Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Advice from David Patterson

A while back, I stumbled the following advice for new CS professors by David Patterson. (In case you don't know him, David Patterson led the design and implementation of RISC I, likely the first VLSI Reduced Instruction Set Computer, and was a leader, along with Randy Katz, of the Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks project (or RAID), which led to reliable storage systems from many companies. He has been chair of the CS division at Berkeley, the ACM SIG in computer architecture, and the Computing Research Association, was the former president of the ACM.)

Patterson's advice is crystallized into the following Patterson Rules for increasing productivity at work, and reducing the frustration that ensues from coming in earlier, staying later, and getting less work done.
  • Use startup funds/personal funds to have office at home as nice as office nice desk/chair, fast modem (>=ISDN), printer, big screen, ...

  • Determine time of day most creative/effective: early morning, after 6PM, ...?
  • Work at home alone during those time slots

  • Do creative work uninterrupted at most creative time
  • Be sure to be at school from lunch (social) and afternoon (lectures, student/colleague dropin, seminars ...)
  • Other pieces of advice from him include the following nuggets.

  • Learn to say: NO! (but in a very polite way)
  • always think about it overnight, ask trusted friend before you say yes
    (saying no lets you say yes later)
  • Make daily, weekly, semester to do lists

  • Find ways to keep a secretary/assistant busy: travel, fill out grade forms, schedule, ...

  • Read email <= once a day (when less productive)

  • Circadian rhythms: 20 minute nap at about 3PM adds > 1 hour of productivity in evening

  • Travel is #1 time synch; budget it appropriately
  • I feel that I fare embarrassingly badly on all of these accounts, but I do make daily, weekly, semester to do lists---which have a tendency to grow, rather than shrink, as time progresses---, and I am at school essentially every day. (Can you hear the sound of the barrel being scraped?) Some of those items do not apply to me at all. (Startup funds/personal funds? Secretary? Budgeting travel?) And, as for reading email <= once a day, well probably I should give it a try, but, as a friend of mine used to say, "The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak."

    Do the Patterson rules apply to your work practices?

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