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Ask HN: Work-life balance?
76 points by Anurag8701 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments
How many hours do you work every day? How many hours do you spend with family? How do you manage health? Any productivity tricks you wish to share?





Midlife single parent, so my answers are going to look a lot different than the average HN reader.

I average 40/week. Some weeks I need to surge, rarely I need to work weekends, but my ability to put in long hours is capped by my home situation (and my desire not to be a workaholic).

I wake my kids and get them ready for school each day. Sometimes they need homework help. We eat dinner together every night, and of course I have them all the time so we get to spend time together regardless of whether we want to. :)

I do strength training at the gym 2x/week, before the kids wake up. I run 3x/week, again before they get up.

I am as productive as I am required to be, but often no more productive. Meaning that the demands of life force productivity on me but I don't go crazy with the extracurricular activities.

I do spend time each day thinking about what my most important tasks are, just to make sure I'm making the best use of my time. I don't let other people take over my calendar, but I work for a small company so we're not meeting-heavy anyway.

All things considered, I am doing fine. I am fortunate to have understanding coworkers, good friends, and two really wonderful children.


How much sleep do you get?

Depends. On weekdays 6-7, I try to eke out 8 on weekends. To be honest, some days I just nap on the couch for 20 mins before I have to make dinner.

This means a lot to read, thank you for sharing.

Thanks, very helpful and more power to you.

I work 8-5 as a software engineer (incl. lunch so only 40 hours a week) plus a short ~15 minutes highway commute each way. If there's an accident though that could easily be an hour, it's a congested area and there aren't many alternative routes. It's a crap shoot unfortunately but rarely an issue. My SO is a resident physician so averages 80 hours a week Mon-Sat. My "family" time is largely dependent on her schedule and I work in other things as I'm able.

For health, gym at 5:30am 4 days during the work week and an occasional Saturday workout. I try to eat healthy but not to the point where I'm not looking forward to a meal. Cooking for my SO is also a big stress reliever after a long day or if she's about to start a 24 hour call shift or something.

Productivity wise, I'm personally a fan of the "Nike" approach: just do it. If you're at work, do work. Don't sit on HN or Reddit or Facebook. If you need to use RescueTime or change your hosts file or whatever, fine. But just doing what you're supposed to be doing when you're supposed to be doing it is about as crucial a piece of the puzzle to your success as you'll ever find.


What kills me at work is down time. Better to be on HN than just watching a half hour build ...

This is an easy problem to solve. Keep a to-do list for down times - small tasks that are not too urgent/important, but can save time in the long run.

If you absolutely can't find anything to do in your task list, then you could do one of these two - first : find a colleague who needs help and help them. Second, keep a diary (or text file) and learn something new that is specific to your job/company. In my case, I work on a mid sized webapp, I know probably 30% of the application - so I make it a point to learn something small here and there, and it adds up over a period of time. Yes, I am aware that this knowledge is useless if I leave this job, but until then it is very useful.


Spend time investigating how you could make the build faster. (tweak makefiles, compile only some parts, divide the app in shared libraries, stop using too many templates, move slow parts with lots of templates to a utility library, etc...)

There is always so much to do, or to learn how to do, that I never really have downtime... except foosball

There's an important distinction between "taking a break" (e.g. playing foosball for a few minutes) and true downtime (I wouldn't be doing work right now even if I wanted to, because I don't have anything to do).

Get a drink, take a walk outside. That will also recharge you without leading to a permanent distraction.

Unfortunately, the Nike approach isn't one-size-fits-all. I always arrive at work with the just-do-it attitude. Now, here I am, pondering that while reading HN. Although, I am proud to say that I have narrowed down my daily work-reading to HN exclusively (since mid-December now), so I'm working on it!

When I got my current job, I chose a desk where my screen is visible to the room deliberately. I'd been stuck on a slashdot refresh loop since 1998, and the visibility of my screen broke the habit cold

I like that, the Nike approach. I feel the same way.

I'm a 29 year old freelancer / digital nomad, been traveling and doing high-profile tech contracts for last 5 years. I go with the flow. It really depends on the contract and what's currently going on in my life, or where I am.

Last summer I was in Europe and I've been working 10-12h per day in August (my peak month so far). June-November approx 4-6 hours a day.

Now I'm in Koh Phangan, Thailand and work few hours a month, but fully focusing on healthy lifestyle and training/meditation.

In April I go back to Europe and plan is to grind hard for the next few years. I work in bursts. My routine when I work full-time is having breakfast at my place or a coffee shop and working from there in the morning, hitting the gym around noon, then more work at home/another coffee shop, and unwind during the evening.

There are exceptions to this, if I don't feel productive in the afternoons, I postpone work for evening. I again tend to feel the "flow" of my mental productivity and organize around that. Never had any strict rules and it's been working pretty fine so far.


Would you be willing to talk further about this? My email is cvolzer3@gmail.com if you're willing.

Where are your clients based mostly? What hours do you work in Thailand?

USA, had few from bay area as well. I work in the mornings or just read the news and learn some new things since I am more-or-less on holidays now and will start looking for full-time contract more actively soon.

Timezone difference (+13h) can be PITA.


Yeah, I've been in the hospital twice in the last 2 years thanks to the stress of running a company and obsessing about being productive. I've made lifestyle changes and they've not only made me more productive but also healthier physically and mentally.

Lifestyle changes:

  - Live near work to avoid traffic
  - Work around 35 hours a week
  - Don't take my work home
  - Don't even think about work on weekends
  - Do things that make me happy and unrelated to work
  - Don't stress about attending every tech meetup
  - Moderate alcohol consumption. Used to drink everyday
  - Exercise but don't obsess about it
  - Understand building a successful company takes years of work
  - Therapy. Don't need it as much anymore but I check-in on a monthly basis
  - Constantly remind myself that Health > Happiness > Work
Usual routine goes like this:

  - 6:00am: Wake up, make breakfast, shower, etc.
  - 7:20am: I'm at work at 7:30 am (10 mins commute)
  - 7:30am: Meditate 20 mins
  - 7:50am: Set objectives for the day
  - 8:00am: Get stuff done. (insert productivity tips here)
  - 3:30pm: Eat lunch
  - 4:00pm: Get home and relax
  - 4:30pm: 20 mins workout at home
  - 5:00pm: Spend time with my wife and disable phone notifications
  - 6:00pm: I may play the guitar, play videogames or watch some Netflix 
  - 8:00pm: Make dinner, probably some new recipe I found on the internet
  - 8:30pm: Watch some TV show or read a book, or just chill
  - 10:00pm: Get to bed
EDIT: formatting.

"Health > Happiness > Work"

I started the year out with setting my priorities in this manner and holding strictly to it. If it doesn't obviously fit into to one of these columns it probably falls under "Unnecessary pleasure-seeking"


You make dinner and eat it in 30 minutes? And that's for a new recipe? How is that possible? Or maybe I'm weird as it takes me at least a couple hours (cooking, eating, cleaning).

30 mins is an estimate, but also they are simple recipes, 3-4 ingredients max. More complicated stuff I save it for the weekend.

Thank you so much, this sounds like a great routine.

I work 9-5, 8 hours per day including lunch (I hate companies that try to squeeze an extra hour basically telling you that they don't pay for your lunch time, yet they require 1 whole hour for your lunch, forcing you to stay 9 hours in the office..). Sweden. I work 50% from home 50% from the office. When I work from home, I play once a week tennis nearby (I have a car) during lunch time. When working from the office, I go regularly to the gym before work. Sometimes I start my work from a cafe and then switch to the office or the opposite. After work, I will probably do a side project for a couple of hours and then spend some time with my SO and housework.

My tip would be to go to the gym just after work as it relaxes your mind a lot, especially if you are a developer. Unfortunately doesn't work in my case since my gym is fully packed at that time. So I take a half an hour break then walking outside or something similar before I jump in my side projects. Another tip would be to wake up and spend time on your side projects before starting your work (ideally if you can start a bit later as well) since your mind is working at 100% at that time. Of course this requires that you are a morning person..


30 days of vacation and I work only from 9 to 6, sometimes a little bit more, but not so much. Not really counted as overtime. Europe, ofc.

I go to gym and try to enjoy the summer as much as I can.

Productivity tips: organize your life and move to a decent country with a decent culture. American work culture is terrible, so is Asia. You can make 10 trillions of dollars, but there is no way you can buy the 30 seconds that it took me to write that answer. I think those bad ideas are contagious so if you live in America, it is very unlikely that you will be able to balance well your life as everything there is about consumerism and it will eventually get you, maybe more in the country side that might be possible, but I can't see that happening in a big city. Live a simple life.

Once you are dead, it is over, so enjoy your time.


On the other hand software engineering job in US pays a lot so you can do a (relatively) quicker home run to financial independence if you don't fall into consumerism.

Can you give me an example of somebody that did that? :-)

Mr. Money Mustache is the big name in the FIRE (financial Independence; retire early) community. But a lot of people doing FIRE are in tech in some way. I think it's a left brain thing, which people in software/tech have both the left brain mentality and financial capability to make early retirement happen.

Resources: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/blog/ https://www.bogleheads.org/ https://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/


I believe he makes more money from this than he was able to saved up. It is really a thing in America to believe in schemes that will make you rich/enable you to live off your investments. I know it.

Why retire early? I value being able to work. Not to mention that they generally talk about living frugal lifestyles, which I'm not a fan of. I like investing, making money etc. But all those retire before X schemes rely on people not understanding economics. Today you might have like 25x your yearly income or something that would enable you to retire, but as inflation, new currencies and changes in taxation and government policies, you will eventually get wrecked in the next 30-40 years. Just check how much the taxation in America has changed in the last 30-40 years and now try to believe that with your saved money you can live until you die.


> It is really a thing in America to believe in schemes that will make you rich/enable you to live off your investments

Personally, I don't think living frugally is a scheme. Spending less than you make and resisting the urge to buy things you don't need are the basic ideas behind financial independence. Investing your excess income allows for passive income to be generated.

Obviously this isn't viable for everyone, but if you're in a position of highish income and don't mind living frugally for some years, it's amazing what you're able to save. Some countries that tax their residents very high amounts (ex: many European countries) it might be harder to get ahead, but still not impossible to save I'd imagine.

> Why retire early? I value being able to work

There's nothing wrong with that! But for people who are interested in retiring early, they may have other goals in life besides their career. Retiring early allows for travel while you're still young and healthy, volunteer work, etc. Loving your job is a great thing and I think it's possible to work towards financial independence and enjoy your work.

> Just check how much the taxation in America has changed in the last 30-40 years and now try to believe that with your saved money you can live until you die

I'm not sure how taxes relate to the ability of my investments to generate returns. Could you elaborate a bit more on this?


Saving is very important. I live in Europe, it is kind of mandatory, saving and working until you are 65. Even though I don't own a car or anything of value, mostly save in a city with good disposable income. I'm quite well versed in economics, read it actively. The way you describe it, clearly displays a weakness either on your thought, or the American financial system. If a random guy from a Internet forum can do it, possibly, a lot of Americans can do as well. Now, who is going to work to keep society running while your frugal lifestyle supports you? Not to mention I would feel a bit like taking advantage of others, if I would just wake up everyday and enjoy life meanwhile I have a gardner, one person to clean my swimming pool, buy everything on the supermarket(which was made by somebody), just getting services, but not using my fully capability in order to help society thrive.

About the American thing. The US has been printing a lot of money lately and there are many signs that this party will be over in a very bad way. People will riot, go to the streets, question why some developer at FB makes 400k+ year not to mention the executives doing some bullshit work, burn down things and in the end they will possibly need to make America more socialist. The same type of mockery and abuse the US does to socialist countries, will be done to its own capitalist people. You really don't understand the dimension of power the US has been using(and losing) over the years with the Dollar. Nowadays to be honest, almost everything I buy is from China, not the US. I wonder how the US can survive running huge deficits and creating conflict with other countries.

America nowadays just export dollars. It is a product that more and more people are with their hands full. Instead of questioning me about that, I think you would be better off asking your government how to make anything that you earn and save Today, will have ANY value at all in the future.

In summa, good luck with that.


> I live in Europe, it is kind of mandatory, saving and working until you are 65

Who is mandating this?

> I would feel a bit like taking advantage of others, if I would just wake up everyday and enjoy life meanwhile I have a gardner [sic], one person to clean my swimming pool, buy everything on the supermarket(which was made by somebody), just getting services, but not using my fully capability in order to help society thrive

If you work 80 hours per week for 30 years, are you morally superior to someone who has only spent 40 hours per week working for 40 years? It's absurd and impossible to assign morality to time working.

Looks like you're asserting some sense of moral imperative that people work until they're 65. Moving the goalposts from a whether it's _possible_ to retire early to whether it's _moral_ to retire early seems to be nonsense to me. I don't believe there's any morality to be found one way or the other in working until age 65, it's a non sequitur.

> The US has been printing a lot of money lately [...] I think you would be better off asking your government how to make anything that you earn and save Today, will have ANY value at all in the future.

I completely agree; if we keep spending more than is taxed as well as printing money faster, then yes that will be the case. The debt is unsustainable in the US currently.

Where you and I differ is what we think the result of that increasing debt will be. I think the US will eventually cut social programs and possibly increase taxes to fix the debt problem. You seem to think that socialism will be the end result. I hope that isn't the case, as I have a hard time finding a situation where fighting debt with more debt works in the long run.

Thank you for taking the time to discuss with me!


What country do you recommend?

Strong European countries(the ones of the north) or wherever you can get a good deal and enjoyment, rather than just focusing on compensation.

(US, Northern Virgina) it's taken me 15 years but now I work about 8 hours a day; sometimes I help with after-hours tasks related to my job but that's rare (roughly, quarterly).

I used to work 10-14 hours a day, plus 24x7x365 oncall. It was miserable and my health (mental and physical) suffered greatly.

Mostly now I lift weights, run, and try to practice portion control.

The only remaining bad thing in work-life balance is my 8 hours of work is bookended by perhaps an hour each way commute, and it's getting worse every year. In another year or two there's going to be more mass transit in my area so at least I can play games on my phone instead of driving.


NOVA's a gorgeous area though, I've done a few relay races through there and I'm always impressed at how nice it is.

I work about 8 hours every day. Sometimes less. Sometimes more, but never more than 40 hours in a week.

After work, I balance hobbies with family time. To be honest I have a harder time balancing hobbies with family time than I do balancing work and family.

Family mealtime in the evening is critical. It's the one constant every day, and it's a chance for all of us to talk and laugh together. It's usually the best time of the day for me. I try to persuade my daughter to help me prepare the meal too, which is fun to do together.

So for hobbies + family, on a work day it's anywhere between 3-6 hours.

I am generally healthy but should get more exercise. I play ice hockey about one day a week, every week of the year. At times I have felt like quitting, but I force myself to keep playing because without it I wouldn't get any exercise. I've learned that this 90 minutes of playing a sport is very therapeutic for my brain. I forget about everything in the world and just play. Nothing melts away a hard day at work like skating hard for 90 minutes and trying to pass and shoot (I'm a beginner).

My productivity tips: stop using social media, close/remove anything on screens that show popups or alerts, and get at least eight hours of sleep every night.


Freelance developer, based in Europe. In my 30s, two kids and working from home.

I do work 4 days a week (+ 1 or 2 days a week working on my farm). Working from 8:30 till 4pm and having 1.5 hours break to cook for my familly and we eat together.

I guess my business hours looks short, but it consist of focused time only: no browsing web, no facebook, twitter or other social network, no calls and definitely no meetings.

Rest of my time is generaly spent with my family. I dont really do any exercise but I still manage to walk 10 a 15 kms a day + manual work on my farm.


Wow, 10-15 km/day. Do you walk in a park nearby or somewhere else? I barely do 1-2 km/day.

Yes, we do have nice park just outside our house and there is also forest with a lot of hiking trails in walking distance. I try to bring my kids out every day, our 2 years old can easily walk 10 km now. Also trip to grocery store is like 3km and I do shop every day. It adds up quickly.

I run a boutique accounting services firm in the northwest--18 employees, <5mm in revenue. We do a fair amount of out-of-town work, which requires some travel.

I'm also married, a father of six kids, and we live out of town on 2.5 acres with a sizable orchard.

One thing that helps keep things balanced is that my wife chose long ago to stay at home with our young ones. She is my best friend, and we always make decisions together, which is a huge help when confronted with the inevitable time-conflicts that new opportunities or old problems present.

I enjoy my job. Frankly, my job is absent a lot of the drudgery that many people have. It is challenging, and while we're not the startup-crazy-growth type of business, we are slowly growing and there's always something new to be done. The worst for my family and for my health has been the travel. From August 2018 to December 2018 I was on the road 11 weeks out of 22; roughly half of the fall was spent out of town, working out of a hotel and customer locations. I ate too well and exercised too little, and missed my family terribly.

When I'm in town, I work from 7am to 5pm, but I have almost no commute--it takes me only 10 minutes on rural roads to get to my office. Deer and school buses are the only delays! It's much easier to eat healthy foods and exercise.

I haven't worked a Saturday or Sunday in years--even while traveling, I'm nearly always able to be home on the weekends. This has been a huge help in keeping me grounded and giving time to putter around the orchard and play with my kids.


8 Hrs max at the office, 5 days a week. Rest is mostly family and sleep.

I cut down personal projects to a minimum after reading "Why we sleep", and it helps with overall well-being.

Commuting via Bike is also a big health-win for me. One hour on most work-days (sometimes the temperature or other circumstances require the car).


Reading through the book right now (great book by the way, highly recommend it) - but curious why you cut down personal projects? Were they keeping you up too late or something else?

Yes, and it seemed to be the one thing that can be put on hold without negative consequences, in contrast to sleep and family. I still do some lighter things on the side (like DevLids.com), but nothing that takes much time like game-dev.

That makes sense, thanks!

Same here. Unless it's your own activity, you shouldn't work more than what's written on your contract.

If you work more, you get abused and low-balled by salary negotiations


There's a fine line of course. Just like you don't want to be the guy working 20+ hours of free labor every week, you also don't want to be the guy who is out the door at 5:00:01 every evening and not a second before or after.

I think most people in most jobs will have something come up where they do a little extra, if only to help out a team member or something.


I am the guy out the door at 5 every day, not a second later. There are too many open positions to not do so. I don’t see it as a fine line, free labor is free labor whether it’s a minute or 20 hours.

If I need to help a team member, I skip lunch to pitch in.


I don't think the number of open positions has anything to do with it. In fact, I'm much more likely to agree with you for low-paid position. Just about everyone here who isn't a student (and let's be honest, even some of the students) are extremely well compensated for important but relatively easy jobs. I don't mind 10 minutes here or 15 minutes there if it helps the team out (as opposed to the company).

I just think being unflinchingly rigid in either direction is the problem. If you expect people to work extra time on a regular basis, or consistently, that's bad. If someone asks you a question that will take 15 minutes to answer and you won't do it because it's 4:50 and not 4:45, that's just as bad.


I can appreciate your opinion, but there’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow unless it’s life critical. Is it going to only take 15? Or will will it take 30-45 minutes and now I’ve missed dinner with my family for your question that is not critical.

If I don’t defend my time, who else will? I don’t buy the argument about rigidness being a bad thing. That’s how boundaries work best: clearly defined and enforced.


You say rigid, I say professional.

There's no one answer. There are plenty of work cultures where you would be considered the worst member of the team because you're not putting in the time. The classic example is how at many Asian companies nobody dares to leave the office before their boss does. In the US you find the "always hustling" BS. On the other hand, there are jobs where results are 100% and you don't even need to show up at the office as long as you deliver the most value (this is the type I'd much rather do).

If I’m the worst member of the team because I’m not providing free labor, most definitely not a business I want to be at or a team I want to be on. Agree with your second point.

My concern are the employees who feel obligated to provide free work to keep their jobs. That’s what unions used to be for, to keep poor management practices in check, instead of a culture of fear and silent suffering.


It's a bank account. If I notice the company often needs bursts of work, I'll leave a little early every day so that I have reserve funds to pitch in extra time when needed. If I'm working 40 hour weeks already, there's nothing left in the account.

When you're young and without responsibilities, there is no glaring cost to giving away free labor, but if I do so, it comes directly out of my time with my kids.


I just think it has to go both ways. I don't want my boss coming to me with a problem because I worked 7h 58m one day. On the flip side, I'm not going to send him a bill or count the minutes if I stay a few minutes late a different day.

I said it in another comment but it's being unflinchingly rigid that I think in a problem (in either direction).


In a country where sick pay is only called sick pay and where if your child is sick and stays home you still have to pay nursery but you don't actually get paid I really don't see a point in doing extra work. I still do it sometimes because it is the way I am but I don't judge anyone if they leave exactly on the hour. I am not complaining since my paycheck is allright but I can't imagine people with lower salaries and how they struggle with things like mentioned above. The whole system is broken.

Contracts usually don’t have a set number of hours written into them.

To add some balance to all the full-time people here: I work 20 hours per week. Which usually means 4 hours per day, 5 days a week. But, I can (and do) re-organise those hours depending on what activities I plan... meaning, I can take an extended week-end if I want to, or, have a day off in the middle of the week and work at the week-end instead, for example. The rest of the time I work on things that I'm excited to learn about and improve in, like working outdoors, or... painting :D.

Married but no kids (yet). We are both urban professionals. I work 10-7, and more if needed after dinner at home. She works 8-7 but cannot do her job from home. I workout 2x during the week and 1x during the weekend.

My trick is to never work weekends. I work as hard as possible during the week then try not to work at all on the weekends. The key is to get into a routine where you don't burn out. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Find what works for you for the longterm. People in their early 20's who think they can keep 80 hour weeks up forever are naive (I used to be that way). Make time to socialize and maintain friendships.

Mental and physical health are essential. Eat healthy, exercise, don't push yourself too hard for too long.


I’m the only person building the main product of a startup. Work by default starts when I wake up and ends when I sleep, seven days a week. To stay sane I lift heavy weights M/W/F and do interval training T/T/S. At lunch I practice pool for an hour. On weekends after dinner I’ll sometimes drink with friends.

Productivity wise I make sure I always have tasks to do, regularly make sure my environment is clean with natural sunlight and earplugs nearby, and make sure I’ve showered, rested, and eaten. When I get distracted and want to go on HN, most of the time I read a math book instead. That way I either learn math, or realize how much easier my startup is and go back to doing that.


>When I get distracted and want to go on HN, most of the time I read a math book instead. That way I either learn math, or realize how much easier my startup is and go back to doing that.

Haha, this is an awesome hack. Thanks!


I worked three years remote. I found that to be the most effective way work for work life balance. It might have helped the worked for a small company and I was the only developer.

It was great because I didn't waste time with downtime at work or traffic etc. I was able to make all my pregnant wife's doctor's appointments with out really having to ask for time off. I work best on big projects at night when it's quiet and don't function well on big thinking items in the morning.

I left this awesome job for more money, which ultimately was a mistake.

I need my side project, because it helps me get thru the day, it gives me hope.

Shameless plug, but I'm looking for remote work.


6:30AM to 2:00PM, I am a morning person and I like to get home in time to walk the kids back from school. My wife handles the morning routine with the kids and then gets home from off work a couple hours after I do. Works out pretty good. We have a small gym at the office where I do strength training and I walk a couple miles at lunch each day.

The cost is commute time, we live in a suburban area at the edge of our metro area and I have to drive 20 minutes each way to get downtown.

My only productivity 'trick' is to close down all non-business browser tabs when I need to get some real work done because HN and Reddit are enormous time sucks.


I freelance, and call myself semi-retired. I turn 42 this year.

I'll cherry-pick projects that interest me. I don't usually seek them out, it will be former clients, business associates, or people who know me who bring me the things to work on.

I usually only commit to average 15-20 hours/week on a project. I don't accept on-site work, save for maybe a week of ramp-up or meet and greet. I don't accept daily stand-ups or checkins for the sake of them. I usually update my clients every 2 weeks on progress. I try to keep them to email communication where possible.

I will often do the 15-20 hours I commit to in a single day, usually bursting on a friday/saturday/sunday after thinking about what needs to be done during the week.

Reading the other comments, I'm apparently odd in my work habits, but I won't "force" myself to work. I either am in the zone or I'm not. I either know what needs to be done, or I don't. Staring at a screen and being glum about it just makes me miserable, so I don't do that. The difference in my work when I'm ready to work, vs my work when I'm forced to work feels very "10X" -- they're not similar outputs at all. I'm very clearly a better coder when I've had time to ponder and prepare first.

We don't have kids, and wife is a professor, so we both have scads of free time to do local outdoorsy stuff. We usually just go to the zoo though, as we like animals a touch more than people. :)

Health is becoming a challenge, as my warranty expired when I turned 38, and I'm starting to get those maladies that come with age, plus I feel weaker generally -- so I'm experimenting with diet and strength routines. That's a fancier way to say I do a bunch of squats or pushups every day, and will walk first instead of snacking if I get bored (my vice). My dad's dad died of a heart attack when he was my age, so I'm trying to be careful.

We don't have a lot of stuff. We do a lot of travelling. We do live in a fairly high COL city (Portland) but if she got into remote learning at her college, we could both work from anywhere.

We're insanely fortunate.


> plus I feel weaker generally

Have you done your blood tests? Sugar/insulin [1], vitamin D, Ferro, liver, morphology? There are plenty "new"/silent civilisation diseases: insulin resistance, hashimoto, diabetes...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucose_tolerance_test


Stop doing side projects. You're doing work, but not getting paid. If your job is also your hobby, your life is going to get depressingly homogeneous. Take a hike or play with your kids instead.

I work at a large tech company that's good at search and ads, and I actually just got back from swimming at lunch.

I work roughly 40 hours a week, and I have a commute that's ~45-60 minutes. It's 5 miles by road, but it's a classic unusual Boston commute by bus and T. Coming from a startup, the stability and health of working at a large company with well established practices and a good balance was a very welcome change.

I absolutely recommend the course Learning How To Learn, and one of the best insights I got from it is the importance of the "diffuse" mode for learning and processing. Sleep and exercise can be incredibly helpful for this, and I've found that everything is better with sleep and exercise. I try to swim 2-3 times a week at lunch, and I do weights on the weekends and occasionally in weekday evenings.

Often times I'll have a problem in my head before I run or swim, and usually by the time I've finished a solution will have naturally floated up from the depths. I've also found that a similar focused studying session followed by a long diffuse mode run, swim, or walk is incredibly productive for learning something new, and it feels like studying on easy-mode when it works!


Pregnant wife and a toddler so my home time is skewed. Up before 6 to play with the kid, make breakfast, load of laundry, load of dishes, etc. Bus around 8:30, at work around 9. Work til 4:30, skipping lunch every other day. Then 30 mins back, errands, cooking dinner and finally relaxing around 6. Play with the kid til I put her down around 7:30 to 8:30. Hang out with the wife until she goes to bed around 10.

This is when my second shift starts. I pick up the kid's area, clean the kitchen, dishes, laundry, and whatever other stuff is left over. After that I do another 2 to 4 hours of work depending on when things are due, late to the bus, early to leave because of family stuff. In bed somewhere between 1am and 4am.

I keep track of my life in todo lists. Got a notebook and a pen within arm's reach at any given time. Zero Inbox/Bullet Journal/GTD my entire life, work and personal. I also naturally do sort of a pomodoro technique with everything. Breaking it down into smaller parts so I can cover as much space as possible. Cleaning the kitchen turns into two separate tasks (dishes, and cleanup) which I then inject 10 minutes with the wife or kid in between. It probably adds more time to my overall day, but I can't push their schedules later and I need to get work done so I can't push my duties to later either.

The other "trick" is I've never needed a lot of sleep so I can do stuff later at night once everyone is in bed. Sleep on the bus, or whenever I have a free moment.

My previous job was within biking distance so that was my health management. Now I have to ride the commuter bus so I'll have to figure something out once the 2nd kid comes.


I disagree with the conceptual basis for the concept of work/life balance. The entire concept of this bifurcation assumes that "work" must be defined as a drudgery in service to some ill-defined hedonic or Eudaimonian "life."

I wouldn't dispute that the vast majority of people do live in a cyclical state of drudgery and leisure.

However, if you have the luxury of being able to "balance" these states, then you're likely not doing the same kind of drudgery that seems to be descriptive of the concept. I've had those jobs and been in that position, my shift leader didn't care about helping me make time for my hobbies.

So my answer is, there is no "right" balance and what others do will only serve to create many different "greener pastures" in your mind.

At different times in my life I've worked 90 hour weeks for months at a time, and others 10 hour weeks. I've spent long periods (almost a year) as a stay home dad, at other points I spent almost a year completely away from my family.

The distinction is, I have made my life my work (ever hear of a "life's work"?), in that there are things that I want to achieve and I have created my career around progress toward that goal.


So if your work did not pay you money for the exchange of your time, would you feel the same way?

I'm unclear about your question.

I've structured my life such that the type of work I do serves my broader life goal.

At the point in which that's not possible, then how I spend my time is out of my control and the question becomes moot because I'd effectively have no control over my life.


Sorry it wasn't clear -- Would you continue to show up to work/serving your broader life goal if your paycheck stopped coming?

Yes. I've done that many times.

I am a mid-twenties single male Product Manager, working at a major tech company in SF.

I average 55 hours/week at work. Usually this means 9-7 5 days per week but sometimes its 9-8 or I'll work for 3-4 hours on a weekend.

I don't spend any time with family because I am single and my whole family lives on the east coast.

I spend 4-5 hours a week working out, usually weight training in the morning right before work.

Nothing fancy for productivity - create lists for everything, prioritize the items on your lists, and put the items you commit to on a calendar. Know yourself and try to schedule at a pace you can realistically accomplish, but don't freak out if you only tackle 70% of your list for any given day. The trick is to be disciplined about actually using these lists (I'm still bad at this).

When you're feeling like you're totally burned out and don't want to do any work - just do ONE thing that day. Making ANY progress at all is so much better for your psyche than getting nothing done, and once you complete that one thing you can stop beating yourself up for being unproductive and enjoy just doing nothing.


2-4hrs per day (including weekends) for a total of 15-28hrs per week. Rest of the time spend with my family, friends, exercising or running errands. Used to work 10-12hrs/day. Now I can't, don't really want to or need to.

Productivity tip: start a business, delegate everything, then either sell the business or keep it as "passive" income. After delegating all operational work, you can manage a business with just one meeting a week. Hence you can manage multiple businesses in less time and more profitably than having a full time job.

Happiness is a different thing though, which unless you are burning yourself out, or hate your job, doesn't really depend on how many hours you work. In fact, having too much "free" time in your hands can sometimes feel a lot worse than not having any.


Reading all the comments seems like most HN users have pretty good work life balance. I am surprised I thought most tech people are overworked.

Anyway since most people here seem to be from industry. Here is my situation working as an academic in Europe.

I normally work from 9 to 6. Sometimes if I am chasing a conference deadline (2-3 times a year) work after hours and weekends. I also choose conferences which also double as my vacation spots (one of the reasons why I decided to stay in academia).

Bike to work (15-20 minutes each way). No kids most likely will never have any. Spend most of my free time with my SO after work cooking, watching TV, reading, or just relax. Go swimming sometimes. Bike trips in summer. Cook and Eat healthy balanced vegetarian food.


I am a PhD student in computer science/machine learning. I do not have a family or a significant other to spend time with.

I work every day from morning to evening with no regular days off. I take a 3-4 day break every 6 months or so.

I work out almost every day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes over a lunch break.

Productivity is managed via detailed to do lists for every project. The day is broken down into morning session, afternoon session, and evening session. I constantly re-organise by moving things between the slots to optimise deep work.

On top of my own research, I receive constant tasks from my adviser who uses me as a kind of assistant for everything they feel like. They do not pay my tuition or have hired me as a TA (I am funded via an unrelated scholarship).

I cannot wait to get out.


What are you waiting for?

I’m in the office for about 6-6.5 hours, including lunch.

I take about 45 days off a year. 30 min commute but I can work remote whenever I like.

I used to work more and I know this is a nice set up, but it still feels like I have no time for anything.

I’m underproductive outside of work and manage health by eating kiwis


Nowadays I work around 8:30-18:00 on most days.

I work out 3-4 days a week. Sometimes I go to gym during lunch, other times after work and maybe one day on weekends. I try to limit sugar and carbs but am not as obsessive about it as I used to be (I want to get _more_ obsessive about limiting sugar again however). I supplement with everything that I think is worth it and that we have enough data on - creatine, fish oil, Vit D, B12, caffeine, L-Theanine, Hyaluronic Acid.

I spend about an hour or two most days on some sort of mental self-improvement project - coding, learning math, something like that.

I try to give myself at least an eight-hour sleep opportunity every night.


About 10 every single day, difficult to do more

I wake up, go to the gym (1h), then I go to work (8h +1h eating), come back home, work on my startup (2-3h).

On weekends same, except I'm only working on my startup.

It is a tough life, after 1 month of this schedule, I was exhausted, but the body is capable of adapting, and now I handling that easily. This is possible only because I use my bike as transportation system and thus it is very fast, and that everything I do is optimized.

Downsides is that I have almost no social life, I mean I could have about 1h of social life per day, but that would require too much energy. My health is good, but this is thanks to all the sport I do I think


Non-US. I work exactly 8 hours. Unless there is an emergency. I never want to lose family time so the days I need to go to the gym I skip lunch (I eat something while working) and use the extra hour after work to go to the gym.

Which country ? In Asia-pacific region this is a dream! (to work exactly 8 hours) Likely Europe ?

In Germany it works like that, at least for in-house developers in many larger companies. I got flex time and, on average, don't work more than 40 hours per week. Obviously there are some exceptions (like production issues and large releases), but employees are compensated for those with either money or time-off.

Yes Europe, I think it's pretty common around here not to overwork. I've had 3 jobs and all were similar. Do your work, no one checks your hours as long as you are not obviously underworking and on occasions you will have to stay a couple hours more just to make sure the servers don't die.

In Europe, this is very common to overwork. I am french and everybody that did not stay after 5pm was considered as "underperforming" and blamed for it. In the USA (at least after working in 3 companies in different states), if you stay after 5pm, it means you might not be able to complete your job in the allocated time and therefore, might be "underperforming". This is a simplification but this is the overall sentiment I have from both sides of the Atlantic.

It depends a lot on the company's culture.

I've never been in a company in France where working 40 hours (actually 35, 37.5 or 39 hours depending on contract and company size) was considered underperforming, for example. I've had two bosses who used to actually force some people to leave the office after 6pm or so (office time was 9-12/13-18) though I've never been one to stay longer than necessary myself.

In Canada however, I was expected to stay late in the evenings but that's just one company so I can't say it is representative of the whole country.


> In Europe, this is very common to overwork

Absolutely not in my experience. And ironically even less so in France. Have worked in Dublin, France, Switserland, and Belgium. The workweeks as a contractor were respectively (38,38,42,40)


40 hrs/wk at dayjob, about 20-25 hrs/wk at coworking space working on my startup.

I used to only do 12 hrs a week at the coworking space, but what changed for me was I started taking 3 hr naps after my 9-5. So I nap 7p-10p, wake up go to coworking space until 2am, go to bed by 4am, wake up at 8am. I feel it resets my brain to sleep inbetween dayjob work and startup work. Sat/Sun I just try to do 8 hrs each day, and also workout. As for social life - no I do not have one. I guess sometimes I hang out with my sister who is 17 yrs younger than me - we usually play videogames.


I work remotely and common work from home. I try spending weekends with my family and some evenings too. I practice yoga every morning and three times per week with yoga groups. Want to change my schedule and wake up early. Because I understand that I spend a lot of hours just for sleeping and don't have time to obtain new knowledge

I work a bit more than 9 hours a day, but am lucky to have disconnected working hours. I catch up on movies and reading while doing business development meetings (and making sure that I don't write private information in places it could be compromised), come home early, spend time with family and then do a few hours of focus time after dinner when the kids are asleep.

While I travel for BD meetings * not during them :-)

I work around 55ish hours a week on average. I have a very short commute (<10 min walk) and I pay for services that reduce the amount of time I spend running errands (I use a cleaning service, I get my groceries delivered, etc.), so I probably have around the same amount or almost as much free time as the average person who works 40 hours a week.

8 hours max. My intellectual productivity peaks 3 to 4 hours after I wake, and it's pretty non-existent 7 to 8 hours after I wake.

It's not fair to yourself to work beyond a sustainable amount: once you pull a weekend shift or two, your boss starts to expect it even when you can't do it, and you set yourself down an unsustainable path. I make it clear to my bosses that I won't do this, and if they need me to, it's a sign of corporate disfunction, not my own.

Productivity trick: I diligently incorporate exercise into my commute: I either bicycle or run (with backpack) as part of my evening commute, roughly year round. Combining the activity with bus routes makes this feasible in most large cities, and the activity quickly becomes the most enjoyable part of my day.

I have a few hours in the evening designated as non-work time, and I never work weekends.


I work a 35 hour week, and live within 20 minutes bus journey of work.

Sometimes it goes higher than that (particularly if there's an emergency), but mostly I do my hours, get things done, and then go home to spend time with my partner and our 9-month old .

No productivity tricks, I'm lucky enough to enjoy my work.


I work 8 hours per work day, of which I have 4 per week. In the morning I bring my kids to school, on Friday I pick them up from school, because that's my day off. My wife picks them up on her day off: Wednesday. Other days, they're picked up by afterschool child care, and my wife picks them up there when she gets home from work.

I've got a day with the kids, she's got a day with the kids, we've got a weekend with the entire family. On Thursday evenings once every two weeks, we get a babysitter and have an evening for the two of us.

I completely neglected exercise until recently (I'm 44), but since a few months I'm doing cross-fit twice a week (aiming for 3 times).

Main productivity trick: sleep well, keep work hours limited so you can give it your undivided attention during that time.


I've always had office hours 9am-7pm, with some on call. I rely on SAH wife to look after children, but family time 8-10pm and weekends. Work on learning and projects some nights. We try to do active stuff together - biking, skiing swimming, but wish I was fitter.

I work between 5 and 8 hours, four days a week, from my home office, as a remote contractor with flexible hours.

Typically I do Pomodoro and spend the breaks having tea, talking with my partner, etc.

My plan is to take several months off each year.


I cap it at apx 40 hours a week. Sometimes I'll hack late if I'm inspired. I can pull little bursts but I do not let work pressure drive me to do more than what is healthy.

This question seems to me like it is naturally self selective to those who have healthy work-life balances. I'd like to hear a couple from the 10-15 hour day workers.

Before moving to europe:

45-50h/wk, 1h+ commute, 21 days paid holydays.

After moving to europe:

35-37.5h/wk, living 18min by foot from work, 25 days paid holidays.


I prefer to work in research/ university environment. It is Flexible hours are good to work and I do not work after office hours.

I work 8 hours per day, study for an hour, work out for 30 minutes to an hour, and spend the rest with my wife or doing whatever.

Europe, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 25 days of paid vacation plus bank holidays.

I work as an Azure solution architect (Linux, containers, networking, lots of AI and IoT), averaging between 40-60 hours a week if you take into account travel times, evenings and some weekend afternoons catching up on e-mail and doing prep work.

My two main time sinks are travel to customers (sometimes 2-3h train rides one way, which I use to work) and conference calls (which are scheduled all over the place by sales people and make a complete mess of my focus time). Neither is considered to be an issue (since many of my co-workers have absolutely no clue about what it takes to do good technical work and think I conjure it up magically).

Typical day starts at 6:30: breakfast (occasionally with kids), read news/RSS/HN, pack for going out to customers, start work at 9:00-9:30. If lucky, I can spend at least half a day (usually mornings) working from home until I am interrupted. Lunch takes me less than 30m if at home, 2h if with customer/peers (Mediterranean culture).

I usually stop working at around 19:30 (dinner time with kids) and then spend some time clearing out my inbox and scheduling things while watching TV or conference videos. The default downtime pastime is reading if there’s nothing else to do.

This still piles up enough that I have to work the occasional Sunday afternoon (usually coding or putting together PoC scenarios). To keep sane, I do side projects on weekends and pick stuff that I can re-use for work.

I walk everywhere I can (hate driving, haven’t done it in years) and have an exercise bike I use in the mornings (but not usually in Winter, it’s too cold). No upper body exercises, which is a pain in various regards since one of my shoulders is going stiff (am looking into that).

The most important factor for me is sleep. If I don’t sleep at least 7 hours a day everything goes downhill - focus, mood, output, etc. So I make it a point of going to bed early and avoiding unnecessary trips (which compress my schedule and force me to get up too early or arrive home too late). That does not sit well with some of my peers, but, again, the amount of time required to keep up to date and/or do quality work is not appreciated.

Everything else is just a matter of making sure I keep tabs on my inbox, schedule the right amount of time for prep/meetings/follow up and just do stuff instead of procrastinating - which I avoid by scheduling time for stuff and sticking to that schedule.

My most useful mind hack is to start small, iterate and test things as I go along, largely because I get interrupted so many times that it makes it easier to start another iteration when I go back to actual work.

I also switch off notifications/email/chat/etc. now and then, although (to try to keep ahead of possible interruptions for the next day) I do check my e-mail in the evenings - but never 1-2h before bed, otherwise I’ll start to stress out and get insomnia (it’s best to cancel or say no to some things in the morning than reply immediately).

I try to keep some things light and humorous, but the e-mail/meeting culture I’m in can be beyond overwhelming.

The worst thing is that I don’t spend enough quality time at home - I’m either working at a customer (usually in a meeting of some sort, which makes it all the less productive) or in my home office most of the time.

I also miss doing full-on engineering. Mentoring and advising customers is the best part of my job, but I get moved around so much I don’t see it come to fruition.


Maybe you can share what you're looking to improve? Hard to answer with strategic answers, tactics are relative.

Also, I don't know about work/life balance.. And just try to keep harmony. The future of work is changing in general, and tech is way out there.

It's all about maintaining stamina. Dip too much and you aren't putting back more into the tank than you're taking out.

The 8 hour a day model is largely outdated - from the factory years of physical stamina. Try to rid yourself of this factory schedule and in those around your to focus on becoming more effective and priority based. It's not easy with the world running on it but you want your peace, not the world's distraction, right?

Today's stamina is mental, not just physical. Maintaining my mental stamina and effectiveness is my key goal. I don't get tired mentally as quickly because I am always trying to improve it.

Discipline is the master skill. Building this, followed by an ability to focus and execute. I'd level up on those forever and the effect shows in other areas. Check out Deep Work by Cal Newport.

Quality of time = quality of life. Think about about how effective you are with your time, not just how many hours. Counting hours matters less with experience because you can count results. We have poor standards for our time in our 20s, and it's part of the gift of exploring. Still, when I'm rested I can sometimes get a few hours of work done in an hour.

Be mindful. I use a tool like RescueTime to monitor my laptop and phone time. Any feelings can be backed up with data and adjusted. Hack the hosts file. There's nothing you miss. Use airplane mode liberally when you can on your devices. It's bliss.

The brain sucks. It constantly tries to remember random things you can't do anything about. Use a methodology like getting things one to manage the day to day minutia. Use an app that syncs between phone and laptop and record every random thoght. 2Do is one. Your brain will be free to be effective in the moment.

Roadmap work and personal life. Set yearly, quarterly or monthly goals.. Even high level but clear. For work, build and more importantly maintain a detailed roadmap. It will let you see your progress and be more present with your other areas of life.

You are a product of your time. Track every 15 minutes of time for 2 weeks. It's normal to find time I'm wasting and can be encouraged you can allocate it elsewhere. I cut out mosy TV, Netflix, video games, etc. I watch sports but prefer highlights. When I relax, I stack it and make it an event with my spouse. I try to manage my reading to what I need now or shortly. There is no social media on my laptop, it's all blocked and I do not run social media apps on my phone.

Notifications are the plague. Silence every single app them all except family, friends and things that will rarely ping you.

Health is about demonstrating a practice of sleep, diet, activity and relationships.

Garbage in, garbage out. I try to meal prep for 2 hours, twice a week. Clean, light food is great and I can grab to go whenever I want. Use an instant pot or slow cooker. I do this with my spouse because she happens to enjoy cooking. I'm on with some carbs because my brain seems to like them but there might be room to improve.

Become present. When I push hard and executing I am better at giving myself permission to be present. I still visit my parents most weekends and rarely take out my laptop. Might cheat and read the kindle though if they're watching too much TV. We try to see friends twice a month at least. I find if I really enjoy myself in my personal life for fixed periods of times it is quality of time and not quantity of time.

Always get lots of water and sleep, minimal sugar and caffeine. Don't smoke. I find I have more energy if I don't eat meat every single day but it ought be different for others. I only have a coffee every other day when I remember to when I'm on track. Having 2 coffees in a day is a sign I need to adjust something.

The harder you push the more you need rest.

All of this to say, I expect to work 6 to 12 hours per weekday, and less so on the weekends. Whether this is the personal timings that are work, or work related. It all needs to be done.

I can pull a few really long days each week or an all nighter if it's a must. I break my day into 3 stages of work, First 6 to about 9, then 10am to about 5 and then 7 to about 930 pm. Working towards waking up at 5 am.

The important thing in pushing hard is sleeping lots each night so you don't wear out. Time away from the keyboard is more important than my time at the keyboard.

I'm a hard core a night owl who has become a morning person by telling my brain I can wake up super early with twice as much energy and still enjoy the late night peace.


Thank you for the detailed answer. This is exactly what I was looking.

Nice answer, thanks for taking the time.

"If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."

- Your Favorite President




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