Something my university tried and failed to teach me was how to manage my time when it comes to written assignments. Prior to that my school tried and failed to do the same.

In fact the only time I can think of where I didn’t end up procrastinating horribly was in JDB’s English classes. We’d be assigned the work on one day and have two to three days to finish them. On the one hand it was rather harsh but on the other they got done immediately rather than dragging on for weeks on end.

My university time had many diversions to avoid thinking about looming deadlines. Most of the time I’d end up doing the work in the final 24 hours or so anyway. Here’s one such occasion:

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One of only a handful of occasions I can recall using my university library for studying. I probably shouldn’t be proud of that.

Needless to say I passed without any real difficulty. It was not close. No, really – in one module I didn’t even do one of the mandatory courseworks and I still passed. I think I even skipped the exam on the basis that I hadn’t done the written assessment!

Mostly if I was in the library it was between classes to socialise with Nicoletta as she hammered away on her dissertation. The timetable for that was rather formidable. I don’t mean that it was unforgiving (it may have been, it wasn’t really my concern) but simply that extensive thought had been put into time management.

My dissertation was done mostly in the final month in one big push. Could it have been better? In all honesty, I doubt it. I would have had to be a different person in a different place in my life for it to be much better. Sadly I missed a merit pass for it by about half a percent (or was it 1.5%?) either way it was close enough that I’m not too bothered.

The point being that even on the biggest bit of work of my university career there wasn’t all that much in the way of time management and project planning. There were no real milestones or anything like that.

On the other hand these days I don’t have to work on things like that. I still need to manage my time but I’ve learned to do that through my own efforts. Could I be better? Absolutely. Have I ever been this good before? No.

The reason my school and university failed to teach me this skill seems fairly obvious to me both then and in retrospect: personal stake.

The tasks assigned to me were exercises. If they didn’t get done, so what?

Would the world be any better or worse off? The tasks were busywork done solely to teach me a lesson; something they almost entirely failed to do.

What did teach me was having a project I had a personal stake in and a deadline I cared about. Would that have been such a hard thing to do at university?

A module has a fixed time period, teach us about milestones and make them relevant. Say for example some sort of event management or similar. Things have to happen in a certain order and by certain points or it all falls apart. Sink or swim time, guys!

Without real consequence I find it very difficult to take a project seriously when it comes to time management. This doesn’t mean “you’ll fail the assessment”. That’s a personal consequence for me to deal with. What I want is for what I’m doing to matter. For example if I don’t work things out the license will expire and we’ll be unable to release what we’ve worked on.

This is easier to do without on a shorter time scale but giving me six weeks to do an essay I could do in a few hours seems like wasting everyone’s time. I’m not going to use that time well, I’ve got better things to be doing, like anything. No, really, the time I spent playing Super Mario Galaxy is of more value to me than the time I spent researching journals. They former was incredibly rewarding – it was a whimsical and positive experience that proved to me that the Mario series still has a great deal to offer the world. It also provided useful data to compare and contrast with the open world nature of Super Mario 64 – handy for thinking about game design and the many, many related areas to it.

Oh yeah, research done into “academic” journals. It’s business – I created a game called Waffle Hunt to deal with it:

  1. Print out a copy of the article
  2. Grab a biro or marker
  3. Read a sentence and cross out all the words that contribute nothing to understanding.
  4. See how few words are actually needed to make the point.

It’s business. For all the pretence of scientific integrity it’s at best a bit of psychology and statistics. World shattering.

The point I’m meandering around is that the little information I gleamed from them was rarely anything new. Mostly I knew what I was correct and then hunted down a few references to support my point. I think it’s supposed to be the other way around but the only study I found that was of any interest was this one:

The Peter Principle Revisited: a Computational Study
-Garofalo, Pluchino, and Rapisarda

Here’s another article on it that’s a little less in depth.

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