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Programming

How Many Hours a Week Can You Program? 547

Posted by timothy
from the please-answer-in-earth-hours dept.
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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  • Kind Of Vague (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unother (712929) * <myself@@@kreig...me> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:48PM (#31849680) Homepage
    If you mean purely the process of typing in code, well--that's kind of hard to gauge, isn't it? I've always found that the trial-and-error of development processes means that unless you're working in an orthodox manner it's really hard to separate "thinking" from "doing". Also, I find that when you're in the "zone" it's not painful at all. Sounds like you may be working on something you don't enjoy so much? :D
    • Is planning, creating UML and organizing projects really programming? No. Is it part of the programming process? Yes, definitely.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by unother (712929) *
        See above where I said "unless you're working in an orthodox manner". UML is used where UML is used; it is consider "orthodox" (AKA CYA). That's why I said the separation is harder when you're free from that sort of overarching process (which is good for some things, but overkill for many others). Point being: if you find development dull, yet you are in a very Waterfall-oriented organization, then well... might not be the programming part. :)
    • by jimbolauski (882977) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:05PM (#31849972) Journal
      Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door - that way Lumbergh can't see me, heh heh - and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.
      Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?
      Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.
      • Re:Office space (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dudpixel (1429789) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:18PM (#31853462)

        this reminds me of a quote I read somewhere:

        "You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you’ve made up your mind that you just aren’t doing anything productive for the rest of the day."

        so true...often hits around 8:30 am for me.

    • Re:Kind Of Vague (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nametaken (610866) * on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:34PM (#31850346)

      Yeah, it depends entirely on the environment and what you're used to. It's amazing what people will do when they think it's normal.

      I used to work 40-50 hr weeks just writing code. Mostly web applications like the op does. All day, no facebook or web browsing, all billable hours with two project managers behind me that just had to look forward to see what I was doing. I had two 10 minute breaks (one morning, one evening) and 30 minutes (iirc) for lunch. I worked in a converted warehouse with no natural light, no windows (to stare out of and waste time daydreaming). You learn to do it because that's what's expected of you and what the people around you do. Now I work IT and program for a different company, and I can hardly fathom how I used to do that... or why.

      Fuck that old job and fuck that employer... it wasn't worth it. When I went to leave they offered me another 15k to stay... that's how bad I was being raped all along. Obviously I told them no. I know it wasn't sweatshop labor or anything, I was able to quit and it wasn't particularly hot in there, but reasonably smart people that study and learn a usable skill shouldn't have to live like that. Not in the US.

    • Re:Kind Of Vague (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:39PM (#31850434) Homepage Journal

      >>Also, I find that when you're in the "zone" it's not painful at all. Sounds like you may be working on something you don't enjoy so much? :D

      When I'm in the zone writing code, I can easily code for 10 hours straight. However, doing this on a day in, day out basis tends to be wearing from all the focus. When I worked for other people, I found that working about four hours a day when my brain was freshest yielded the best results. Since I was being paid hourly, I wasn't even forced to sit around waiting for five o'clock to roll around. I'd bill four hours and bail out. Got a project that had been budgeted for three years and half a million dollars finished in a summer for (unfortunately) much less money.

      • Re:Kind Of Vague (Score:5, Insightful)

        by deisama (1745478) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:44PM (#31851710)

        This is one of the things I struggle with working from home for myself. With no meetings and nothing to distract me, getting in the "zone" is awesome, but can be a little hazardous.

        When I'm that into it, I stop getting hungry or thirsty, I don't get tired. I got to bed at around 6am, because the bright light hurts my eyes and distracts me long enough to think "you know, its 6am, maybe I should go to sleep" even though I'm not the slightest bit tired.
        My dreams are all about the tasks I'm programming, but of course, since they're not grounded in reality, any discoveries there are useless.
        3 hours later, I'll wake up. I'll spend maybe an hour waking up, eating breakfast, maybe watch an ep of the dailyshow, and than its back to the project.

        I did this for 5 days straight once. It's absolutely fun as hell. Challenge after challenge after challenge. Like the best video game you've ever played. Its crazy productive. 3 to 4 months tasks get done in days. And at the time your mind masks all the downsides from you. You never get exhausted or sick of it. You don't realise how much time or days has passed.

        But than you snap out of it. Your bones ache because you've barely moved them. Friends have messaged you and called, and you didn't notice. The fact that you've barely gotten any sleep hits you hard. You'll be fine one second, take a step forward and than all bam, all of it hits you at once.

        And thats if you're lucky enough to have finished your task. If you've forced your self out of it because of "health concerns", than your mind makes it painfully clear, that you don't actually have as much choice as you thought you did in this matter. Almost as though you're being held hostage, you won't be able to focus on anything else at all. Your mind will constantly come up with new ideas that make you REALLY want to go back and see if it works. If you want to watch a show or play a game, you'll be lucky if you can notice the title. If you try to hang out with friends you'll be distant and distracted. If you try to do anything that requires even the slightest amount of thought, you'll be utterly useless.

        And finally, when you're not in the zone its a stuggle. On the one hand, you know that if you could go into the zone all the work you're wasting time on would be blown away. Why should you do any work in this unproductive state when you know you could do it way better and faster when you're in the zone? But at the same time, there's this fear too. I don't want to lose the next 3 or 4 days of my life. Will this next task be the one that sucks me in? If I start this now, will I be able to make it to my appointment tomorrow? And is this strategy even physically healthy?

        I haven't really come to terms with it yet. But hopefully one day I'll find the perfect balance :)

        • You Sir... (Score:3, Funny)

          by Cryacin (657549)
          Are a workaholic. And you can never get enough workahol.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LBt1st (709520)

          I've been there. For years I was like that. I basically put my life on hold all through my teens and 20's. Then eventually I realized I was missing out on a lot, and made an effort to not make coding my priority in life. This was a very difficult transition that took about 2 years. Now I'm finally able to accept that it's something I do when I have time.
          Before if I tried to hang out with friends or something it'd be bothering me the whole time that I wasn't being productive. It was like an obsession that wo

        • Re:Kind Of Vague (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @03:32AM (#31854850)

          All that said, and acknowledged, I wish I could "zone out" at will. I enjoy my life a hell of a lot more when I'm being productive.

          I get "zone" times, but find it hard to do at will. I think that's linked to my opinion of the general quality of the project I'm working on ; I'm much more likely to zone out when I'm motivated or enthusiastic about things. Much less so when I think the project is a ... tasered sheep on meth.

  • Programming (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:48PM (#31849684) Journal

    As long as you're interested in what you program, you can easily do it full work days. However it seems like you're doing the usual code monkey job - these effects are what happens when its not fulfilling or at all interesting. Not in your area of interest and not challenging in the needing-to-think-and-solve-problems way, but just to produce code. That's what it basically comes down to.

    A friend of mine gets his job done and still plays computer games and codes his own projects at work a lot. Since he gets his work done, it's not a problem (though he hasn't told this). Another programmer I know spends 30-40 minutes breaks playing Civilization or other games he enjoys and his boss knows this and likes it because after those gaming breaks he has unwind, maybe has think some of the problems and gets really good programming done again. But he works at a software house, attends to meetings and is in other ways involved in the business too.

    It's no surprise that so many programmers also go as developers later. You get to solve actual problems and do more interesting stuff. When you were a teen, you didn't just program - you developed and spend time thinking what you did. It's no fun if you leave that part out.

    • Re:Programming (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikes.song (830361) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:53PM (#31849758)
      Yeah, if you are working on your own projects, it's easy to do a sixteen plus hour stretch. Some cola, pizza, and your imagination.

      But, if you are implementing someones broken business logic or accounting rules, I'd guess that three to four hours a week is the norm.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by nemasu (1766860)
      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
    • by Itninja (937614) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:21PM (#31850226) Homepage

      ....its not fulfilling or at all interesting

      This job fulfilling in creative way. Such a load of crap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MikeFM (12491)
      If it's my own project that I'm interested in and I have no outside distractions or pressing concerns I can program 20 hours a day but when it's work or I have a kid climbing over me or a wife that keeps wanting me to come out of my cave then it's a lot harder. I especially find deciphering other people's bad code and documentation draining but if I'm doing something really hard like designing a prediction system to suggest what products customers will buy based on random factors such as time of year, time
    • Re:Programming (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dsginter (104154) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:54PM (#31850608)

      As long as you're interested in what you program, you can easily do it full work days.

      I think that you are missing the lower level question:

      How many hours per day will your brain allow you to be functional at a given task?

      When I did lots of SQL-based web development, I would toil away for 12-16 hours on some days only to have the answer in my head after a good night's rest. This happened a lot (and was a little frustrating to do in 10 minutes what could not be done in 10 hours the day before). Maybe I just suck at SQL-based web development but the whole concept of a mental limit is interesting to me.

      • Re:Programming (Score:5, Insightful)

        by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:46PM (#31851722)
        Those 12-16 hours are the price for discovering the 10 minute solution (assuming you didn't just fart around for 12-16 hours). You wouldn't have found the 10 minute solution without them, because it took that long to gain experience in the problem domain and learn how NOT to do things.

        Once you have the experience, the next time you're faced with the same problem, you'll come up with the 10 minute solution without the 12-16 hours of thrashing about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Quirkz (1206400)
      My "hobby" of sorts is programming a web-based game on evenings and weekends and holidays. It's hands-down the most fun thing I've ever done, and there's no way I could code 8 hours straight. Thankfully the game requires I wear a lot of hats: creative writing, strategic planning, image manipulation, and other stuff on top of coding. So on a good day if I put in close to 8 hours of work, I may only be coding for 2, which turns out about right. Enough to be satisfying, not so much I feel my brain is melting.
  • that's easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:49PM (#31849704)
    That's easy! I can do 169, no problem. Of course, I'll be tired and I may make a mistake here and there.
  • by rwade (131726) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:53PM (#31849754)

    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).

    My only work product is Excel spreadsheets and the occasional Word document. When I'm building these spreadsheets and documents, I'll get data for them over the phone, which I promptly type into my computer. The net impact is that I'm sitting at my computer all day, 40 hours a week. You just can't sit there and work spreadsheets all day, every day. If your job doesn't involve anything else, you're probably going to end up browsing the web to stay sane.

  • Duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by xerent_sweden (1010825) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:53PM (#31849760)
    168 hours per week. 191 if you're onboard Air Code One and circling the globe in DEFCON style.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:54PM (#31849766)

    Eight hours a day, five days a week was good enough for illiterate industrial workers doing manual labor when it was invented 150 years ago. I see no reason it shouldn't be a perfect fit for highly educated software engineers in 2010!!

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:02PM (#31849932)

      Eight hours a day, five days a week was good enough for illiterate industrial workers doing manual labor when it was invented 150 years ago. I see no reason it shouldn't be a perfect fit for highly educated software engineers in 2010!!

      I grok the humor attempt - but I want to point out that those "illiterate industrial workers" would've thanked God for a 40 hour work week. They were often working 10-12 hour days, six or seven days a week.

      There's a reason unions caught on so well, and a reason companies hired goons to fight them so fiercely.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Prien715 (251944)

        Employees are now working at least 12 hours per day, six days a week, yet the letter claims they are being increasingly disregarded and dehumanized by management.
        Working conditions at RockStar [escapistmagazine.com]

        Maybe we need unions again?

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:55PM (#31849794) Journal
    Look, you aren't stealing. You aren't stealing until you're fired and you keep coming to work and forcibly removing money from your employer without their consent. That doesn't happen very often. Whoever says you're stealing by investing your time as you see fit is full of bullshit. You control your productivity and if your employer don't like it, they'll get someone else. It's that simple.

    Now that said, I have no problem doing forty hours of sheer coding in a week. Meetings take up a lot of time but in one of my former positions as a lead developer, I did serious coding to make us look really really good. It involved 50-60 hours a week of being there and 30-40 was actually coding to make sprint deadlines. I mean code overnight into the next day with no sleep. And no interruptions! My god, you would not believe the lines of code (note: bad metric) I can put away with no interruptions. That's what headphones are for. Amen to the large DJ sized headphones I have at work. It's a polite do-not-disturb sign to my coworkers.

    Coding involves also searching online so you don't re-invent the wheel. Aside from that, your list is good. And yeah, meetings are important for coding. How else do I get my requirements other than directly meeting the customer? That's part of coding unless you're leaving that up to some other guy to get (which is a horrible idea in my opinion).

    Anyway, sounds like you're getting the job done and you're not pulling your hair out like I once was. So what's the problem? You may not realize it but you may produce forty hours of normal developer work in those ten hours. I don't know, maybe your code is less buggy than mine? Either way if the paychecks keep rolling in and your employer isn't hold an axe over your head, what's the problem?
    • by mikael_j (106439)

      That's what headphones are for. Amen to the large DJ sized headphones I have at work. It's a polite do-not-disturb sign to my coworkers.

      Oh, to work somewhere where management hasn't decided that since customer services can't wear headphones then no one can wear headphones (yes, headphones is banned throughout the workplace including the cafeteria).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      Look, you aren't stealing. You aren't stealing until you're fired and you keep coming to work and forcibly removing money from your employer without their consent. That doesn't happen very often. Whoever says you're stealing by investing your time as you see fit is full of bullshit. You control your productivity and if your employer don't like it, they'll get someone else. It's that simple.

      This logic is not sound. I remember reading a WW2 manual that warned the officer that if he goes into an area, and he

  • by mikael_j (106439) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:56PM (#31849808)

    To this day I sometimes catch myself working on some interesting problem at home and putting in 30+ hours over three days when I've got some time off from work, because the problem is interesting and there's no one around to make it uninteresting by coming up with changes halfway through, demanding arbitrary things that have no place in the app and similar stupidity.

    But when I'm at work building some glorified CRUDified spreadsheet in WEB_LANGUAGE_OF_CHOICE and I can't get two hours of coding in before the specs change or some PHB from another department feels like pointing out that the blue background color is a bit too blue for his tastes or whatever, well I sometimes end up taking a lot of little breaks just to clear my head enough to be able to function at all.

  • by Orga (1720130) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:56PM (#31849816)
    If quiet, uninterrupted and sleeping peacefully (coding something interesting/challenging) I could go easily for 8 hours or more. However if you interrupt me, and this could be a meeting, lunch or even a visit form a coworker it can knock me out of my coding (wake me up) and it's usually going to take me some period of time to get back into the flow of it all. The longer the interruption usually the longer it takes for me to get back into it. Caffeine and other Nootropics can contribute to to length and motivation to get back to work.
  • Age (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ucblockhead (63650) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:57PM (#31849842) Homepage Journal

    When I was 20, I would program 8-10 hours a day, then go home and code for 4-6 hours into the night.

    Now I get distracted before an hour's coding is up. That's why I moved into management.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by okmijnuhb (575581)
      You were lucky. I worked for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. I used to have to get to work at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, work fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when I missed deadlines my boss would thrash me his belt.
  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:58PM (#31849846) Journal
    /p>yessir, i have no problem wiht a 40 hour weel of html coding and i >i>never,/i. maek a mistake.,
  • age matters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tlord (703093) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:58PM (#31849852)

    I think it changes with age. When I was quite young, 10 hour a day for days on end wasn't so hard to pull off. Remembering to sleep and shower and brush my teeth were harder. The catch was that a very high percentage of the code I'd write was either pure crap, or could have been done better in less time by writing another program to write that code. As I've gotten older, I've found that it's easier to spend a large number of hours *contemplating* code -- but hard to work other than in smaller bursts actually writing the code. The difference is that when I do write code, the hours are far less wasted.

    I've taken this into account and so now my plan is, that when I reach 90, I'll just wake up in the morning and fart. My heavily customized Emacs will analyze the fart and translate it into C. "Oh, boy, I wrote another new OS kernel this morning!"

    Well, ok, one of the two above paragraphs is true and not the other.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fdrebin (846000)
      Yes, thinking matters big time. Other elderly colleagues of mine can generally code circles around the young whippersnappers, as we've been there, made the mistakes, and know not to make most of them. (Sadly we do repeat them sometimes). Too bad so many young'uns already know everything and don't want to learn from others, and prefer to learn by making the same mistakes others have made a zillion times before.

      /F

  • by bossvader (560071) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:59PM (#31849872)
    In the right environment on the right projects with the right team....I could easily design, develop, and test for 40+ hours a week and feel energized. Unfortunately that right environment, project and team is very rare.
  • by greywire (78262) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:01PM (#31849908) Homepage

    I think bigger question is how many hours a week are you actually able to program when you consider all interruptions. I rarely am able to program for more hours than my brain is capable of.

    When you have managers wanting meetings three times a week (granted, they are short usually), you expect to get a least a few inquiries a day about the code from someone who's not understanding what you are doing, and you work from home and/or you just get called frequently by the Significant Other... all these interruptions break up your day resulting actual concentrated programming being hard to do for any length of time.

    I find I probably only spend 10 - 16 hours a week doing solid coding. Another 10 - 16 is spent just thinking about higher level things like architecture or scaling issues or whatever, and depending on the week 4 - 8 hours "alternately stimulating" my brain with related (slashdot) but not directly applicable stuff. The rest is taken up by the aforementioned interruptions.

    But I'm not a "grunt programmer" either.

  • I love to program. When I am really into something, I lose track of time, forget to eat and drink, etc. I can do weekly marathons of it.

    However, meetings, telcos, reports seem to knock me down so much, that it's difficult to get back into the programming stride.

    I dunno . . . programming seems to generate and stimulate my mind, and keeps it going by itself.

    Meetings and co. make me comatose, so that it is difficult to maintain that programming stride.

  • I've been developing software for 18 years, and I've never encountered a time when I couldn't program anymore. 40 hours of work, plus another 10-15 while working on a masters and then back to programming freeware apps on the Mac. Easily 80 hours a week a while ago. Now I just don't have that kind of time, but I never feel as if I'd had enough. I rather like programming, hence pursuing that in college. I have had friends who became programmers just because of the high pay and you couldn't get them to touch a

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:03PM (#31849952) Journal
    Thinking is a physical thing, it requires energy, and can tire you out. If your body isn't in good health, you're not going to be able to concentrate for long periods of time without getting exhausted. If you aren't feeding yourself properly, you aren't going to have enough nutrients to keep your brain going.

    Now, being in good physical form doesn't mean being skinny: you can have terrible energy levels even if you are skinny, and you can have amazing levels even if you are fat. That said, the easiest way I've found to increase energy levels are first, to get enough nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, fruits and vegetables) so your body can rebuild itself, and second, running. If you can run far, you will be able to program 60 hours a week without a problem. If you want inspiration (ie, extra motivation beyond just high energy levels), check out this book [barnesandnoble.com] (I've no relation to the author, just found it inspiring).

    Whether you would want to program 60 hours a week is a different question.
  • I find some projects I can just tear into and code like a mad man. Others are painfully dull slogs and I just can't seem to focus much on them. There is also a lot of the time I'll spend hours looking at a problem and just can't seem to make any progress on it because I'm just not grasping it. So, I can easily vary from about 40+ hours one of those mad man rushes, to much more painful 15 or so if I hit one of those troublesome problems.
  • by PhantomHarlock (189617) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:06PM (#31849990)

    That's pretty normal. The important point is if you get the job done on time and in a time frame considered reasonable. People aren't machines. No one works every second at their desk. It also leads to things like crunch time at the end though, time management is a tough thing for most people. Seems to be the nature of humans though.

    Desk workers have it a lot better than assembly line workers, who are always 'on' when they are at their station, until they get their breaks.

    Me, I hate clock watching, I don't pay attention to that sort of thing. I just do the job until its done within the required timeframe. But I am fortunate to have a job with a lot of different hats, so I have a large variety in what I do. I switched careers 8 years ago to get away from a job that required me to be at a desk all the time. Sitting at a desk all day is one of the most unhealthy things one can do to oneself.

    The important thing is to balance and enjoy what you do. We really have no idea what happens when we die, there is a not-insignificant chance that there is no undying part of us. How do you want to spend your life? In fear of the clock and in guilt towards your employer, or have realistic expectations as a non-digital entity?

    Work hard and put in long hours when its warranted. Relax when you need to. Don't kill yourself or you'll burn out quickly and end up quitting anyway. Any excessive exertion will have to be made up for anyhow. It's like sleep - the debt accumulates, you will lose productivity later if you go overboard now. Zero sum game. Have fun, enjoy life, work well, be productive. Work smarter, not harder. Etc.

  • by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:07PM (#31850018) Homepage
    • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:55PM (#31850630) Homepage Journal

      I've been caught surfing several times, and had to bring the windows that are compiling to the front and simply say "Look. Compiling. Can't do anything else right now.". I was actually asked to compile less and work more. hrm. Now I just work on the spreadsheet analyzing my pay, and start asking questions about inconsistencies in the checks. "Why is there a 10% difference between what I've worked, and what you've paid me for? Should I just go home until you've figured out your mistake?"

          They really shouldn't have made me find more work related items to do, and I wouldn't have found their accounting errors in payroll. A little here and there isn't all that noticeable until you go and do an audit of it. It may be uglier if I go get the rest of the numbers from accounting and compare it to the P&L sheets. Sometimes they forget, sysadmins and programmers can frequently do math better than accountants, because we can write a program to do it for us, and I use floating point numbers, rather than rounding everything. :) Sorry, your rounding doesn't work as accurately as you'd like.

          Too bad I can't cut checks, or I'd have it sending all the $0.00[1-9] to my own check. Whee, I made $50k extra this week. :)

  • Paul Graham notes.. [paulgraham.com]

    If a hacker were a mere implementor, turning a spec into code, then he could just work his way through it from one end to the other like someone digging a ditch. But if the hacker is a creator, we have to take inspiration into account. In hacking, like painting, work comes in cycles. Sometimes you get excited about some new project and you want to work sixteen hours a day on it. Other times nothing seems interesting. To do good work you have to take these cycles into account, because th

  • it said that people could only focus productively for about 6 hours a day at best. Programming and detailed design would qualify. It did say that for 2 or 3 days at a time you could step it up but that you'd need a break. The study acknowledged that many people were at work for many more hours than that; it just said they weren't very sharp the rest of the time and that their productive hours were likely to drop below 6 if they worked too long.

    I find that I'm super productive for about 4 hours a day, in

  • Long term average is about 60 hours per week. I've gone to about 106-107 for some periods, 3 months in one instance, but I was a bit toasted by the end of it.

    I'm referring to combination thinking/designing/coding, not counting breaks etc. (We were required to track our hours, what a pain). I'm also mostly autonomous and don't have to go to too many meetings.

    For you young weenies, I'm 54. Most of you kids can't keep up. (I did once meet a young kid who could wear me out time-wise).

    It helps that I've change

  • by jockeys (753885) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:10PM (#31850052) Journal
    but usually I only GET to about 10-15 hours, and spend the rest of my time dealing with meetings, documentation, etc. Coding is the fun part.
  • Am I... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekmansworld (950281) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:14PM (#31850128) Homepage

    "Am I normal or stealing?"

    No.

  • by Attila the Bun (952109) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:16PM (#31850144)

    I think the very concept of "stealing" time is arse-backwards. I don't care or count how many hours my team puts in. I judge them by what they do: how many tasks or projects they complete, and how much help they needed. If anybody seems easily able to deal with their workload, I give them more challenging tasks. And if they complete those too, I use that to justify a raise at the end of the year (theirs, not mine).

    If an above-average guy only does an average amount of work and spends half his time web-surfing, that's no reason to fire him. But he'll only get an average review.

    That's my system, and I think it's fair.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Skal Tura (595728)

      That is indeed fair system. Keep it honest, and going. Don't ever forget to really reward for getting most done, and if someone fails remember to check the specs, if it was feasible or was the problem elsewhere.

      I've been with an employer who constantly gave me more work. He gave me about 6-7months total working time to complete 13month project, which was in the first place under budgeted, under manned effort. He told me i can use couple guys as much as i need, but told them to refuse almost anything but the

  • by thepike (1781582) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:19PM (#31850200)

    I've worked a number of places (sales, factory, desk jobs etc.) and at all of them I've seen people spend way less time doing "work" than the amount of time they were at the job site. Some examples:

    • At the pet store I worked at in high school we would work hard before opening and after closing so that when the store was open if there were no customers we could just stand there because our tasks were done
    • At the factory I worked in, I spent a lot of time personally just standing around because I wasn't qualified to set up machines or work on them alone (I didn't work there long) so if someone else didn't need an assistant, I got paid to sweep the floor or some such thing. Also, on that note, they definitely could have set up the machines faster, but overtime was the name of the game so they dragged their feet
    • When I worked in an office people often didn't do things efficiently. Some of it was messing around (email etc) some of it was work sanctioned (long pointless meetings) and a lot of it was general inefficiency (many people only know how to do about 2 things in excel, and a lot of those excel functions could be replaced by a python script to do it for them

    Now I work in a lab and teach (I've always been a biologist, just not always employed as one) and my lab mates give me crap for the little amount of time I actually spend in the lab. They'll be here from 8 in the morning to 7 or 8 at night, and I'm usually here 9-5. The difference is that I multitask, while they tend to do one thing at a time. So if I have some PCR or a gel or something running, I'll start doing something else at the same time, staggering them so that I'm always doing something and, hopefully, when I finish with one thing, the next is about ready to be worked on. Or I'll read, write, or grade papers, things like that. I end up getting more work done in my 9 hours on site than they do in their 11 or 12. Luckily my boss has figured it out and lets me basically come and go as I please, as long as I give him good results, but everyone gets so worked up about face time that there have been multiple complaints.

    I say, as long as your work is getting done, who cares how long it takes. If you're programming 15 hours a week and getting it done, more power to you. Just because someone else takes longer to do the same task doesn't make them any more valuable as an employee. Actually, assuming you're more efficient than them, it makes you more valuable, in my eyes.

  • by databank (165049) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:24PM (#31850252)

    Is it okay for you to hire a gardener for 20 hours of work and have him actually work 10 hours and take a break for 10 hours?

    Some people may feel that that analogy doesn't have any bearing cause its not in an IT field. Say, if you decide to hire a web design consultant, would you be okay with paying him out of your own pocket for a 40 hour week if it includes surfing the web, chatting with friends over the phone, taking long lunches etc?

    This doesn't mean you need to chain someone down to their job and certainly taking small breaks throughout the day is needed just to mentally refocus, but if you don't feel comfortable paying someone 40 hours for 20 hours of work, why would an employer be okay about it?

    Food for thought.

    • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:37PM (#31850392)

      I guess the real question here is do you hire a gardner to do 20 hours of work, or do you hire him to maintain 20 yards. If he gets all 20 done in 10 hours, does it matter how many hours it took him?

      In the case of IT, I suppose the problem is that the skill level can vary so dramatically that you can have a "20 hour" task that takes some people 30 minutes, and other people 3 weeks. You certainly can't get away with paying someone for only twenty hours if they work 3 weeks in a row, but it should tell you something about how much you can expect out of them in the future.

      FWIW, I think in the end coding and programming are more like art than like building widgets. Sometimes, epiphanies happen quickly, other times, not so much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        ^ this

        For larger code development jobs where multiple people are involved and the code is going to be maintained and supported for a long time, it's even harder to relate 'hours actively spend programming' to 'productivity'. A bad developer may be able to implement a new feature by working his ass off the whole week, but if it turns out that the code is so bad or buggy that it's hard to maintain, unreliable or even needs to be re-done completely, these 40 hours a week might actually cost the company hundred

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GeckoAddict (1154537)
      It depends. If he spends 10 hours getting supplies from the store, picking out plants, drawing a layout of the plan, and meeting with me, then I have no problem with the gardener doing 10 hours of actual manual labor planting and cutting. I think similar situation applies, it's just that instead of all those things it's reading requirements, meeting stakeholders, answering questions about older projects, participating in training activities, etc.

      At my place of employment we use TSP/PSP and we're expect
    • Good Food (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alaren (682568)

      This is a fair question, but I'm sorry to say that very few people really understand the answer--and how important that answer is to the way white collar employment works.

      When you write code for a company, the company owns your code. Not only that, but it probably has a viable claim on all the code you write, unless you make an explicit agreement to the contrary. So when you come up with something that makes the company a million dollars? You get your salary. If you're lucky, you might get a (comparat

    • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @06:54PM (#31851250) Homepage

      why would an employer be okay about it

      Because the boss is making 300 times your salary, and can't do 300 times the work. He knows that, and you know that, and you both know him flying first class is a waste of money, as is the expensed dinners, "retreats" in Caribbean, the company Audi, the office remodel that cost the company ten or twenty grand..

      Work rules are for the lower rungs of the ladder only, because they are the only ones who actually do anything. The higher you get, the more you get away with, as long as you are playing by the real rules: keep your mouth shut, do what you're told, and don't make any noise about the corruption and waste at the top. If you find yourself making waves at meetings about company waste or using that dirty "ethics" word, you'll quickly find yourself playing by the work rules again.

      That's why the whole top of the pyramid is nothing but pimps and hookers.

      a spade is still a spade, a collar is still a collar
      whether it be blue or white
      it's still around your neck, the silk leash nice and tight
      your wife helped pick it out
      the irony is that you worked 3 hours for it
      you wish you could ignore it:
      you're a hooker

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by johncadengo (940343)

      What constitutes work for a gardner? Is he working only when blades of grass are cut, only when he is moving, only when bushes are being trimmed?

      Now, what constitutes work for a programmer? Is he working only when he is typing code, only when reading specifications, only when debugging?

      It is hard to imagine that the gardner who works 20 hours a week but charges for 40 needs the extra 20 hours to plan out his next move. Yet, for the programer, the thought process is just as much work as the typing. And the v

  • by Alanbly (1433229) <alanbly@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:37PM (#31850386) Homepage
    If you're actually writing code more than 50% of your time you aren't thinking enough to warrant anything beside grunt programmer work. Good solutions require research and thought and if you aren't thinking and just coding, you're writing sub-standard code. That said if you aren't architecting anything, if you aren't actually designing solutions, there's no reason you can't stay on task for 40 hours, plenty of people do.

    Personally, I'm of the mindset that good solutions need to percolate. So I'll keep multiple projects going at any given time, and break up the work an any one of them to minimize true down time, and read slashdot during compile/debug cycles. But that's just me.
  • by PortHaven (242123) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:37PM (#31850390) Homepage

    I always found that I coded in sprints. I could get more accomplished in one sprint than in the three days prior. Programming often seems to be a thing of get stuck on some stupid issue totally separate from logic and design (the aspects of programming I enjoy) and finally getting through that stop gap and getting the rest of the code completed.

    I've also found that many times that sprint occurs around 4pm-5pm (yes, when everyone else start going home). This has convinced me that we'd be better off if we offered programmers the option of working three 12 hour days. Such would facilitate longer sprints, and during periods of times with less distractions.

  • by rawler (1005089) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nossleakim.kirlu'> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @06:34PM (#31851048)

    I'm experiencing something similar, although, I must say it's not the "coding" that kills me, but the amount of context-switching I'm forced to do on a daily basis.

    First, just let me explain my work. I'm the only developer in a technical department of 15 people, in a small local branch of a much bigger company. As such, I serve both various developing needs of my local department, as well as other departments in my branch, most support-systems for first, second and third-line support staff, as well as a multitude of network partners. Except for the development duties, there's an emphasis on last-line support, IP-networking, and product management.

    What I've discovered, is that the single largest mental challenge for me, is being forced to radical context-switches, often without advanced warning, and many, many times a day. One minute, I may be working with low-level IP-protocol-debugging in hex-dumps and bit-masks, and 5-minutes later supporting the operational staff with ongoing database-issues, 15-minutes later forced into a spontaneous meeting about human-resources content-managment problems in the customer-support systems, being interupted by another scheduled meeting about conceptual architecture and product management.

    All the individual context-switches is what really hurts me. I've reached a point when whenever a colleague shows up, or whenever the next bug is in a different system than the last, I almost experience physical pain, and mental pictures of a harddrive about to give up, trying to chug in those long-gone swap-pages.

    You mention "maintaining a couple of dozen web apps"? Even if the technologies may or may not vary much for you, is it possible that the context and nature of the different apps are much varying, giving you a similar problem to mine? That is, forced to "switch project" often, and spending a lot of time and energy on trying to remember the relevant details for the next bug on the list?

    Otherwise, when circumstances allow, I try to work from home, turn off the cellphone and shield myself off, in order to concentrate on that specific project. With all the context-switching gone I usually don't have a problem spending at least 25-30H/week doing serious "coding" (including design. development-oriented QA, test-cases, careful versioning), more for mundane typing-heavy projects, and less for more demanding designs, either due to unusual requirements, really tricky algorithms, or simply big complex stuff.

    For challenging projects however, there's certainly a "burstiness" to the productivity. Some problems simply needs to be processed "offline" for a while, before they can be solved, but I think that goes for any mentally challenging activity for anyone. Most people I talk to tells me that they solve problems best while sleeping, so maybe you should find someplace to hide for a nap during the workday? ;)

  • 15 minutes per day (Score:3, Insightful)

    by firewood (41230) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:04PM (#31851384)

    If you go by the metric that, in the typical large project, the resulting product ends up with 10 to 100 "lines of code" per person per day, hey, most programmer's probably took about 15 minutes to type that in if you exclude all thinking (reading, studying, daydreaming while unconsciously problem solving, etc.) and meeting time.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:14PM (#31851458) Homepage Journal

    this is the work cycle. Once you need to do something, you generally need to hatch an idea. and hatching is not always active. it can be passive too. while stupidly surfing or even doing your laundry at home, your mind can be busy with the issue in the background. in that respect, coding is a kind of work that generally intrudes one's personal and leisure time. and you cant rest until you actually devised a solution to the issue. when you feel that something clicked, your mind rests in ease, and you can function normal again. and you can start implementing the solution. that is the coding phase. of course, until the next problem is put forth. then the cycle begins.

    resting is time that happens in between all those. whether you code or think for 15 minutes and then surf or just be stupid for 5 minutes, or while resting on weekend you cool off the engine.

    you gotta cool off the engine. be warned. if you dont and just keep thinking and coding like a monkey for months, you will eventually snap, regardless of how young you are. concentration takes huge toll on one's brain.

    so, act wise. dont feel that you are 'stealing'.

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