Methods I Use To Stay Productive Within A Machine Learning Career

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Set a Daily Routine

Photo by Prophsee Journals on Unsplash

You can either run the day, or let it run you.

Let’s define a routine as a structured organisation of activities planned against resources such as time, capacity(mental, physical) and availability. A decent and well thought out routine feels like having your day and task scheduling on auto-pilot.

Personally, a routine allows me to timebox the effort I put towards tasks so as to not burn myself out. It’s easy for me to spend 3+ hours fixing bugs or implementing new features, but the fact of the matter is that by spending so much time on one task, another task suffers.

And this takes us to another key benefit of having a routine, which is the ability to prioritise accordingly.

Below is a snapshot of what my routine looks like on a typical workday.

My Ideal Daily Routine

Like most people, I stumble and deviate from my set routines, sometimes unexpected meetings pop up, or emergencies occur. Regardless, having a well-planned routine enables me to steer myself back on the path of productivity.

Within my routine, I have 2–3 hours working on tasks, which typically involves coding. I find it a bit hard to stay entirely focused for more than an hour, so I leverage the Pomodoro technique.

I still play around with my routine timings and activities every month. I’m always trying to find that sweet spot of optimal productivity and output. The steps below should help you get started putting together a decent routine that works for you.

How do you plan a good routine?

  • Split your day into blocks of an hour or two.
  • Identify categories of tasks you perform. For example, day job, studying, cooking etc.
  • Experiment with the optimal time to perform tasks. For example, I exercise at night and work on personal projects in the evenings.
  • Have a particular block for essential tasks. These are tasks with high priority.
  • Make your routine visible

The steps to planning a good routine could be complex and lengthy if that’s what you like. But honestly, there’s no need to complicate something trivial.

Richmond, if it’s so trivial, why do I find it hard to build good habits and routines?

Yes, I find it hard too.

And after reading some self-help books, I’ve found a couple of ideas that can make the journey a bit easier.

The first is associating your routine and habits to an identity. Think about the ideal person you would want to emulate, then approach your day as your imagined “perfect” person would.

The second idea is to incorporate a reward/punishment system. Reward good behaviours and punish bad habits.

The last idea is that routines are boring. They eventually become monotonous. Over time the excitement of a new routine or habit fizzles out. Be prepared for this and learn to love the boredom.

As a Machine Learning practitioner, I’m accustomed to following certain routines and processes when conducting ML related tasks. Experienced ML practitioners will inform you that skipping a step decreases the chances of a project’s success.

Having a well thought out routine is like having a Tesla, or rather, a level 2 autonomous vehicle. Your well thought out routine can steer your day, accelerate or decelerate the pace at which you approach tasks. Still, occasionally you will need to get hands-on and adjust your routine for unforeseen bumps and obstacles on the journey.

Key Takeaway

A well thought-out routine guides the direction of the day.

By having a structured time allocation for various tasks during the day alleviates the brain from having to figure out ‘What’s next?’.

Routines that have been tested and refined allows you to easily prioritise and at the same time build habits.


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