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Ask HN: How many hours do you work?
28 points by fantominous on Aug 26, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments
I joined Facebook as an engineer straight out of college a little less than a year ago. During my time here I've constantly felt like I'm not working hard enough. I spend around 9 hours a day at the office, but not all of that time is spent working.

To get a better idea of how much time I actually work I started using the pomodoro technique a few weeks ago. I've noticed I do around 12 pomodoros (about 6 hours) of solid work before calling it a day. Usually by the end I'm mentally exhausted (is this normal?) and want to go home.

I'm really curious to know if six hours of work a day is normal. How much time do people spend actually working at the office? A lot of people at Facebook put in long hours, but I feel like that may be because they spend some time browsing reddit, reading hacker news, etc., rather than working.

So far after compiling feedback I've received from my manager and peers I'd say I'm performing above average but not exceptionally.

I hear about people working 60 hours a week and I wonder how they do it. Do you compromise on productivity? How do you stay focused for so long?

How many hours do you put in at the office? How many of those are spent doing productive work?




Most programmers have stated on HN that they work on avg 4 hours per day. Most ppl cannot work more than that. Of course there exceptions but about 4 hours of pure programming (reading documentation, writing/refactoring code) is acceptable. Otherwise you risk burn out.


cool information btw, thanks a lot


I run my solo bootstrapped SaaS business and have put in consistent 80-100 hour weeks (total computer time) for the past 4 years and am 60-85% "productive" (according to RescueTime). Of course there have been some odd weeks of only 20 hours (...and some 120). Not really proud of it. It is what it is. It's been working. I think in the next 2 years I'll be able to figure it all out and taper down (which I really look forward to!). It's just that every hour adds such clear value to the company... so I keep going. The hours come easy when its all yours. I've had a programming job before and could hardly stay awake for the 8 hours... let alone be productive!


I can understand the motivation of investing so much time when you personally get to reap all of the rewards, but do you ever worry about burnout? Seems like you've been going at 100% for two years now, how long more can that continue before your mental or physical health takes a beating? When was the last time you took a vacation/holiday?


Worrying or thinking about burnout would condition me to inevitably burnout. It doesn't really even enter my mind, because I know it will just make me and the business weaker. I simply look at it like: I want a successful business that gives me freedom to do what I want. Bootstrapped, staying small, and making money is the path towards that for me. I've been going 100% for 4 years, so I think if I were to ever burnout then that would have happened already. I take "workcations" somewhat regularly.


I feel this sort of thing depends from person to person - I enjoy programming and would probably enjoy it even more if I were doing it for myself, but I still can't imagine putting in 80-100 hours a week Elon Musk style.

I guess my stamina is just lower than yours.


Up 6:26 AM - Office 7:36 - work to 5 PM - 1.5 hour break broken up during the day. 6:30pm to 11:30 PM coding - 6.5 days a week. Mixture of Deep work and Management.


I think the average person's capacity for deeply focused work is generally considered to be around 6 hours per day. I've found that to be the case for me as well. However, I can be maxed out at my day job, but go home and work on an unrelated side project for several more hours.

I highly recommend Cal Newport's blog as he writes phenomenal content on "deep work", the importance of focus, and how to maximize your "deep work" output. --> http://calnewport.com/blog/about/

Separate out "deep work" (design, coding, problem solving) from "shallow work" (email, social media). Do as much deep work as possible every day, but then fill in the rest with shallow but necessary work.

P.S. My average day-job working time is 8 hrs.


> I highly recommend Cal Newport's blog as he writes phenomenal content on "deep work", the importance of focus, and how to maximize your "deep work" output. --> http://calnewport.com/blog/about/

I used to read his blog quite regularly in college - perhaps I should go back and reread some of his stuff again.

I found his piece on deliberate practice also worth a read: http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/11/11/if-youre-busy-youre-do...

> Separate out "deep work" (design, coding, problem solving) from "shallow work" (email, social media). Do as much deep work as possible every day, but then fill in the rest with shallow but necessary work.

That's an interesting thought - in general I've noticed writing email and attending meetings tend to require far less mental strain than focused work.


My work day is 9 hours (with a 1 hour lunch). I track my time and find that about 25% is spent taking breaks from 'working'. The path of lease resistance for me is to work for 45 minutes and then take a 5 to 15 minute break to walk around the office, check HN, get coffee/water, etc.

So yeah about 6 hours of 'working' on an average day at the office for 9 hours.


9:30 AM: Arrive at office. 11:30 AM: Stop working 11:50 AM: Go to lunch. 1:30 PM: Get back from lunch. 4:55 PM: Go Home.

2 hours a day.


Wow, what sort of job to you work in that's so laid back? :P

I've only seen these sorts of hours in government jobs.


Did you miss the time between 1:30 PM - 4:55 PM. Shouldn't it be 5 hrs. ?


11:30 AM: Stop working


refer me for a job at your place.


you work in Sweden ?


I recall reading interviews of some top mathematicians (probably at the end of the Princeton guide to Mathematics), who stated that they couldn't work on their problems deeply more than a few hours a day. The rest of the day would then be spent attending seminars, reading papers or typing. So yes, it is perfectly normal to be "mentally exhausted" after uninterrupted hours on a mentally challenging task, albeit you could probably spend 9 hours straight on some routine programming without problem, except perhaps boredom.


Fair point, but I would say that a mathematician might require more intense concentration than a programmer.


Frontend lead (basically a js engineer tbh) for a moderately large site, and I put in 4 hours of proper serious work, 2 of less focused work where I refactor, tweak stylesheets, try to smooth things out, and then the rest of the day is spent swanning around, smoking and chatting shit with the guys in design, marketing, qa and ask the parts of the business we don't generally talk to enough.

The later part of my day is often the most productive - fag break meetings have initiated most of the best work we've produced by having an informal chat before something becomes a thing.

Working hard is genuinely admirable, I did startups and put in some serious deathmarch shifts, but I honestly believe that if you're delivering what you signed up to do, and using any leftover time productively, you're making a positive net contribution and probably becoming a better developer as a result. It's a win-win and you won't burn out.

Write beautiful, elegant code, deliver everything you've promised you will, the rest of the time just enjoy doing something you love.


As someone operating a start-up, about five hours of serious production work per day, seven days a week. About three hours per day of problem solving, research, dealing with various issues, and a dozen other things that go into trying to build a business out. Productivity stays high so long as the production side of the work stays under 50 hours per week. Occasionally I'll blow off a day on the weekend and use it for whatever I feel like, I find that relieves any feeling of creeping burn-out; and I allow myself to do that any time I want to, it acts as a pressure valve.

Total time invested is typically 50-70 hours per week depending on what I need to get done. I don't have a family, so that makes it a lot easier for me personally. I take breaks throughout the day whenever I feel like it. I try to heavily restrict demands on my time, I find that's hugely beneficial both to my work and non-work life.


Pair programming eats up so much time. If I'm just given a list of tasks, I usually work 7-8 hrs at work (1 hr. break). Return home do an extra 2-3 hr. non-work related coding.


Few months ago I started working on my new startup http://betapage.co , so I have to work hard. I am working 7 days a week, I spent my 11-12 Hours in my office on product development and marketing , and 2-3 hours at home in reading new things about startups and blogs, mostly I read questions and answers on quora.


I try to put in 15 hours a week max (4-5 hours a day, 3-4 days a week), so you're way outperforming me :)

The first 10 years of my career were spent trying to work more and more hours to make more and more money. These days I try to work as few hours as possible while still maintaining a decent standard of living.


I tend to work in two bursts during the day when working from my home office.

I work 10 - 1 have an hour break and then do 2 - 4.

I find I can get most work done using that framework whilst still allowing me time to get other stuff done in the morning/late afternoon that might otherwise be a distraction!


About 9 billable hours after being there 11 and a half hours. I struggle with exhaustion. I was trying to do 10 - 11 billable hours a day but cut that back to 9; doesn't do the client any good if I make a major mistake because I'm tired.


That's exactly my problem, I can't work for more than 5-6 hours because of exhaustion. But in my case, I'm still in school and work full time, so that may be part of the problem.


> I'm still in school and work full time

That sounds incredibly stressful. Out of curiosity, how many hours do you typically put in at school (attending classes, studying, working on assignments, etc.)? What sort of work do you do?

I've thought about studying for a Master's degree while I work here - always wanted to experience a 'real' education since my undergrad was really disappointing as far as academics were concerned. A top school from a developing country still doesn't come close to an average school in North America or Europe unfortunately :(


I've been doing that for the last 2.5y - university(Soft. Eng.) + work. For the first 6 months I've been working 40-45h a week + 20h at uni and around 10h-20h (depending on the week) more to do assignments. I just needed to change how I do stuff for uni, instead of always listening on lectures(obligatory), I'd study something else. I've not skipped any classes. It was very stressful and I'd not recommend that to anyone, after 6 months I've switched to 30h a week and it's very good right now. What came surprising for me it's that while it's 25% less, I didn't do much less than I had before.

type of work - Ruby and JavaScript coding in a software house, remotely, with very flexible hours.


Since Facebook employees are (almost) required to have the website open for chats and groups while working, I'm just curious:

how distraction-free are you able to keep your pomodoro work intervals?


I usually keep one tab with Facebook open, but I simply ignore any messages or notifications during the work period and check them during the 5 minute rest period.


I average about four hours of programming per day. That's been pretty consistent over the past ten years. Attempts to increase this over the last couple years have been in vain.


3 hours actually working, 5 more in the office, 3 hours a day commuting.


Around 5 billable hours a day.




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