across things that aren’t my goals. In fact I’ve got somewhat decent evidence to show that to myself. I have a loosely quantitative indicator of how effective I’ve been (detailed here). I can see some pretty substantial spiking happening over the summer:

I just need to make sure I’m carving out time for those important goals.

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