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Programming

How Many Hours a Week Can You Program? 547 547

An anonymous reader writes "How many hours a week should a full-time programmer program? Trying to program anywhere near 40 wears me out. On a good week, I can do 20. Often, it is around 10 or 15. I'm talking about your programming session at the console, typing — including, of course, stopping and thinking for a minute, but not meetings, reading programming books, notes, specifications, etc., which by comparison feel like lunch breaks. I rarely get called to meetings (which is good) but that means to keep my brain from overheating I spend several hours a week surfing the web (usually reading tech news but also a few stops on Facebook, email, etc.). I should add that I am interrupted a few times per day. Me and another guy maintain an intranet site of a couple dozen web apps for an IT department, so we work on a few different things: phone calls, bug fixes, feature adds, as well as writing new web apps from the ground up, all in a day's work. And I know that wears a person out more than if they had just one project to work on. I wonder if programming is like mental sprinting, not walking, so you can only do it in bursts. Am I normal or stealing?"
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How Many Hours a Week Can You Program?

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  • by e2d2 (115622) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:06PM (#31849992)

    He means actual coding sir. He said not reading specifications, meetings, etc. You know, the majority of the actual work being done in software development? Simple fact is we do little coding when compared to the other aspects of the job. That's why I tell kids coming out of college with CS degrees - get ready to learn, again. Because if they think it's all coding they'll be sorely mistaken. I spend more time trying to work with customers learning the domain and getting what they need out of them then I do actual coding. Meetings are required but sometimes lengthy. Documentation takes little brain power but is also required. Deployments are not very exciting but again, required. QA processes can be tedious too. Etc. I do spend some days coding non-stop from 9am-6pm but that's not typical, that's a spectacular day when it comes around.

    That all being said, I do find myself working in a sprinting fashion as the posted does. I'll always be coding when it's time but sometimes you get a burst of speed and intelligence that you might not have every single day and you sprint ahead and make up for the times when you're not so sharp. This cycle goes on and on and it's hard for me to get around it. For instance, I had a burst of inspiration on Sunday and had more productivity in that off day then the entire week previous.

    I defy anyone to focus day in and day out for years and maintain absolute focus at maximum productivity. If you can do that then you're a better developer than me and perhaps a robot.

  • Re:Programming (Score:2, Informative)

    by nemasu (1766860) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:06PM (#31850000)
    Bang on. At my previous job I was not just a programmer, I was a developer (ie. involved in design), and I was making something that I found very interesting. We were a small group, so you were on your own most of the time and was challenging, which I enjoyed. I found myself looking forward to work and even staying late to finish whatever thought process I currently had. Now...I hold the Programmer title and work in spurts at boring and uninteresting projects watching the clock so I can bolt out the door as soon as possible. Obviously, at the moment, I am off-spurt.
  • Yerkes Dodson Law (Score:2, Informative)

    by Chaseshaw (1486811) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:10PM (#31850060)
    I'm in a very similar position. Coding something that is not interesting with a boss that hovers over me and thinks my productivity goes up if I spend an hour a day in meetings with her (she is not tech-saavy by any means and lacks any understanding of program developing). I'm pretty good at forcing myself to work, but end up with 45-50 minutes of good work in an hour. I chalk it up to the Yerkes-Dodson Law ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerkes%E2%80%93Dodson_law [wikipedia.org] ) which basically says productivity has an inverse-U shape as a function of creativity. If you're a grunt adding receipts you need pressure on you to do your job and get anything done, but if you are asked to solve a problem creatively using a computer (e.g. most software development--the path to the finished version is not always explicit), high pressure from above makes productivity go way down.
  • Re:Programming (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:10PM (#31850068)

    Bingo.

    I'm also a code monkey who turns business logic into php websites. I reckon I do a bit better than the OP but not much. Maybe 20-25 hours out of my 37.5 a week.

    I work on my own non php code in spare time. I can pull more hours on that per week in my spare time than I can in my paid-for daily work.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @06:04PM (#31850740)

    UML isn't a programming language. It's a way of drawing out an architecture. There's some tools out there that can convert it into code (which is trivial really) that some PHBs think are the best thing since sliced bread, but most use of UML is to show interactions between classes in quick freeform drawings. And very few of those use strict UML- they tend to be the same handwavey drawings we've been doing on legal pads and whiteboards for 30 years.

  • by Enigma23 (460910) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @06:26PM (#31850980)

    In the UK, if you're working sat in front of a monitor health & safety recommendations state that 'There is no legal limit to how long you should work at a VDU, but under health and safety regulations you have the right to breaks from work using a VDU. These don't have to be rest breaks, just different types of work.' [direct.gov.uk]

    I hope you take regular breaks away from sitting at your computer, for your sake.

  • 4-5 hours per day (Score:2, Informative)

    by liquidsgi (793103) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:49PM (#31851740) Homepage
    An old manager told me once that they were told in a seminar that they should expect 4-5 hours per day "real work" and the rest crap from most engineers. You are always going to be interrupted with random stuff-- answering email going to find someone to have a mini work meeting etc. I find that this is pretty normal. I myself can't do more than 4 hours without being extremely burned out at the end of the day.
  • Re:Kind Of Vague (Score:2, Informative)

    by schamberlin (1354695) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @10:49PM (#31853248)

    What, seriously? You were forced to work 40-50 hours per week actually writing software, without the union-mandated 5 hours per day for updating your blog and watching funny YouTube videos?

    Why do people seem to think that being asked to actually WORK at work is some sort of heinous crime?

    > reasonably smart people that study and learn a usable skill shouldn't have to live like that. Not in the US.

    They should get to work in some gilded office and get their asses kissed for doing 30 minutes of actual work in a day?

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. -- Poul Anderson

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