Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Managing yourself to tasks and finishing them.

I saw these two short articles from HBR come across my twitter stream and read them. They stuck with me for more than a week as they triggered some connections with proof methods.

The essence of the advice is "Prep-Do-Review". For each task you do make and review a plan for it before starting. Once the task completed review the plan. Did you finish? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?

The essence of this advice is to think in terms of "to-go" versus "to-date" performance on a task. When you entertain to-date thinking it's very easy to see how much you have accomplished so far. This can lead to a lowering of ongoing effort or allow yourself to become distracted and work on other tasks.

So the optimal algorithm that combines the two is:

Do {
X = DistanceToFinish();
} Until (X == 0)

Don't look back until you are done!

Note that there is a formal method of proof in mathematics and CS that goes something like this:

1) Define an integral metric f(x) measuring the distance to the goal
2) Define the starting distance
3) Show that your "algorithm/method" monotonically decreases f(x)
4) Infer that the goal will be reached
5) (Optional) Calculate the minimum number of steps required to reach the goal.

The important point is the rigor of the mathematical proof version. Your idea gets no partial credit for so-far progress, the algorithm either gets to the goal or it fails. The proof is either true or it is false. Thus you are either Done or you are NOT Done.

Posted via email from aicoder - nealrichter's blog