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Daily dispatches from my 12 weeks at the Recurse Center in Summer 2023

RC10. Quantifying my first 25% of RC

For damn near the last decade I’ve been tracking my time spent on various work-related activities using an app called ATracker. I first adopted it during my PhD for a variety of reasons: it helped keep me accountable (which can be difficult on self-directed projects) as an objective and impartial measure of how much time I was actually spending on studying, research, and writing (not as long as I thought, often); it helped me understand how long it actually took me to complete a long research or writing project, and thus become better with time management; and it also helped me relax, knowing I’d put in the time. In my experience, writing in particular is a weird and unwieldy type of labor because it doesn’t happen on demand and it takes the time that it takes, and also because what “complete” or “finished” looks like is not always well-defined. On average, however, the time that writing, say, a 30-page seminar paper took turned out to be rather consistent. So more accurate an assessment of where I stood on a given project than where I felt I was or how many pages/words I’d written thus far turned out to be how many hours I’d put in. Anyway, once I adopted ATracker it became a habit, and I’ve stuck with it ever since.

So, as you can imagine, I have amassed some interesting data about how my time has been spent at RC, and now, 25% into my batch, seems like a grand opportunity to evaluate it and ensure I’m allocating my time in the service of my goals.

The overall picture

Overall pie

That’s the story of my three weeks at RC as told by a pie.


Writing pie

I’m unsurprised, first of all, to see writing (i.e., these blogs) taking up such a huge proportion of my time. Like many recursers, I’m sure, I discovered Julia Evan’s daily blog from her time at RC and, well, figured I ought to do the same. So, while my project ideas were shifting leading up to my batch, my goal of writing daily blog entries was not. I suppose this is what sticking to that goal looks like, objectively.

Generally I’m finding keeping up with these entries to be highly rewarding and a fun way of sharing what I’m working on, especially since I’m not as project-oriented as other folks, at least not yet. And I suppose, to that end, the act of writing constitutes a project in and of itself. Plus, it’s an excellent way of solidifying knowledge and putting pressure on the places where I’m weak. Nothing teaches you like preparing to teach it to others.

That said, moving forward I’d like to see that writing allocation a bit lower. Perhaps this looks like briefer blog entries with some longer ones sprinkled in there on subjects I’m particularly excited about.

Learning C, SICP, and nand2tetris

priorities pie

Besides writing, I’ve determined that my main areas of focus are learning C, studying SICP, and doing nand2tetris. Generally I like what I’m seeing here, although it looks like my C work is getting short shrift. In fact, if these are my priorities, I think I’d like to see closer to 15% allocation per week for each.

Week by week

The pie chart is telling me what I want to know. But wouldn’t it be fun to see how things changed from week to week?

Here’s one bar chart’s account:

bar overview

Interesting and unsurprising to see that Week 1 was a bit different – heavier on misc. admin, presentations, and misc. project-like things, and lighter on the SICP, C, and nand2tetris, which I hadn’t really started yet.

I also like that I’m seeing that I’m spending more time on those latter three things in week three than in week two, which suggests that they’re becoming a bigger slice of the pie.

But I’m also seeing that, in addition to taking up the most time generally, writing has been taking up more time recently, which makes sense given the longer write-ups of the last week.

Here’s some of the same insights delivered in a line chart:

over time


Pairing is not a category I am tracking in ATracker since it isn’t a distinct project, however I am annotating my tasks with that keyword when I am pairing, since it is a major priority of mine for RC.

pairing pie

This is useful to see, since it’s a reminder that what’s missing here is SICP! Gotta pair more on SICP.

pairing line

Trending in the right direction, though!

Other stuff that happened today

  • AM checkins
  • paired on a tough leetcode problem
  • SICP meeting
  • Slightly abbreviated Data Disco
  • Gave my first presentation (on ALUs and ALU simulating based on this post)