Flow State

This month, I have began a new routine; or perhaps it would be more appropriate to call it a ritual.

Each Saturday morning, I drive to a nearby gas station that server freshly ground coffee. After refueling my car with gas, I refuel myself on some nice warm bean juice. I don’t drink coffee most days of the week, so this is quite a treat for me. I then drive back to my place, sit down at my computer and, with cup of coffee in tow, immerse myself in a task of my choosing (usually programming related). While in this flow state, I am able to think clearly and work efficiently. Though I greatly enjoy the company of others and collaborating with my peers on larger projects, this time of solitude is an event that I look forward to each week.

Cup of Coffee

I was able to identify this time as a ritual worth repeating in part because of a book that I read this month: The 5 A.M. Miracle, by Jeff Sanders. This short but pragmatic read was recommended to me by a former supervisor of mine, Ms. Patricia Hartley at UCF (she was my coordinator back when I was a Computer Science and Object-Oriented Programming tutor at UCF’s Student Academic Resource Center). This book contains a trove of advice for those who are just getting-started in the world of self-improvement, and overall I would recommend it to anyone who wants to take the first step towards achieving some of their life’s “grandest goals” (a phrase that Sanders employs frequently in the book).

The biggest takeaway for me from this work is the idea of setting quarterly goals. I tend to set daily and weekly goals for myself, but have never set quarterly goals. Some of my favorite content creators, such as Kyle Cook from the YouTube channel Web Dev Simplified set quarterly goals for themselves, so reading this in Sanders’ book has brought the concept to the forefront of my mind (As an aside, if you would like a grittier, more extreme take on self-improvement, then you may want to check out Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins). That being said, I want to start setting quarterly goals for myself, and will start with the three goals I would like to have finished by the end of next month.

The first is to pass Senior Design, as passing that class is critical to my graduating from UCF with my Bachelor’s. I don’t want to provide too much detail in this post, but earlier this month I ran some quick numbers on the efficiency of my team’s solution to our sponsor’s problem, and the results were disheartening. Following the advice of one of my senior design professors, Dr. Richard Leinecker, I created a hundred test cases to obtain quantitative measures of our solution’s time efficiency and accuracy. Our team then collaborated intensely in the following weeks to vastly improve the algorithms our code uses, and now I am proud to say that we have a new solution that is orders of magnitude superior to the original. The icing on top is that we now have a preponderance of quantitative data to explain why our team chose the methods we did to solve the problem, and demonstrate its efficiency.

The second goal is to succeed at my first foray into research with Dr. Gazzillo involving Checked C and 3C. I have spent the last few weeks conducting more research on these topics, reading some of the issues in the 3C repo, and dipping my toes into LLVM. It would be untrue of me to say that I am totally comfortable with all of this new knowledge, but I plan to zero in on the parts that confuse me most so that I may quickly learn the skills needed to meaningfully contribute to these projects.

Go Logo

My final goal is to finish a personal project of mine that I began last month. I want to keep this last one a secret, but I will say that it is written in Go and involves card games 🙂.

Anyway, I read one other book since my last post, Autoportrait by Édouard Levé, and have started a second one, The Idea Factory by Pepper White. The former was recommended to me by a cousin of mine, and is quite unlike anything else I have ever read. It is essentially a series of random thoughts by the author, presented one after another. I initially found this style of writing difficult to parse, but as I read more of it I became attuned to the occasionally poignant messages that Levé perforates the book with (at times, I suspect, inadvertently). The latter work was suggested to me by Dr. Gazzillo, and is a more traditional autobiography. It relates the life of an aspiring Masters student at MIT, and so far has presented the university as quite an intimidating place due to the social, scholastic, and economic pressures that its attendees face.

That’s all for this month. Next month I hope to write a post celebrating my achievement of the three goals outlined above!

P.S. I know it hasn’t quite been a month since my last post but I feel that enough has happened since then to warrant another update prior to the Ides of March. Furthermore, I have decided to shift my monthly blog posting schedule to once at the end of each month instead of the first week of each month. I feel that these posts are a great way to reflect on a month of accomplishments and obstacles; therefore it makes more sense to me to write and publish them at each month’s conclusion.