Help me increase my metacognition. How can I best guess when my understanding of a task is adequate to the task?
So I've got an awesome
internship that has me assisting with the maintenance of a database for a college. I've carved out a niche for myself writing SQL queries
. Everyone else at my office prefers to delegate the task of writing queries--normally to an application rather than a person, but sometimes the application can't handle it, so I do. Many days, that's quite enough for me to pull my weight.
A week or so ago, I was asked to keep track of the relation between one variable and another. One of the numbers was the operating budget for a division of the college, so in hindsight I should have twigged that it is important to know the status of that number right now
. I did not, and instead, set to making a graph of the two numbers over time. I'd mentioned that approach to the boss, and she said it was a good idea, but I guess she didn't really expect that I'd jump the queue and start working on the graph without reporting anything to her first.
I want to avoid that sort of error in the future. Two approaches suggest themselves:
- Report what I'm doing right now, a few minutes into the task, so that if I've gotten terminally sidetracked I can kill it while it's young.
- Develop a set of heuristics to separate the more important parts of a task from the less.
Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. It won't always be practical to report--well, I can send email, but I can't always expect a response timely enough for this purpose. Heuristics are nice, but somewhat by definition, they are often wrong. They're good for first guesses, but first guesses are only good if there are second and third guesses down the line.
What sorts of things should I report? What heuristics would be best to start? Is there some other approach I should try?
- I am somewhere on the autistic spectrum--diagnosed asperger's. I can behave like a fully functional social entity for around an hour at a time, after which I have to cut corners: asking what the topic of a conversation is at the moment, moving to a low-noise area, etc
- I'm a senior in college, for computer science. Actually I've been at college off and on since 2006. I have never lived on my own; the closest I've gotten was a few years in dormitories.
- The internship is paid, hourly, no benefits.
- Though it wasn't precisely arranged for me, I got the position because my mom knew my boss. I had an interview and stuff.
- I am on good terms with my boss, who has autistic children of her own.
- If you try to, eg., suggest that I report everything, I will only be able to use so much common sense to restrict that answer to, eg., "things I do at work;" to me, it is not obvious whether tasks for the other boss should be included, how many times I need to be reassured that I'm on the right track before I can suspend my reporting until the task is done, and so forth.