TMS Interview 004 -- A Software Engineer Who Quit Academia

Crazy Orange is a software engineer. She has been in academia, and her biggest dream is to be an artist. Now living in the United States, she hopes to freelance in future to experience life around the world.
  • What scenarios does your time management workflow apply to?

It's a workflow for doing research that works for a variety of scenarios.

  • What tools do you need for your time management workflow?

Whiteboard/white paper/note-taking tool software (e.g. Gitbook, Notion, etc.)

  • Please briefly describe your time management workflow?

Reading the literature with a "list of questions"

Every piece of literature you read should have a purpose. Some areas will be particularly hard to read, or you may not have a lot of basic knowledge, so you have to read a lot. One new concept leads to more new concepts, so it's easy to get lost. Time passes all at once, but you feel like you're making no progress at all. Time is finite but knowledge is infinite, so don't look up what you don't understand, but focus on your goals.

My workflow is to write a list of questions first, it includes a few of the most important questions as well as gaps. If the answers to these questions are written, then the task of reading this literature is complete, and in many cases there is no need to get through the full text! There is also a "sideline list" of important extras that you may see while reading.

Keep a "sideline list" so that when you see something important and additional, you may have a new idea to follow up on, and continue with the current reading task.

Do not deviate from the goal. Be sure to write down the answers to these questions, not just "read with the questions".

  • How long did you stick with this workflow?

I don't read the literature so I am not using this workflow in my current work. But I have followed these principles for the last two or three years.

  • What are the advantages of this workflow?

The biggest advantage is that by asking yourself the most important questions, you gradually lead yourself to develop your own knowledge base as you read and focus on the main branches. In addition, having a reading/survey for each read, you have a page of the most polished notes on that material. When you need to recall relevant content later, you can quickly find the answer from this note without having to look up the answer from a lengthy piece of information. On the second reading of an article, you can quickly start from the original note to save time .

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  • The biggest pain point in time management at the moment?

Electronic tools are easy to be discarded but not easy to focus.

To that end, if a tool is not appropriate in the first place, then it needs to be discarded. The right tool allows people focusing more on their work, and the following satisfaction creates positive feedback.

So what is the right tool or process? The needs in different scenarios are different and even change over time. Tools should also be selected as needed. Need to be easy to use? Or ned to be easy to retrieve and browse for reflections later? Need to complete all tasks within a limited time frame or need to complete the most important tasks with high quality? Only with a clear understanding of your needs can you weigh the options and choose the best tool for you.

Also I find a whiteboard to be a great helper, which always reminds myself what I need to focus on in the moment. Personally, I don't like tools that prohibit me from doing something, I want my tools to help me focus on the task, and if I do it efficiently I'll be able to do it. What's wrong with playing games/browsing the web to relax from some of the tasks? It's still back to work soon after that.

  • What is the ideal time management workflow? What kind of tools are needed?

A tool to adapt to itself, not a tool to ask people to adapt.


Crazy Orange’s method of "list of questions" is very similar to the Evidence-based Study described by the famous Youtube blogger Ali Adaal.

If you want to be a part of more discussion, join our Telegraph Group.

If you would like to share your time management insights, please answer a few questions below and email us at post (2) and we'll edit and publish.

- Please introduce yourself briefly.
- What scenarios does your time management workflow apply to?
- What tools do you need for your time management workflow?
- Please briefly describe your time management workflow?
- How long have you been sticking with this workflow?
- The advantages of this workflow?
- The biggest pain point in time management at the moment?
- What is the ideal time management workflow? What tools are needed?
- Can you recommend a book on time management? The one that affected you the most.
- Can you recommend a friend to share her/his time management tips?