Gradient adjustment layers allow me to precisely update the gradient anytime I want. With a layer mask, I can paint an angled gradient by using the gradient tool. I option click the layer mask to paint it, and to see how it affected the layer, I need to click back on the layer. That is the first problem. The second is that I cannot precisely edit the gradient like I could in an adjustment layer.
Is there a better approach to this? Because so far this is really hard to impossible to get the result I want. So far I can't find a way to add an adjustment layer to a layer mask (and maybe that doens't make sense because adjustment layers have their own layer mask anyways), and I also cannot find a way to view the layer mask for editing and the layer in the document at the same time.
Can you show us a screenshot of your image, I am having a difficult time visualizing your process.
In regards to your question about viewing your layer, you can always duplicate your image, and work on the one while you are seeing the changes in your duplicate. Choose Window>Arrange>New Window for.... This will create a duplicate file and then you can choose Window>Arrange>2-up Vertical (or Horizontal) and work in one while you see the image in the other. Whatever layer, or layer mask you are working will be visible in the working window, while your image is visible in the duplicate. See below:
And for your second question, what is hindering you from precisely editing the gradiernt? What is differnet in the process from an adjustment layer and what you are doing?
Thanks for provind a screenshot, and a little more information so we can help you more effectively.