How was the sprint format? [Personal PhD update #5.2]

I have finally finished my first sprint of the Personal PhD. I finished it later than my target of Dec 25th, but hey, at least I finished what I set out to do. (Here is my first sprint announcement post).

What got done

I finished watching all videos and in-course exercises of Udacity’s Introduction to Inferential Statistics. I am glad I did! After having never taken statistics in school this was very useful. Now I understand what p-values mean and how to utilize t-tests, z-score, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, ANOVA, r^2 etc.

I read the book The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne and it was a fascinating read. I now have a more intuitive understanding of Bayes rule and it was fascinating to read about the history of how it was applied.

I also listened to all episodes of Talking Machines podcast. I didn’t necessarily understand everything, but it was still interesting (

The format of the sprint

I like this 6 week length sprint better than 3 month length quarter. It is shorter so there is less chance for life to get in the way. The deadline is sooner so if life does get in the way, I have to summon the energy to finish stuff sooner. As a result less debt accumulates, and because of that it is easier to finish and get to the end.

On note-taking

Throughout school and college I have always taken notes with pen and paper. So far in my Personal PhD I haven’t. I have taken few notes in a Google doc, but it is not nearly as comprehensive as the notes I used to take.

I am starting to think that not taking notes or taking way less notes digitally is not as productive for learning as taking more physical notes, at least for me.

I have known for a while that I am visual learner.  I remember in school when we had to learn poems by heart and then recite them, I would write them down on a piece of paper and then take the paper with me everywhere and learn the poem from it. When I had to recite, in my mind, in front of me there would be a visual picture of the piece of paper with the poem and I would basically read it out from the picture in my mind.

If you give me verbal directions, left, right, straight, left at the light, there is no chance I will remember them. But a quick glance at the map with directions and I will be able to find my way.

The video presentations online MOOC like Udacity’s work well for me (way better than just listening to a lecture), but I think I am missing on the note taking part. If I write down a formula by hand in my notes I get to see it again and again as I continue taking notes and referring back to it, thus engraving a visual picture in my mind. Also, without physical notetaking I don’t have a summary cheat-sheet of the main concepts. So I think for next courses I will try to do physical notetaking with a pen and paper.

How much time did I spend?

Dominique once asked me how much time do I spend on this project. For this sprint I kept track. Studying on Udacity took 16.7 hours, by far the vast majority was in the last week between Christmas and New Year’s, when I was doing about an hour a day to finish it before New Year’s.

There are 41 episodes in the podcast and total length almost 27 hours. That seems quite a lot, but it didn’t felt I was spending extra time on them. I found the time while doing other activities or while waiting: I listed while running, working out, walking, waiting, on airplane, at dentist’s etc.

Don’t know how long it took to read the book, but it felt like quite a long read 🙂


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