Friday, October 21, 2005

In Batch Processing Mode

In Batch Processing Mode

Planning to start a new routine for the coming days (and possibly weeks): go to bed early and start work early the next day. You see, I'm still trying to fine tune my day for maximum productivity--I want to ensure that I reserve my most productive (and hopefully creative) hours during the day for "batch processing" work, and leave the rest for miscellaneous activities.

I categorize activities that constitute "work" into two categories: online transaction processing (OLTP) and batch processing. Every working person has to deal with both. The former are those "transactional" type of activities such as meetings, phonecalls, e-mails, SMS and nowadays Skype and online chat sessions.

These OLTP processes are relatively short duration "request-respond" type of tasks. A greater part of our working hours is dedicated to these activities. They are only taxing when the transaction rates are high--e.g. trying to squeeze as many meetings as possible into one day.

However, OLTP processing are easier to handle in a sense that, you usually don't have to prepare too much--you just think on your feet and respond immediately. OLTP can come in a varied mix: a con-call, followed by an SMS response and then a quick meeting at Starbucks downstairs and then back to the office to send off a fax. They can even happen in parallel (most people send and receive text messages during meetings these days). No problem.

The difficult tasks are the batch processing ones. This include any kind of lengthy writing work--reports, articles, papers--and deep analytical work. You need a stretch of uninterrupted time--a whole day or a whole week or months even. You need research, you need inspiration. You need time to immerse yourself into the subject before you can settle down to work.

You cannot for example, write your article or report for five minutes and then interrupt yourself to make a phone-call for the next ten minutes before resuming exactly from where you left off. Your train of thoughts would have already been disrupted. Your mood is already spoilt. You need to start all over again. That's what I mean by batch processing.

In data centers, you typically don't mix the two workloads together in one server because you can only optimize computing resources for one type of job at any one time. Most data centers do their batch processing runs at night. Which is the same reason why some people are forced to work late into the night--you don't get interrupted so much.

But unfortunately we are not machines that can perform consistently throughout the day. The mind gets tired. It's difficult to do lots of transaction processing for the whole day and then go home and be expected to be equally productive doing batch jobs.

Emotions affect us too. If you have just concluded a very heated meeting, you are certainly not able to plunge immediately into writing a thesis on the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies. Your head will still be swirling with thoughts and emotions. You'll most likely pick up the phone to call a friend to vent your frustrations; or if you are a geek, you'd be inclined to pour everything out in your blog.

What I've been trying to do is to lump all OLTP work for the week, if possible into one or two days and leave the rest for batch processing. But you can only schedule things that are within your control that way; you cannot stop people from calling, texting and interrupting you during your batch processing days.

I've been thinking maybe, early morning rather than late at night would be the most conducive for doing batch processing work. You go to bed early and your mind will be fresh when you wake up at 4.00am. There'll certainly be no interruptions during that time (hopefully!). So, a few quality hours of batch processing followed by OLTP for the rest of the day.

I woke up at 4.00am this morning and was able to put in some productive work. Planning to do the same again tomorrow morning. It's getting late--I've got to go and hit the sack now. Goodnight!

No comments: