TITLE: Sprinting Through To-Dos AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 01, 2005 4:19 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I obviously enjoyed my time at OOPSLA last week and am already looking forward to OOPSLA 2007 in Portland. But conference travel -- especially a trip that lasts most of a week -- is tiring, and upon returning to the office I usually have a lot of work backed up. The trade-off is two days of hyper-activity in which so much gets done. The day before I leave for a trip, I usually have a lot to do. Traveling to OOPSLA this year was the best case scenario. I did my last classes and meetings for the week on Thursday, and I flew to San Diego on Saturday. That left me a sweet Friday. All I had left for the week was to do all the stuff that needs to be done for class and the department before I disappeared from the office for a week: recommendation letters, department web pages, programming assignments for my course, e-mail messages to faculty and deans and various other university types. The to-do list looks insurmountable, and to the uninitiated it might seem to presage a painful day in the making. But there is no time to spare, no room for procrastination. You Just Do It. This rush to prepare to be gone can be serves as a useful impetus to get all of these things done, and now. For me, the experience is not painful, but exhilarating. Look at that to-do list shrink! That item's been on the list for weeks. Gone! Aah. Of course, I was in the office from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM, but I enjoyed most of it. The second typical rush day for me is the day I travel home. I have all this time in airports and on planes, plus the energy I absorbed from intelligent, energetic colleagues at the conference. I know that I'll be back in the office in a day or two, but I am ready to do all the things that I've been jotting down as possibilities throughout the conference. I don't know anyone around me, so there are few distractions. No Internet in most places, so my attention is focused on my local work. Again a lot happens in the course of a long, tiring day, but the result satisfies. The day traveling to the conference is not typically a good day for a dash. First, I'm excited about the conference, not about getting things done. Second, I tend to be tired from the dash the day before. Usually, my time traveling to the conference is spent reading, maybe preparing for the conference itself or maybe just relaxing with a short novel. Why does so much get done during my sprint days? Why haven't I already done all the stuff that I have to rush through on those days? Sometimes, it is being so busy with day-to-day work that some tasks get pushed aside. Other times, it is garden-variety procrastination. Still others, it is the non-writing equivalent of writer block, just waiting for some inspiration. But inspiration comes to those already involved in the work. And, as we found during our afternoon writing exercises at the Extravagaria workshop, sprints of this sort can jolt creativity, through time pressure and loss of one's conscious mind in the details of doing the work. I have always referred to these days as sprints, even before I was captive to running metaphors. Over at 43 Folders, they are called dashes, sometimes even mad dashes. Madness is an apt emotion, as these days often feel like hours of falling downhill. But I am getting work done. So, I continue to like the conferences I frequent, OOPSLA, PLoP, and ChiliPLoP among them, for the life they give me. They offer an unexpected side effect in sprint days. A few sprints like this every year are good for my system. -----