In a typical day at the day job, I'm physically at my desk for twelve hours, and am physically typing for two of them. Count another two for talking to coworkers. The other eight are downtime between tasks.
Aside from the Japanese corporate need to keep up appearances and not have engineers go home at 5:00 on the typical day (which, but for appearances, I'd be able to do four days a week), my bosses are very enlightened about the subject: they set reasonable deadlines, and when the reasonable deadlines are being met they do not micromanage professionals' use of time.
We have a few people who do OSS for kicks. The guy behind me is some sort of volunteer for BSD, if I recall correctly.
I read. A lot. My bosses know it and explicitly encourage it, on the condition that I bring the stuff I learn back to the company. That's the same attitude they have about my off-the-clock economic activities -- "training we don't have to pay for, please, do as much as you want!" Although even knowing that was the arrangement I was pretty darn shocked when the boss strolled up one day, dropped a printed copy of my site on the desk, and said "Teach [coworker X] how to reproduce the effect you're using on this page. He needs to implement it for [Y] University's course registration."
Specifically: The Japanese system where employees past age 60 sometimes work for lower pay at the same company that had employed them would not be possible in the United States and some other countries because of legislation that prohibits alleged discrimination against older workers. The combination of legislation that prevents companies from lowering the earnings of older employees, and of legislation that prevents mandatory retirement in some occupations, creates a major rigidity in the market for older workers.
Brilliant. Build a system that rewards workers with retirement, yet subtly place incentives to encourage them to keep working (less). Albeit, they are also working for less $, but at this point, the holistic benefits of having employment probably outweigh the dollar amount.
For me, the idea that I had to be physically there and making a big show out of getting stuff done made me do less. Knowing that I can get up and leave and take a walk any time at home to think about a tough technical problem makes it a lot easier to get stuff done.
Now that I'm temporarily back in a cubicle, I probably average about 2-3 hours of real work a day. And, mind you, that is an average... some days I stay pretty busy for 8 in a row, others I'm basically putting in seat time. The rest of the time is spent reading books and research papers online (not remotely work related), participating here, chatting with a coworker, or simply daydreaming.
Still, from what I can gather I am exceeding expectations, which is both reassuring and depressing.
What's hard is when team members' weeks don't coincide :). Hey, my week is not over yet. I still have to do these things.
That's what we are doing now for the past months or so. It is effective especially if milestones are few and tasks need two or more people to get accomplished. We are a team of five.
The reason there are consulting companies where the annual wages are more than twice as high than in the economy at large is that these companies have focused employees that put work first and life second, squeezing results out of every hour. In a regular company, you'd be insane to put in the kind of effort that these guys do, because you wouldn't be rewarded in any halfway reasonable way. The system breeds mediocrity, but there is thankfully a world of smaller companies (and in the extreme, startups) that allow overachievers to get compensation for their effort.
There is a corollary to this observation: it isn't really necessary to work more than 4 hours a day to have a good standard of living. Unfortunately, this particular niche isn't yet filled by any kind of company. Solo consulting may (marginally) work, but you won't get the best clients. There's an opportunity here..not to earn big bucks, but to create a different kind of company. How few (although focused) hours can each employee work and still earn more than the median wage?
I realized I didn't do all that much really productive stuff - lots of BS admin. So I set a goal of 30 minutes per day, and gradually expanded it to one hour, then eventually two hours. An amazing day I'd get six hours of LT productive work done. Like, it was a rare, epic event. By just getting two hours per day done, I was one of the most productive people I knew. (I also didn't let my admin totally melt down, but with a new focus that it's not really creating anything of value, I moved through it much faster and just got it done, instead of toiling in it to feel productive).
Most people are "working" a lot, but are not "getting shit done" at a very good pace.
Good old slashdot.
Especially when the polls lack any sort of attempt to prevent double (or more) voting, and are generally viewed as a joke.
I tend to work in bursts of up to 6 hours at a time, maybe twice a week if I'm lucky. Those bursts account for pretty much everything good that I've put out over the last few years, and I've learned not to try to tackle anything important when I'm not in that mode.
Other, normal days, I start out by checking the surf report. If there's no swell (and I don't feel like climbing that day), I'll just wade through low priority bug reports and other mindless things like text changes and layout tweaks.
This approach works surprisingly well, since it means that I get maybe 4 days of "Weekend" scattered throughout the week, and am thus usually pretty fresh in the morning. It doesn't quite fly at an office job though (I usually limit myself to one day off for surfing when working an on-site contract), but frankly I find that to be a competitive advantage.
All together, four hours of work a day that feels productive (like I'm "really working") isn't that far from the norm for me, and some weeks I don't even get that far. But it's not because I don't want to do more, it's usually because I can't because of other things that are very much "work" and that I am very much expected to do by my employer, but that just don't feel like work to me.
While four hours a day of "real work" may not sound like much, my employer is actually much happier with me than it would be if I spent 8 hours a day doing "real work" and ignoring all of the "fake work" that I'm also expected to do.
While you can fix bugs and add features, it doesn't mean you're not in reality making things worse.
So don't force yourself to code beyond a certain point.
For me that's 6 hours a day.
I think using productive 'hours' of work as a unit of measure is little more fair than using lines of code as a unit of measure.
What of the epic hacker of hackerness who finishes in an hour what takes most coworkers a week to finish. If he is only spending 10 hours of the week doing real productive work is he a benefit to team or is he hurting the team?
So do the breaks necessary to recharge the brain count as work? It's not like they are time that could be spent working, so why count them as down time and make you think you could work more? But on the other hand you are not working then, so it doesn't count as work.
Here's a Very Bad Analogy: even if you observe a sprinter runnning 100m in 10 seconds, you hopefully won't think "If only he wasn't slacking most of the day, he could run a marathon in 1h10"
Monday and Friday are 40% of the work week! This shows no bias for being "sick" on those days more often.
Excuse me while I go back to refreshing slashdot every minute.