I seem to get as much done as other people (sometimes better) so part of me wonders if I'm not as unusual as I feel. Part of me wonders if I should get evaluated for ADHD, since I find it such a struggle to focus on my work. And part of me is just frustrated with myself, that theoretically I could spend like 3 good hours at work each day, get more done, and have more quality time to myself.
Some things are easy to focus on—I can sit down to program for a bit and lose track of time for 5 hours. On the other hand, if something is boring, it's mind-numbingly boring.
It was the worst while I was in school, since teachers and professors just thought, "oh, he's unmotivated" when in reality it was more along the lines of, "I'd rather cut my toenails with a rusty butter knife than write the paper." (Okay, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration.)
Anyway, if it affects your life and managing it yourself isn't working (give it an honest effort, of course) definitely speak with a doctor. While too many parents think their kids have ADHD when the kids are really just, well, kids, trying to cope with ADHD without some sort of guidance sucks. A lot. It's amazing how much more productive you can be if you get some help coping with it.
Just my $0.02.
> It was the worst while I was in school, since teachers and professors just thought, "oh, he's unmotivated" when in reality it was more along the lines of, "I'd rather cut my toenails with a rusty butter knife than write the paper." (Okay, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration.)
Oh man I can relate so much. So many conversations with teachers asking why I wasn't motivated while every night I went home to program and build side projects and was singularly focused on becoming a programmer in the game industry.
The answer was of course I was motivated just not by anything they had to offer and that never went over very well.
> went home to program and build side projects and was singularly focused on becoming a programmer in the game industry
This totally describes me. The line I quoted resonates because sometimes the idea of a boring task is actually frightening to me, in the way you described. Like I get a really sick feeling about it and will do almost anything to avoid it. On the other hand I feel like I have so much going on in my head, and so much I could produce if I could only channel it properly. The TV is most definitely always on. My lack of focus and procrastination has definitely held me back in my career.
One thing I'm wary of is medicalising what might just laziness. How do I know it's not a version of "special snowflake syndrome"? Is my own inattentiveness (and inability to get over it) really so much worse than what a "normal" person experiences?
To give a parallel, I heard a podcast where Ramit Sethi was talking about "introvert porn", where he's saying there is all this stuff online about how hard life is for introverts, how extroverts don't get it, basically making people feel good about being an introvert and telling them that it's an integral part of who they are rather than something they can change. And he's saying that this is a dangerous and self-defeating trap to get into because people don't realise that social skills can be learned. All these "introverts" are just falling back onto an excuse to avoid confronting the thing that's holding them back.
If I start blaming all my problems on ADHD am I just falling into a similar trap? After all, not everyone can be successful. Maybe I'm just not successful because I'm not that good at anything, not because of a medical condition.
Possibly relevant: I am in the UK where ADHD seems to be a lot less recognised than in the USA. People here are often critical of the idea of medicating ADHD in kids (which is relatively unusual here afaik). I don't know how a British GP would react to someone asking for an adult ADHD diagnosis - I imagine it wouldn't be taken very seriously.
This is actually an amazing insight. This tells you exactly what the root of your procrastination is. It's not laziness, because I'm sure you can apply plenty of effort in tasks where this fear isn't present. Maybe drill down a bit further on what the source of this fear might be. Were boring tasks used as punishment in your childhood?
People with eating disorders are often afraid of boring food without realizing it. The thought of a diet is scary because they'll be missing out on their favourite foods. After adopting a bland diet for a few weeks, most find their fear dissipates, and bland food can become enjoyable. Maybe try the same strategy with boring tasks? Essentially exposure therapy.
However, NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) has published guidelines about diagnosis and the short version iirc is that you're well within your rights to point out that your GP is not a specialist in this area and ask to be referred.
The bad news is there may not be anywhere locally to refer you to, so you may need to travel out of area, pay to see someone private (and then fight to have your prescription accepted and paid for by the NHS). There are more kids' specialists but they may not recognise the nuances of the adult condition.
No, I haven't done it - I've been meaning to for over a year and keep putting it off, ha ha.
Links: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG72 - NICE guidelines; https://aadduk.org/forum/ - AADD UK forum
I think the key is to recognize there are challenges with ADHD, but also to recognize that they're not insurmountable.
I do, on occasion, blame something solely on my ADHD. But, usually I have to be self-reflective and say, Hey, while my ADHD made this task way more difficult than it needed to be, failure to finish it on time was still my fault. So, for example, I'll have to budget more time for some tasks or take small, regular breaks to keep my focus.
We fall into the trap when we absolve ourselves of responsibility. It sucks, and to some degree it feels like victim blaming, but it's life!
But one reason I haven't sought medication is because I'm a bit afraid that the "TV" might be turned off when under medication. That constant bouncing around of ideas is responsible for a lot of my best design ideas. I don't want that to go away.
I just need to find a fast channel to get my ideas out there. Trying to make 'products' out of all of them just keeps them from getting out there, I think.
Public attitudes to health are often not reflected in the NHS in a variety of ways.
> Okay, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration.
I have ADHD, this is not an exaggeration. I actually really like your example.
It's literally how it feels like.
I remember being in school and doing things like lining up my pencil with the rays of light coming from outside, and then trying to outline the shadow of my pencil with a different pen. I would spend an entire class on that instead of listening to a single word the professor said.
The worst part about it is that part of you knows the professor is sharing interesting stuff, it just that your brain tells you its boring.
I don't know if I have ADHD, though. Admittedly I wrote the above in a fairly exaggerated-ADHD way, and it's all the kind of thing I do actually do, but... no diagnosis, maybe just anxious about failure or lazy instead.
Yes! I remember sitting in class and hearing the professor say, "This is important and will be on the test" and continuing to daydream or fiddle with something else, even though I knew I needed to pay attention.
This statement really resonates with me too. Getting over the inertia to just start things that I don't really want to do is sometimes a multi-day effort, and then staying focused is hard beyond that. I've been thinking I should get evaluated, maybe I will.
I do have to ask, though, was that a Frank Reynolds toe knife reference?
pro tip: I was trying to find a natural solution, which for me is DMAE combined with fish-oil. It has basically the same effect for me in terms of productivity without the nasty side effects + you can buy it in every vitamin store. It is funny how I can almost immediately (within few days) notice when I stop taking these.
My two cents, don't rule anything out. I had a SO with adult ADD and medication made a world of difference. That's just one person, though, and everybody's different. Do talk to a doctor if you feel like you might have adult ADD. It's a very real thing, and there are lots of treatment options, both pharmacologic and not.
Now I've worked for a bit and have accepted that I'm not wired in a way that will let me be an excellent student (in the traditional sense) without hating myself I have a lot more appreciation for my strengths and weaknesses. The biggest benefits to me post meds have been getting enough sleep, exercising and meditation (even just writing stuff in my mind down) - I'd get all that in shape before I'd go to a doctor if I was you.
Sorry I can't give a better answer! It's a question best left to your GP, I think.
I built a morning and evening routine app (Routinist) to help professionals schedule habits/goals into their days. I did not have ADHD in mind when I built it, but around 1/3 of the positive feedback I get through emails / reviews has some form "I have ADHD and this helps me".
This is me.
On a good day, I might work for 3 hours of my 7 hour day. On a bad day, 1 hour. Somehow, I get the work done, and even get praised for it, though it's not taxing or particularly good code. I think my firm is afraid to lose me, and let me get away with too much, but that could be paranoia / imposter syndrome. That said, my productivity is on a par with others I work with (surpassing some) and I don't consider myself to be a better coder than they are.
I spend the larger part of my day on side projects, learning new languages, trying new apps, painstakingly reorganising my local file system, reducing the size and complexity of my dropbox folders (even though I'm using less than half of my free space), reading HN, tinkering with electronics at my desk, reorganising my workspace, blogging, reading, listening to podcasts or audiobooks (I find I can't do anything that involves typing at the same time, but I can do graphics)
I have curtailed my reddit / browsing a lot, but its still more than I'd like.
Lately, I've decided that my job is not challenging me enough, and I want to leave it. And so I blame that on my lack of focus. But if I'm honest, I've always been like this. In previous jobs, in college, in school, I've always done the minimum required to get by because I have other "more important" things to do.
I'm easily distracted. I don't think I'd go so far as to say I have ADHD, but I do have trouble focussing on tasks when a computer is involved. I have a theory that this is a side-effect of the modern computing experience itself. Switching tabs and multitasking is so easy these days, with the amounnt of RAM / Bandwidth / CPU we have at our disposal, that doing several things at once is very tempting. I barely bother to close apps. I would normally have 4-5 VS windows, Android Studio, Photoshop, Sublime, etc all open at once, and while I'm not switching between them every five minutes, I might alt-tab to one by accident and lose an hour fixing some bug or trying some thing out.
There were some college projects that really captured my interest, but those were an exception.
Assuming you did the same thing, what do you do now without it?
That's not to say I never do it, a lot of times I still find myself checking social accounts when I'm in line or whatever, but I try to avoid reddit entirely because of how it always manages to suck up more time than you expect and I have found it seriously feeds the addiction to content, especially news.
I do freelance work these days. My corporate experience helps me not stress overly much about how little actual work seems to happen. There are always a bunch of tasks necessary to getting other things done that "don't count" as work.
It's probably not as unusual as it feels
Perhaps all the other people are also as unproductive as you? ;)
This is a really long and roundabout way of saying, there's no reason not to go see a therapist and a psychiatrist if you feel like it's starting to impact you're quality of life. The worst thing that happens is you go to a doctor and get a comprehensive health examination to rule out any other factors or you take medication for a month that doesn't help.
I would highly recommend doing this, I have ADHD and knowing I wasn't crazy, and that it has a name, has helped me a lot.
I have never met a single software developer who, when pressed to give an honest assessment and when "working" is defined along the lines of "actively defining, coding, or debugging a feature", self-identifies as working more than 50% of the time. There are occasional stretches of 12+ hour working sessions, but they are very rare.
I'd say I've asked this of over a hundred people.
This isn't to say these people only do 4 hours of work a day. Often, peers have described how they hit a wall at work, go home, and then work on personal projects in the evening.
I've come to the conclusion that is generally impossible to do mentally intensive tasks for more than 4 continuous hours over the long term.
"Working" is an ambiguous category, it seems to me. One definition of work (call it "productivist") says that we're only working when we're literally producing something valuable. A more organizational view might hold that "work" is whatever you're socially (often implicitly) required to do to keep your job (whether measurably productive or not). And a third more holistic definition would include stuff like exercise or professional development that are not always directly "required" by anyone, but that you might go crazy without doing...
In fact, the first thing I tell aspiring developers is to start reading HN on a regular basis if they already aren't. It confers a sort of broad awareness of various stacks and ecosystems over time that's hard to obtain otherwise.
I try to keep my distractions to a minimum level but I've often encountered comments and articles on HN that have been of great benefit to my work and my clients. Things like a service I've never heard of, a library being used in a way that I haven't seen before or even just personal experiences.
Hell I even use HN to minimize distractions such as reading only the comments section about some new product Google/MS/Apple released(or is killing) just to get an idea of what's out there in the market and if it is of any use to me.
Making sure you are informed about what other people are making is useful and is part of your job as an expert. Now if I can just find an application for the CRISPR enhanced crypto sea-monkeys that I learned about yesterday that should really help us out.
Almost spit out my Coca-Cola brand carbonated soft drink. Thanks for the laugh!
Why is this?
I've had a few promising projects languish because my manager is slow or hesitant to allocate resources. That's a bit demoralizing. When I'm on a path to production for a functioning system I get caught up in the devops meeting vortex. That's a waste of time and it takes several weeks to get any sort of resolution. In these cases my time is mostly spent looking for workarounds and not "working". I feel there are a lot of politics and favoritism in the company, and my manager (and our team) is not on the right side. It's demotivating to have your work ignored because you're not a priority. I don't know how anyone stays for more than a year.
Edit: In the first few months I worked on random on-going projects, but was quickly made lead on some new projects. It was good at first, but after about 9 months I'd say most (90%) weeks I don't put in anywhere near 40 hours of work.
The sad thing is I've always gotten a raise (double digit in two cases) and full bonus every performance cycle.
I've finally started looking for another job.
Does anyone have recommendations? I'm really looking for a company that enables their individual contributors (engineers) to actually get shit done.
Edit: I've talked with many in my professional network and they describe similar meeting loads (~1 hr/week) as you do. I'd estimate I spend on average 3 hr/week in meetings. And most of these meetings don't result in action items. They're essentially pointless.
When it occurred to me that things are not going to change in my lifetime even with all the promises of upper management, I started creating side projects where I am in control of the full direction. When that wasn't enough, I also started looking for a new job. Joined a startup as a CTO/Lead Dev and was happier.
Also each lap is dedicated to one activity, first is manufacturing where I work on my project (the actual coding part), second is traffic (this is the dreaded marketing/outreach part) and finally is the optimization part (seo, increasing conversion rates, improving design, etc).
I've seen that the diversity of this work prevents you from getting bored and also is very good for your sites because if you keep working on just coding your sites seldom make any money.
The 3 hours limit is because after that i can happily watch tv, spend time with my family or just work on my other hobbies besides computers guilt free.
P.s. When you try to do as much work as you can, i believe you still only get 3 hours of work done - yet you feel guilty of not doing enough which causes unhappiness.
3 hours is a lot of work if done without distraction. I think the key is to make your work more mechanical and less creative.
I have a system that I have perfected over the years which helps me do this. It's like a stupid step by step list where each item links to a document which is another stupid step by step list that I follow like a "Robot" for these 3 hours. When you do it this way, it makes it quite easy and 3 hours daily is more than enough to launch a small to medium size project in a month (I think there are less than 200 items in total and about 50% of it you can easily outsource).
When a deadline is coming up, I take a 10 minute "organization break" and list the actual, concrete steps that need to be mechanically performed in order to complete the task. I think the problem is that my mind tends to get hung up on abstract task descriptions and I start overanalyzing. For instance, "Design welcome page" will turn into a wasted day of messing around with colors, fonts, and layout positioning. On the other hand, "Add X, Y, Z to prototype welcome page" is a much more concrete task and it defines completion so that I can move on to the next task on the list.
(Btw, you could turn your nested-robotic-link-list into a quick webapp that I bet would get a decent number of users.)
I never worked more than 4 hours (of real work a day). There's the occasional super productive day where I have done over 8 hours of productive work, but that's the exception, not the rule.
I usually work around 3-4 hours of productive work daily. Heck I'd even say 20%-30% of that time is not even productive (meetings, emails and necessary yet unproductive things).
When I worked for companies doing 9 to 5, I wasted a looot of time doing nothing: reddit, fb, and stuff. I also recognize that I need that distraction to do some real productive work.
I'm very fast and productive when it comes to actual work, but if I don't get the procrastination time then I just become a blurry mess of a brain and take 10 times longer to do the same things.
I just completed a course on Coursera (Learning How to Learn - https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn/). One of things mentioned is that our brain has a focused and diffused mode and both are needed for us to learn.
So, I guess, something similar happens when we are working. You need both focus time but also a down time to achieve things. Of course, too much procrastination is also not a good thing.
But there are SOME DAYS that I work 150%! ("in the flow")
So how to achieve flow consistently?
One of the few things that works for me is to get started working first thing in the morning: no news, no HN, until 10am, etc. When I can do this, I know I'll have a productive day.
I don't think US workplace culture is extreme in that regard. I usually look at East Asian work culture when it comes truly weird workplace norms and traditions.
My family lived in Japan for a short period, and my father told me that he and his colleagues had to wait for their boss to leave every night before they could leave work. Now that's extreme.
Significantly less now that I work remotely, on my own schedule, and at a reasonable company. I get 6+ hours a day of real work in, usually more, but try not to overdo it. (For awhile I was becoming a bit workaholic without the boundary between work and not-work, spending 10+ hours at it.) I take breaks and do spend a little time on HN or Stack Exchange to clear my head, but I don't do Reddit, webcomics, facebook, or any random sites during work. That's my relax after work stuff, done on a different PC. So in terms of productivity, I'd say around 75-85% work, 15-25% slack most days.
I previously worked an 8:30-5:30 where management measured productivity by the butts-in-seats metric, scheduled a lot of meetings, and was quite anal about punctuality. I was lucky to get 4 hours of serious work in most days (between all the interruptions, bureaucratic stuff, and having to work based on my manager's sleep schedule). Sometimes I ended up doing more work at home at night than I did while 'at work'. Maybe 50% productivity, often less.
Before that I worked at a 9-5 where we had to record our time per task so specifically that we even had a task to enter the time spent filling out the timesheet. I could have done better there about focusing on solving problems and improving business if I wasn't constantly distracted by the clock ticking and all the estimating and meetings about estimates and deadlines and timesheets. Maybe 50% productivity.
Unlike most people, if I finish my work in 5 hours, I go home. If I'm not going to be working, I'd rather not be working at home. I've never had any complaints about work quality or throughput. I have had one complaint about not being seen in the office.
 clarified the 35% bucket
I ask this because I see a lot of people saying the same but there's always more work to do, being testing something that should be working, fixing bugs, refactoring that old piece of junk you left behind due to times constraints, etc.
But in general, I find it more sustainable to just go home after I finish in 5 hours because I know there are going to be times that I work 10 or 12 hours (or a Saturday). Also, for me, depending on the next card, it might take an hour or so to get going at the end of a day. So I'm now at 7 to 8 hours which is when I normally leave. Was that hour or two wasted? No. I retain the knowledge till the next day. But again for me, I've found that coming in and starting a new task fresh reduces that one or two hours to less and gives me a singular focus for the day.
If I finish in 2 or 3 hours, I always move on to the next task. That would be silly to go home after 2 hours (most days).
I adapt this style for wherever I work. It has worked for me at start ups as well as BigCo.
[Update] For the side things (refactoring messy code, flakey tests, automating a tedious process, etc.) - I create cards/tasks for them and get them into the sprint.
I know this makes me sound like a "terrible" employee. But it allows me to give my best on a more sustainable basis. And if it is something that truly needs to be done in a month, I'll work those 10 or 12 hour 7 day work weeks...
In many big corps it's common to be on four or five projects at any one time. Finishing one discrete piece of work is only a signal for the next project manager to appear at my desk and demand that I get working on his piece of work.
And I can see his perspective, he doesn't particularly care if i was super-productive that day on Project-A when he's managing Project-B and there are still hours left in the working day.
working when you feel like you can contribute, billing exactly those hours, and filling the rest of your time with activities of your choice feels very honest and liberating.
if i feel like i can't get things done because of the environment then i don't work, and i don't bill. if i finish a job and they have no more work for me then i say, thanks, keep me in mind, let me know if you have any problems.
not really a capitalist, but the transactional nature removes all the festering emotional complications. and you can be a lot more straightforward about where things are broken.
For me the answer is "absolutely!!!". Reading through some of the responses, it really seems that people are mixed. Either their "non-working" time is spent with side projects/training or they have become demotivated by problems with the work flow on their team.
For me the latter is by far the biggest problem. I was just thinking the other day that, as programmers, we need a kind of statement that indicates what we expect from the organisations we are in.
To be honest, I really want to work instead of write stuff on HN, so I'll leave this as an exercise to the interested. As an example, I think it is reasonable to expect to be able to spend whole days writing code (which means that someone else has to go to the meetings, and someone else has to clarify requirements, and someone else has to prioritise). There should be some clear resolution of differences of opinion (whether that be in technical direction, or whatever) -- a programmer shouldn't have to spend time arguing. A programmer should expect to have spaces both for interacting with groups of people and for quiet contemplation. I sure there are other (and better) ideas, but that's what I have off the cuff.
(Yes, I know it's wrong and I want to be more productive, but I hate the work I do and I hate the culture here. So I want to start my own thing.)
... so it needs to be done to check an item in a list but nobody cares. If nobody cares, I don't care either, which makes me think I'm wasting my time, which leads to depression, feeling burnt out, procrastinating even more, etc.
That said, if I'm rolling and happy it can be way more, if I'm tired/struggling to hit the flow/not creative - way less. I can get an awful lot done in a day (or few days) if I push, but doing that long term becomes counter productive.
On a regular day, I'll also get a bunch of smaller 'work' done, but it's mostly the admin-y stuff. Sales, email, help, calls, networking. Sometimes that can be my whole day - I suppose it depends how important those things are at the time (sales!) as to how much they're considered 'work'.
Edit: Just to add, decent headphones are a godsend.
Important breaks I do take: Coffee walk (unfortunately on some busy days I simply can't make it out), Quick chats with the team, and Pomodoro-timed walks to stretch/ease the mind.
I usually eat lunch at my desk, which annoys me, because I always want to socialize and be better at that. I don't find it easy to do this since the days are so busy.
I'm a product manager, so I spend much of my days in meetings that are a mix of working sessions, scoping exercises, communications with external clients, and team-focused meetings.
On the days I don't have any meetings (they do exist), I zone out and get some work done. Lately I've been focusing on the DevOps for our team.
I also spend 1-2 hours a day on my "leisure laptop" (for example reading HN from there but also some useful RSS feeds). So it feels like 65% would be a correct productivity score.
Tracked with https://qotoqot.com/qbserve/ of course, most of the productive time was spent on its development and marketing. :]
Quiet day = maybe half my time
Most of my days are busy; if I'm not busy with my main work then I'll be busy making the more mundane aspects of my job disappear into the background.
The bigger we get the more lawyers and compliance people we ad, and the less noticeable it is that I'm not doing shit.
The reality is that 100% of my time, if meetings are included, is productive (excluding minimal breaks).
I feel sorry for the people trying to run businesses with all of these employees not working.
I'm a QA engineer. The most experienced QA engineer on a 3-person team (the other two have either more experience with testing but less with development, or vice-versa). I have waaaaay too much to do to get away with not working.
I do empathise with those for whom maintaining a high level of productivity is impossible because of how demanding their work is. I'm fortunate that I have so many different tasks to perform that if I don't have the energy to concentrate on something demanding, I can switch to something fairly basic.
I'm also fortunate in that, for me, problem solving activities are almost always energising. So if I feel like I'm getting burnt out I can dive into one of the tricky but non-urgent problems I hadn't got around to yet.
That said, I don't necessarily care that much about the hours my employees work, so long as they meet the deadlines and are reasonably productive. I have a good idea of how long a task takes, so if they take too much longer than that, we'll have a chat. Otherwise, I just want to make sure they're happy and not burnt out and staying as productive as possible.
Honestly, my best guess is 50%, or close. I still get my work done as fast as everyone else, though. No complaints on performance reviews.
While our company goes with the rest of the world, I wish the company would consider 10 hour days 4 days a week, with half the department working in the earlier part of the week, and the other half working the later half of the week instead of all of us working the traditional 8 hour days 5 days a week.
So I make the best of it and enjoy those days where I do mostly nothing the entire time. But I'm never not doing anything.. I build web apps and run a popular website, so I'm always kept busy.
Putting this all together, I spend 37.5 hours / week productively and 12.5 hours / week at work slacking off (or doing human things like eating and pooping). So call it 75% productive time.
I generally enjoy my job. I've counted writing this post / assembling this data as "not productive" time.
One of my 'problems' is that I can't "not work" in the sense of a laborer who is no longer building widgets. As a person who is asked to solve complex problems with a high degree of dimensionality inside of an arbitrarily constrained solution space, much of the 'work' I do consists of turning the problem over and over in my head while I explore the solution space.
A good example of this was an early review I got at Intel by my manager (a really solid EE type guy). He added some criticism of my time management (considered a 'ding' in the vernacular) for a embedded compiler/assembler/driver thing I wrote as part of the evaluation of a graphics processor. He said I had 'sand bagged' the time estimate.
When I asked him to describe that a bit more he explained that I had told him it would take 6 months to do, and it was 2 weeks late, and I had spent 5 months "goofing off and not working" and then about 6 weeks doing the work. So my estimate should really have been '8 weeks' and if I had started on time it would have been done two weeks earlier than that.
I thought about that for a long time. And explained to him the for five months I had no idea what the best way to write the software was, and in that five months I had learned about 8 different technologies that all came together into the final solution. I had to learn how to write device drivers in Xenix, how to map I/O space memory into the kernel, design a language which was human understandable and could be compiled into the odd little RISC instruction set of the Graphics chip. And until I had figured out all of that precursor information, I didn't have a clue how it would be written, but then after figuring out that information actually writing the code was fairly mechanical.
In this one case the problem was that hardware has so many great milestones you can call out, parts captured, schematics done, netlists verified, layout started, design rule verification, first films, films checked, first boards, boards checked, first assembly. Bringup in stages 1, 2, and 3 etc. All along the way there are pleasant milestones to say "this is done" now on to the next thing.
But software is never like that for building something that nobody has ever built before. And it is even rarely like that when you have the same software but you are building it on a different system. The linkages, the entanglement between the system and the software (and now the network and the services) makes each new implementation its own special snowflake, with its own kinds of problems.
Have you ever woken up and "knew" the solution to a tricky software issue? Or had an idea for a change to an existing system that might make it better? That happens to me all the time when I'm designing stuff. And a case could be made that I'm working even when I'm asleep! Not because I'm sitting there typing in lines of code but because I'm going through the solution space, somewhere in my subconscious, looking for clues to places that hold better answers than the answer that is currently checked into the git repository.
As a result I tend to measure my own productivity by 'solutions over unit time' versus 'hours typing into employer owned equipment'. It still bites me from time to time when a supervisor needs a constant stream of 'still flying' type status messages to feel comfortable.
Once things hit paper, I generally start interviewing. Not sure whether that was right. But looking back over my career, I usually should have left earlier rather than later in those cases.
And for what its worth, I took it to mean that I wasn't communicating how I was spending my time well enough and suggested ways that would work for both of us. I expect that had I stayed at Intel it would have been fine.
During standups, most people are reporting concrete tasks that got done and I feel a bit embarrassed to say I spent the whole day trying something out that's remotely related to the final product but was interesting for the ideas.
It's stressful to have to report those things, I feel like I have to justify them, what's my train of thought, etc, and a 1-minute update has to turn into an essay. Not really sure how to improve on that.
During your time at Intel did you have to report on your work quite frequently?
I think the key to your stress is either that you aren't clear in your head what you're trying to figure out, or your trying to figure out things that aren't actually relevant. In my life what I have done is to do get very very disciplined about what I'm to understand and how that will relate to the final goal. Not surprisingly that is different as a manager than it is as an individual contributor.
If I were your manager, and you came to me with this (and I would hope your relationship with your manager is good enough that you could talk to them about it) I would start with three questions;
1) What parts of your assignment are you completely confident you can build/write?
2) What parts are you unsure of how to build?
3) What things that you are unsure about are between you and building the things you know you can build?
Perhaps you can imagine how the conversation goes after you answer those questions. But lets say for this hypothetical that you were unsure if you could build a database fast enough to respond in time to meet the response requirements of the product.
At that point we'd talk about what steps you could take to understand what sort of performance to expect out of a database, what variables had the biggest impact on that performance, and which databases were designed to be fast. And you and I would agree that you would spend this sprint perhaps developing your understanding of database performance. So at the stand up I'd expect you summarize and article you read, a set of benchmarks you set up, a set of test tables you created in the existing system, or maybe the top 5 blogs/books/videos you've found on analyzing database performance. At the retro I'd want to know what sources gave you the most information for the time invested, what were the time wasters, if you were more or less confident about the database choice and its performance and maybe how you had, or would, quantify your understanding with something objective.
From your perspective you would probably have spent the time 'surfing the web' to find out various sources of information or perhaps prototyping some things on AWS or on a local server.
If instead you came back and said, "I really don't know anything more about databases yet but I learned Rust, and got stuff running in the new Angular release and updated my server to the latest Ubuntu and read a book on containers. Then we're going to have a different talk :-)
I watch some videos on latest tech, thats work too....
Only thing that matters is if have I completed tasks in my sprint or are there any critical issues
Rest of time on HN, reading, or admin type stuff (planning, ticket & branch management), and of course meetings
However, most days, probably 4.5 out of 5 on average, I am super productive, taking very few breaks aside from lunch.
In a typical day I probably get 5-6 hours of solid work done. But there is a downside too.
In order to achieve this, I sometimes skip meetings and ignore requests from other people.
I am considered a high performer and seem to be an anomaly to most people.
When I was spending 9 hours/day as an employee, I'd be slacking off a cumulative 2/3 hours every day.
If you could that (and I do), I'd say at least 75% of my time is spent working.
I think of stuff that is beneficial to the company in one way or another like 95% of the time.
Re structuring thoughts, digesting ideas.... talking to others to understand how they think.
But if someone that did not know me came and looked at what i did during work hours and did not get to ask questions to me. I would assume they would think that i only worked 20-25% of the time.
Things are not always what they seem.
Working from home is getting things done.
The other 10% is making tea and drinking some, usually looking out the window or chatting with someone.
I used to read reddit and hn to saturation on many days before getting into consulting; these days, i hardly read anything until before or after my core hours, not because i can't but because there is more interesting work to do
Work in my context is time spent on things I planned to do and want to do, including the small breaks I take to recharge and socialize.
So yeah, a hour paid is a hour worked.
If I work from home: usually 4-6 hours of productive work.
Going to the office adds up to a ten-hour day, with the commute. Working from home is usually a 6-7 hour day, and I get to stay in my pajamas, take the dog for a walk, take a break to do some housework, and be in a comfortable environment.
I don't work from home enough anymore.