An aspiring computer scientist's musings on technology and society.

My Most Important Task

#productivity #academics

My attention recently went to the matter of my Most Important Task (MIT). MIT is an old concept in internet ages, dating at least to 2006, that still stays relevant. The idea is simple: what is the one most important task that you must complete today? Do it first thing in the morning before anything else.

MIT is ruthless, and that's why it's effective. All of us have many goals, but if everything is a priority, nothing is. We often end up dividing our attention to numerous moderately important goals. MITs allow us to cull all but the essential. Furthermore, MITs allow us to prioritize important but less urgent tasks. Without MITs it's easy to spend weeks and months without making any meaningful progress.

So I wondered, if everything else fails, what is the one thing that must be done?

My first and obvious answer was the keystone habits that keep me healthy. That means ample sleep and nutritious meals. For the sake of discussion, let's say that these foundational habits are solidly in place. Then what's next?

I concluded that my MIT is studying computer science. This is to get closer to my dream of becoming a scientist. For the past few years, I attributed it as an impossibility and refused to give it my all. After all, it's easier to have never tried than to have tried and failed. That way I at least have the excuse of “I'm better than this, I just never tried.” But after fifteen years of merely vaguely dreaming the same dream, I figured I'd try to get good, really good, at the thing that I'm interested in.

Of course, some other tasks are important to me. That includes doing homework and writing for this blog. However, neither challenges me in the same way as struggling to solve a difficult question or trying to understand a new algorithm does. These tasks also require deep work. As such, doing them the first thing in the morning is key for unhindered focus.

In short, my MIT is challenging myself with computer science questions and concepts at the edge of my abilities.

How does that look in practicality? I am planning to alternate between studying Algorithms 4 textbook and solving Project Euler questions. Of which, Project Euler is magnitudes more difficult than understanding a textbook, as there is no solution. The answers are locked until you solve it, at the very least, by brute-forcing it. This gives me the choice to alternate between difficulties as my focus comes and goes. Furthermore, it's a good balance between trying to figure things out on my own and learning what others have already laid before me.

If I can get two hours of deep work as outlined above after breakfast and shower, that'd be a good day. Wish me luck.