My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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When I work in Windows, I don't get as much done as when I'm in MacOS X.

It's not because MacOS is inherently better than Windows productivity-wise. It's because my calendar and time-boxing mechanism resides on MacOS. So when I've got an entire day of work to do in Windows, I don't have anything telling me "it's time to switch tasks."

Why is that a problem? That's the focus of this week's chapter in MJWTI. (Last week, I took a mini-vacation / early bachelor party to go fishing at Lake Calcasieu in Southwest Louisiana, so I didn't get around to posting then in the Save Your Job series.)

The "Eight-Hour Burn" is another of the chapters in Chad's book that really stuck with me after I first read it. The premise is that instead of working overtime, you should limit each day's work to an 8 hour period of intense activity. In doing so, you'll get more done than you otherwise would. Our brains don't function at as high a level as possible when we're tired. And when we're working on our fifth 60-hour week, we're probably tired.

We may love to brag about how productive we are with our all-nighters [paraphrasing Chad], but the reality is we can't be effective working too many hours over a long period of time.

A Brain Scan

And it's more than just our brains being tired that should prevent us from working too long. It's the fact that when we know we've got so much extra time to do something, we end up goofing off anyway:
Think about day 4 of the last 70-hour week you worked. No doubt, you were putting in a valiant effort. But, by day 4, you start to get lax with your time. It's 10:30 AM, and I know I'm going to be here for hours after everyone else goes home. I think I'll check out the latest technology news for a while. When you have too much time to work, your work time reduces significantly in value. If you have 70 hours available, each hour is less precious to you than when you have 40 hours available.
That's why I'm in trouble when I work in Windows all day. I do work 12-16 hours most days between job, school, and personal activity (like this blog). I get burnt out every few weeks and have to take a couple of days off, but when I'm in MacOS X, at least my working days are very productive: I've got each task time-boxed and any time I spend reading blogs or news or just getting lost on the web is always scheduled.

When I'm in Windows with nothing to remind me but myself, I drift off quite a bit more easily. After all, it's only 6:30 in the morning. I've still got eight hours to get everything done (I'm leaving early to go check the progress on the house I'm having built).

The good news is that I've got an item on my longer-term to-do list to remedy the situation. Hopefully after reading this chapter again, I'll be more motivated to get it done. The bad news is, since it means working in Windows all day to get it done, I'll probably be off doing my best to read all of Wikipedia instead.

Anyway, how much do you work? Do you have any tricks for staying fresh and motivated?

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Good post. Out of interest what are the tools you use on OS X?

Posted by Sam Farmer on Mar 28, 2011 at 08:23 AM UTC - 5 hrs

Great read.... I can relate. Had been a small business (one man show) for a few years.... and the hours and hours of work eventually got me burnt.

2 years ago I decided (with my daughter 5 years old) that I would work normal hours, make sure I spent time with her... put that above else.

And I almost (tried!) to commit to a decent night's sleep every night.

It's still hard for me to stick to that schedule at times... besides coding, I teach drums part time through the week.... and play the weekly gigs with a local band...

So it doesn't take much to unbalance my schedule....

Posted by Yves on Mar 29, 2011 at 06:57 PM UTC - 5 hrs

Hey Sam,

I originally wrote that back in 2008, so I don't recall exactly what I was using, but I think it was dealing with iCal as the main thing to keep me on task. I seem to recall other components, but not well enough that I remember what they were.

It's not to my liking much anymore. I've got an idea to help in that respect that I've been toying around with, but it keeps going through different incarnations as my style of work changes.

Now I just use discipline and a text to-do list, and it works pretty well for the most part. (Last week was a major exception). I think I like the style of a list with optional times over a weekly view calendar like I had set up with iCal (or even now with google calendar).

I do keep track of stuff on google calendar, but it's usually more vague like "work on x project" until I start working on it, in which case I'll edit the description to include the features I worked on.

I haven't found the perfect system yet, or anything I like even a lot, except for the idea in my head that I mentioned has changed a few times. =)

I'll let you know if/when this idea ever solidifies, and what style of work it supports (because I think the style of work heavily influences how you should manage your tasks)

Posted by Sammy Larbi on Mar 30, 2011 at 02:05 PM UTC - 5 hrs

@Yves - That's definitely cool. I try to get a lot more down time nowadays too. When I was in grad school I was definitely working way too much between school and 2 regular contracting gigs, and I followed it up with a part time job and a full time job.

I finally really chilled out around 2009-10 and now I sometimes still feel burnt out by the experience. I'm slowing coming out of my cave though!

Posted by Sammy Larbi on Mar 30, 2011 at 02:09 PM UTC - 5 hrs

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