Live a Multi-thread Life: Get more accomplished!


Multi-thread vs multi-task

One topic in computer science is the concept of multi-threading. Here more than one process is happening at the same time. (It is a little more complicated than that, but that is the ELI5 explanation.) To live a multi-thread life you are doing multiple things at the same time. This is different than multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is trying to do multiple things yourself at once, multi-threading is allowing something else to do the task for you. Multi-tasking is really hard and you actually waste more time switching between things you are doing than actually accomplishing things.

Automation makes multi-threading possible. Like watering your lawn for example. If you have a simple timer on your irrigation system you don’t physically have to go start the water the timer will do it for you. It is that sense of getting more than one thing done in the same time frame at the heart of multi-threading.

The general idea behind multi-threading is the tasks that need to be completed don’t necessarily need to be done in any particular order they just need to get done. Two functions of a program that can run asynchronously and it doesn’t really matter which one gets done first. It is the same in the real world. It doesn’t really matter if I water the lawn at 6 a.m. or 9 a.m. It just needs to be done and while it is happening I am free to make breakfast.  I started looking at things I could do to get more done during the day. Simple things like writing my to-do list while my computer was starting up or skimming an article I was meaning to read while my code compiled. These simple little things made me feel like I was getting more accomplished in the same amount of time.

Example of a multi-thread life

One of the easiest ways of creating a multi-thread life that have I found was to listen to audio books while commuting. Last fall I had a long drive with my family and decided to find a fiction novel to listen to while on the road. I had been listening to audio books on my commute to work prior to this trip, but this was going to be a 4 hour drive one way so I figured I would make the best of it. I found a book that everyone in my family would enjoy and we started our trip and listened to the book on the way. Listening to audio books while you commute is a great way to have a multi-thread life. You can listen to that self help book you have been meaning to read or really any thing you enjoy. One thing I do recommend is to change it up often. If you listen to self improvement books stick in an occasional fiction or vice versa. Just in the time I have been doing this, I have found that my brain can only process so much of one type of content at length. Meaning if I listen to three self improvement books in succession I get less and less out of the latter books. You need to “clean the pallet” so to speak.

Danger Will Robinson

There is a danger in multi-threading your life too much. Distraction; is something you should always be aware of. It is extremely easy to get distracted while reading your article and not go back to your code after it is done compiling. You start reading and find something interesting and want to research it further so instead of gong back to your code you spend 30 minutes looking up other interesting articles. So you must be disciplined enough to only take on what you can do in the limited time you have. Compiling a small program will not take that long and it may not be worth the time to switch to something else while the code compiles. Larger programs will take more time so you may have a few minutes to skim that article. Just make sure you return to your code after you are done.

One other suggestion is to keep the multi-threading to manageable chunks. Don’t try to do to much or you will burn out. Start with one thing like audio books during your commute and make it a habit. After a few weeks you will be able to add another new thread to your life. Focus is key and keeping the changes small especially at first gives you a better chance to succeed. We all know we have a limited number of hours during the day. Multi-threading your life can help make the most of the time we are given each day.

What things can you multi-thread in your life?

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