posted Jan 25, 2005

I'm still buckled down with work, but financial stresses are getting stronger and stronger. I had thought that was why I wasn't posting much, that and the depression (not strong, but real) this has been causing me.

But today I got up "early" for a conferance call, and while waiting for it, I've posted more today than in the last month.

Maybe I'm not posting because mornings are my "posting" time and I've been sleeping through it? In the absence of a "real job", I tend towards a sleep schedule of 2 a.m. - 10 a.m.; this makes me comfortable and seems to maximize my useful programming time. Maybe 8a.m.-10a.m. are my best posting times, though.

I've noticed other thing about daily schedules. I should not code past midnight, with the possible exception of documentation (not really coding) or pure bug-fixes with unit-test support. Otherwise, I run the risk of accomplishing negative work; for every minute of work I gain I add more than a minute of new work later. For full-on, "in-the-zone" programming my best time is around 1p.m. through about 6p.m. to 7p.m. It is also when I am most distractable by the Internet, I think, and I need to be more diligent about yanking the plug or pulling the connection. (I wish there was a good way to get just important emails, while not being on IM (which I already use for work only), or having my aggregator or any other websites available. Unfortunately, anything I've tried to set up is too easy for me to bypass, because I have to make sure my wife can flip it off with a keypress. If she can, so can I. Bummer.)

It's worth learning these things, I think, because you can't power through them, they are real. The area I was raised in is dominated by immigrant Germans who had a very, very strong work culture; I think "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise" came from this culture. (I don't know that etymologically, but it sure is plausible.) Men don't cry, and don't let little things like broken bones stop them from working. That may be great for physical labor... well, taken too literally it isn't but the spirit is helpful... but it is counter-productive for mental work, even in spirit. Given that I can only sustain around six hours a day of all-out in-the-zone effort, I might as well try to use the six hours best for me.

As a result, I have found I am much more productive when I can set my own schedule than when someone tries to force me onto a 8-5, 40-hour a week schedule. If I need a nap at 1p.m., then by golly, you'd really better let me take it, or no matter how I try to just power through, you're going to get perhaps as little as 10% of what you could have gotten otherwise. (10% is not necessarily an exaggeration, either.) Current work cultures really don't work for such intensely mental pursuits. Programming isn't exceptional, it's just a clear example with well-documented disparities between maximum performance and minimum.

The moral of this story is, I suppose, sleep well.


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