The personal website of Edward Yu.

No Homework Fridays: A Failure

During my studies at Columbia, I’ve been fortunate enough to have never had a class on Fridays. This is an underrated feature of the university actually; I haven’t seen it discussed much, although there have been vocal proponents of the 4 day work week. Last semester, I tried an experiment where I would not touch any schoolwork on Fridays. The theory was that I would have at least one day a week of stress-free living, and I would be able to dedicate this time to my side projects and my hobbies. In reality this turned out to be an utter failure.

As it turns out, my Fridays were stress free, but this only made other days so much worse. Every Friday morning I would wake up and realize that I had no obligations that day. The next few hours would be wasted playing video games. I wouldn’t start anything productive until around 4pm.

Even when I did start doing something, it was often impossible to fit it in one day. For example, last semester I was doing research in high dimensional machine learning. Progress in research is sporadic, so even if I committed the entire day to staring at math equations I wouldn’t end up making any progress. Other times I would spend half an hour working on a side project and call it quits because it was tedious work.

Saturday and Sunday would then be spent in a maniacal cramming session because I didn’t do any homework on Friday. This would be made even worse if I made commitments with friends on Saturday, or had club events Sunday. The semester quickly became analogous to futilely emptying water out of a sinking ship with a bucket.

Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of anyone being successful at anything by only spending one day per week on it. This semester, I’m taking the opposite approach: incremental progress. Whatever I want to accomplish, I will commit at least a few minutes a day towards making progress. I’ve kept up memorizing a few Chinese characters a day for years now, and it’s time to extend that approach to other endeavors. I think this will be a more tenable approach, since the tediousness of spending half an hour per day doing something is very low. My only concern is that some things cannot be split up into bite-sized chunks. It takes me a while to fully “ramp up” in coding projects, for example. Spending 30 minutes per day may consist of 15 minutes of getting into the zone and 15 minutes of actual work.

I’ll update at the end of the semester. Metrics to track:

  • Progress on side projects and interests.
  • Overall amount of stress.
  • Ability to finish coursework.
  • Amount of free time.