Productivity tips from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and my role models

Prior to starting my PhD, I lived a chaotic life as a teacher, a developer, an entrepreneur and family person. The expectations were high. The deadlines were always looming and never-ending. Needless to say, I struggled a lot.

But I wasn’t going to let myself disappoint. I selected many role models that are obviously more disciplined and productive. And they are all undoubtedly successful, by all standards, based on their achievements in life.

My mom is part of the list. She taught me the basics of time planning, and the wisdom of working with priority lists. As a tenured professor and a mother of 6, she insists that is her secret productivity sauce.

Of recent, my new role model is Barry Smyth, my advisor. I find it hard to believe he isn’t superhuman; or maybe an andriod from the future. He juggles many administrative and academic duties, yet he is always at the top of his game. He even affords to run a marathon. Impressive, right? The good thing is that he shares his productivity tips on his blog, and in his Flipboard magazine.

As a muslim, my all time favourite is Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. But of course, why not? In one of his sayings he advised:

“The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if it is small”

Although he was referring to good deeds as per religion. This productivity wisdom can be extended to our personal and work lives. By splitting seemingly complicated tasks into smaller actionable bits. One can form a habit of tackling the “bits” one at a time, consistently. This had the added merit of reducing the likelihood of procrastination.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of starting a startup (no pun intended) on the side. I love to build things that people use. Like every developer out there, I have a list of bright ideas and a directory of many unfinished projects that may likely never see the day. But I still want to develop them. And since doing a PhD requires one to have more than 25 hours in a day, I’ll heed to the Prophet’s ﷺ advice, along with those from Barry and pray that my efforts in this August bears some fruit.

Organize your Windows on Mac with Spectacle

It has been almost a year since I switched from using Windows-based machines to a Macbook. Surprisingly, the journey has been an interesting one, with very few regrets. One major annoyance was how I couldn’t dock or tile my windows as I used to on Windows machines.

Scot Hanselman recently tweeted about Spectacle, a free open-source tool written by Eric Czarny, that helps you move, dock and resize your Windows without pain. The beauty of it is that you can use keyboard shortcuts to perform all actions, and it has worked pretty well without hitches.

Social Scrapers: Python Scripts to Scrape Various Social Networks

I recently discovered a GitHub project, titled social_scrapers, that contains many scripts for scraping “sites that store data about you”. All the scripts are written in Python and most of them handle the OAuth2 authentication for accessing the APIs. I foresee my self doing a project on Twitter analytics in the future, but for now, let’s all bookmark this awesome library and send our thanks and praises to the author Ian Dees.

Solving a problem is more than an algorithm

While reading an article about Machine Learning enthusiasts who fear they lack good programming skills, I stumbled onto a quote which resonated with my current situation.

Solving problem is more than an algorithm. For example, there is more work in defining the problem clearly, preparing the data and presenting the results. Even the algorithms can be taken off-the-shelf and applied and tuned for a problem.

Four months into graduate school and I’m yet again I’m painfully reminded of this fact. I’m a person who’s quick to appreciate the thought process and effort expended in crafting good solutions. Even with this wisdom, like many other programmers that’ve returned to academia, I’ve carelessly underestimated the need to a well-defined process for research. Consequently, my solutions lack novelty and appears half-baked when presented to seasoned scholars. 

As my adviser said recently, “doing research involves more than just building an app”. Coding is merely a means to an end. Here’s to thinking before coding.

On Opnions

“The ability to destroy your ideas rapidly instead of slowly when the occasion is right is one of the most valuable things. You have to work hard on it. Ask yourself what are the arguments on the other side. It’s bad to have an opinion you’re proud of if you can’t state the arguments for the other side better than your opponents. This is a great mental discipline.”
— Charlie Munger