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Even during Viaweb I still slept 8 hours a night (roughly 3-11). The most productive people rarely have more than 6 hours or so of really concentrated work per day, except in emergencies. If you can ensure you get that every day, you don't need to economize on sleep.

My way of getting those 6 solid hours was a common hacker solution to the problem: I used the hours between 9 pm and 3 am, when no one could interrupt me.

Why is it that people are most productive (at hacking) during night time hours? Even with no interruptions during the day, I find myself not as engaged as I would be during the night.

Also, I've read that taking short naps for about 20 minutes (any longer would make you groggy) helps improve learning potential and confidence.

I've found I do best hacking at night and in the mornings, but am better and worse at different things in each case.

At night, I'm more likely to keep plugging away at something until it's done. Also, it's often easier to concentrate on only one thing at a time. It's quiet, and there's no nagging idea that there's something else I could be doing. I've also got a whole day's worth of memory and context stored up.

At night, I'm less likely to make intuitive leaps that solve problems, and I'm less likely to want to do things that are mentally difficult. I'm more likely to get frustrated at complicated problems and make stupid mistakes.

I tend to be most productive in the morning - usually around 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM. Then I typically have another productive period before dinner (it'd be 5:00 - 7:00 PM if I didn't have to commute from work), and then one before I get to bed (11:00 PM - 1:00 AM or so, 'cept if I don't have obligations like getting up the next morning it runs till like 3:00 AM, which pushes the next day further by 2 hours). So I guess it varies among people.

It occurs to me that with 6 hours of productive hacking, you could in theory start a startup and still have a day job, except for the interruptions. For example, all three of my most productive periods are bisected by an hour-long commute or the need to go to bed, making them effectively useless. Has anyone tried telecommuting + startup, or consulting + startup? It seems like if I could shift my working hours to 2:00 - 10:00 PM and get rid of commuting time, I'd be able to get all the work for my day job done in the 5:00-7:00 PM timeslot, and have 6 hours of useful time for my own projects.

Wow, you can finish all your work for your day job in 2 hours? Impressive.

Most day jobs don't have much real work. ;-)

Actually, I should probably clarify - when doing active product development, it takes way more than 2 hrs/day of work. At that point, you can basically forget about doing any outside programming projects. But most jobs are very feast-or-famine: once you've written the program, you have little bug reports dribble in, or your boss asks you to reboot the server or something. If you architected the program well, it shouldn't take more than 2 hrs/day to keep up with those.

When I stay up late to hack, my thought is that if I'm not sleeping I'd better be doing something productive. Why stay up until 3 or 4 AM if you're just surfing the web?

This is correct. I work on core technical stuff for about the same number of hours and spend the rest of my time taking care of business -- managing, outsourcing, etc.

And I also manage a 1.5 hour bicycle ride in there and some time with my kids.

Just curious, what did you use 12-8 PM for?

That was when I worked on the business part of the company.

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