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Poll: How many hours do you really work each day?
34 points by andreyf on Feb 24, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments
I'm interested in the Slashdot poll repeated with this audience: http://slashdot.org/pollBooth.pl?qid=1719&aid=-1
5-6 hours
114 points
3-4 hours
91 points
9-10 hours
52 points
7-8 hours
41 points
1-2 hours
24 points
12 hours
20 points
11-12 hours
19 points
Not at All
6 points

I know this is going to sound weird, but I don't separate "work" time from "non-work" time.

Everything I do either provides immediate value to another entity that pays me for it, provides long-term value to me or somebody else, or is in support of providing value at a later date.

Sleep? Got to do it to think clearly during the day. Exercise? Same deal. Travel? Need to reach a client site. Books? Strategic and tactical learning for future capabilities.

I guess the only time that wouldn't fit in the above model would be "pure" family time -- going to a recital or attending a family event. But even most family activities are in support of providing value at some future time.

A long time ago I stopped thinking about "working" like most people do. I'm always working -- or I'm never working. Depends on how you look at it, I guess. I do worthwhile stuff and people give me money for it. There's not a direct relationship between a unit of work and a unit of money, so I just decoupled the concepts.

Couldn't have put it better.

When your work is what you most want to do, you're working 24 hours a day.

Now, to be fair, I don't count watching BSG or Heroes with my girlfriend as a "work activity", but that's really a small percentage of my total time. Certainly I could reading stuff on HN as "work", in that it is productive to my aims (which include being on the bleeding edge of what's going on on the web so that I can make insightful comments about it, draw useful conclusions from it, and generally use the information in various productive ways).

Small caveat: I played WoW a bit for the last 6 months. That was definitely not work, and took up silly amounts of time - hence why I stopped.

The definition of "work" is certainly a weak point in this question - especially with an audience with a disproportionate number of entrepreneurs. I'd be curious to see how this relates to where people work - 9 to 5 job, startup-as-founder, and startup-as-hired-coder.

Could this be a useful feature - combining two polls and showing the cross-product of votes under addition?

I agree. As a 9 to 5er, I find this concept of "I'm always working" very alien.

Also, it does seem like the question has been skirted a bit. While going to the gym or taking a nap may benefit one's work, it clearly goes under the category of non-work.

What if the only reason that you go to the gym (or sleep regularly) is because you've noticed it has a clear impact on your work?

Actually, that's one of the main reasons why I go to the gym (keeps the mind sharp), and one reason I feel justified going during working hours. But I still don't "bill" for those hours - i.e. I don't consider these working hours.

Think of it this way: if you bill clients for hours while you are at the gym and if they find out, you could very plausibly be sued by the client for that money back. Very few people consider the gym "working."

If you really are more efficient during your working hours (according to my definition) because of what you do in your non-working hours, you can justify charging more for your working hours.

I initially thought of work as this Boolean condition -- off or on.

I think about the time I started consulting I left that concept behind. If I'm watching TV and working on an ad mailer, is that marketing or goofing off? If I'm walking in the morning prepping for a sales pitch, is that exercise or sales? When I'm working on a report to a client and grooving on the iPod, is that having fun or work? When I wake up at 2 in the morning with some cool blog article idea is that marketing or a hobby? The categories just don't fit. It's not like you punch a clock or something. You should always be doing stuff that has value. You should always be goofing off. No need to split the two up. If you think you're only working when you are on some schedule where somebody else is paying you by the hour, you're wasting your life away.

And even if you think of 9-5 only as work, what amount of that time are you actually doing something of value? An hour? Even if you're humping code 14-hours a day, or especially if you're humping code 14-hours a day, you're getting in to a rhythm. Work a couple of hours, read email. Work an hour, stare out window. Eat lunch, drink caffeine, etc. It's all geared towards finding a natural rhythm. Maximizing your productivity is all about finding your natural rhythm and going with it. That means, yes, "goofing off" while you're on the clock. Some of the best teams are the ones that are able to have fun and relax. And it's well worth paying for their time to do so.

Sorry about getting on the soap box.

Maybe by him, but it looks as though most people are admitting to less than 8 a day so I'm thinking this is probably fairly accurate and he's more of a niche.

The poll should have at least specified between "professional" work and "support" work. Is meeting a client work? Is driving 1.5 hours to meet him work? If an employee, then both are on the clock.

This is a beautiful world view that can really only work out if you're successful at being your own boss.

If you count the time actually coding as work, then about 3-4. If you count the social nonsense that has to go on, such as meetings, answering phone calls/email and dealing with the normal stuff of office life, then about 11 hours.

I'm pretty sure the social stuff counts as work, too. But I wouldn't call it nonsense. ;-)

Time spent coding isn't work--it's social nonsense, except involving computers instead of people. Time spent thinking (designing and modeling the problem) is work.

Can I upvote you as a poll answer?

Time at my job: An official 8 hours of butt-in-chair. Actual work: usually more like 4 hours. (This is on days without meetings! The things I'm doing right now have a major bottleneck caused by a programmer fresh out of school who did not realize the dire consequences of generating 4000+ subdirectories automatically and checking them into SVN. I don't mind; I probably would have to find other ways to spread out my work time if it weren't for that.)

Time doing "my" work: 1-2 hours on weekdays, 4-6 hours on weekends. The stuff I'm doing is 100x as interesting of course, and I don't have to communicate, so I'm probably 10x as productive. I find that by the end of the weekend I'm always a little shocked at having to come into the workplace and slow down again.

For a few months recently, I found it really, really hard to get things together at the end of the day. Then I realized that a significant part of the problem was because of blood pressure; it's higher in the evening, making it harder to concentrate, and I had let my average drift upwards as well by eating junky stuff.

Now I try very hard to get it down - diet during the day, 20 minutes cardio after work - so that I can stay productive in the evening.

Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door--that way Lumbergh can't see me, heh--after that I sorta space out for an hour. I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch too, I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

In this community, I've come across too many people who claim incredibly long hours -- 'the startup standard' of 10+ hour work days.

And I find out they also have an impressive knowledge of internet memes and recollection of top stories on Reddit.

There's some value in hours obviously. The more you sit there "working", the more hours likely to convert into productivity. But measuring hours as an indicator of productivity is pretty faulty. I clicked "7-8" because I tend not to fuck around while working, and over the course of about an average 8-9 hour workday. I'll subtract a couple hours for "unavoidable" distractions.

Of course, the extremes usually hold true. If your hours are in the 2-3 range, you're probably not working very hard. If it's in the 14+ range, you're probably at least getting a fair amount accomplished.

If you can crank out 9 or more hours of actual billable work per day, you are seriously an endurance champion and can probably make a ton of money consulting.

Through some discussions elsewhere, I'm currently of the opinion that if you spend more than 60% of your "chair time" straight writing code (i.e. "pure work", assuming you are a developer) then you are a productivity god. I spend about 13 hours a day in front of the computer after factoring out sleep and gym time and on a productive day I'll be writing code roughly 6-7 of those hours. Some days 12 hours, some two.

Now, if you merely define "work" as "doing something related to one's job" then it would probably be 12 hours. I consider reading HN to be relevant education, if I am watching TV or a movie on the computer I am usually running some idea in the background (easier to think with mindless entertainment going on than while reading an article on particle physics), etc. Outside of my work I have nothing, so by definition everything must be related to work.

Are we talking wall-clock time, wall-clock time related to employer, or RescueTime?

I'm at work from about 10:00 AM to around 7:30-8:00 PM. I'm doing employer-related things basically the whole time. However, that includes two meals (usually spent with teammates or friends in other areas of the company), meetings, tech talks, random office chatter, design brainstorming, code reviews, asking for help, etc.

I'm really skeptical that time spent actually coding totals more than 4-5 hours/day. That was my RescueTime average when I was doing my startup, with my absolute max at 7 hours/day, and I think I worked much harder then than I do now.

I also have side projects and do some thinking about work-related stuff at home, but I don't count that at all. How do you measure your thoughts? If you randomly come up with a good idea while in the shower, does that count as work?

I chose 3-4. Definition of work: time in Vim, actually programming. Not work: Time looking up, checking email, dicking around here, reading news, selecting my music.

Chair time: 8-9 hours.

8-9 hours at work and then another 3-4 on side projects at home... The maximum option should probably be 12-15 hours.

Yes I consider all the stuff besides actually coding to be work as well. Writing on the whiteboard counts, waiting for tests to run counts, even reading hacker news counts. It's all part of it.

Define "work"

Here's one way of normalizing it: what hours can you unambiguously ethically charge to a client/employer as "work?"

If you work for yourself or your own business, assume you are doing a custom project for a client.

If you work a 9-5 job, obviously everyone throws in some non-work into their day, but don't count these because it's still ambiguous if it's "ethical" to charge these (there are plenty of bosses who wouldn't consider the gym or surfing the net as work, but every boss would consider programming or reading up on a relevant programming issue work.)

I'd also love to know what's defined as 'work'. If it's doing a task explicitly for money, I work under an hour or two each day.

But if you also count the time I spend reading, learning new languages/tips/tricks/etc then I work 12+ hours/day. Yesterday I spent the majority of my day playing with CodeIgniter and jQuery for a project I'm working on which may earn me money in the future. Does that count as work?

I just remembered a quote by Thomas Edison, I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun. At least in HN, it should be called Fun not Work, because most of the people here are doing what they love or like.

I define work as anything I do that directly adds value to whoever is paying me for that time - client, employer, myself, etc. That clocks in at 3-12 hours a day, depending on day job work load plus side projects, averaging about 3-4 hours.

However, (and this is a big however), I do lots of things that make me a better worker. That includes socializing (sharing ideas), reading, experimenting in different algos, languages, etc. That doesn't directly add value, but it does in the long run.

Easily 12 hours a day of work as I have a day job and freelance in my spare time as well (I like the extra money but I'm too much of a Chicken to jump to full time!)

Missing option: 13+. I do my best thinking in my sleep.

It was supposed to be "12+ hours", I think, to line up with the options on the /. poll [1]. He just forgot a plus sign.

[1] http://slashdot.org/pollBooth.pl?qid=1719&aid=-1

What does "REALLY" really mean here?

Should I count office face time only?

Should I add hours if I check company email from home?

Should I subtract hours when I slack off during office hours?

Should I subtract hours I spend doing paid stuff that I count as useless tedium or overhead work?

So, my answer is: It Depends. Paid face time: 8 hours. Work that matters to the product: <4 hours. Face time plus work-related reading at home: 9 hours.

Right now I have a 9-5 as well as my own business on the side. Until I launch full-time (end of March) my current working schedule is 4-7:30 a.m. at home, 9-5 @ dayjob, 7:30 - 10ish p.m. at home. Rinse. Repeat.

Thank god this doesn't go on in perpetuity.

Now all I have to do is hope that once I can work 9-5 for myself, I don't slack off and spend all day refreshing HN.

I'm similar; I have a day job that I do 7-4ish (usually 6-7 solid hours of "work", occasionally 8-9) and then 1-2 hours consulting and 2+ hours on my bootstrapping startup. About 10-12 hours total work.

I'm guessing around 3--4 hours. But when I'm really working I never know for how long I do that. But I think should know for how long I actually work. But it's a relief to see so many people in 3--4 hour category :)

I think a better question would how many hours do you work for yourself vs your employer?

40 hours for self-40 hours for employer



60-05 etc...

Work isn't really defined here either, but that's ok. I defined work as either doing things that benefit me or things I've committed my time to. I work, and I go to school, so I included both in my calculations.

~8 just with classes, homework, and studying to get good grades (Attending GATech), plus part time work as a developer gives me somewhere between 9-12, depending on the urgency of the project I'm given.

This is impossible to answer. As a freelancer sometimes I have absolutely no work on a given day, sometimes I'm piling in 12+ hours a day for a deadline. You should add "it depends" as an option.

About 10.

I generally work 2.5 hours and then take a 1/2 hours break where I talk to people, browse the Internet, whatever. So with working 6am to 6pm that comes out to about 10 hours total.

Easily 12 hours a day of work as I have a day job and freelance in my spare time as well (I like the extra money but I'm too much of a Chicken to jump to full time!)

Apologies for the multpost - Safari 4 Beta is cocking up something Cronic at the mo.

I am interested in another question: how do you know how many hours do you really work? Do you count how many minutes you read HN? :-)

I actually do (www.rescuetime.com: 4m 26s hackernews today until now). It was really impressive how little I worked until I started to trace it.

For a startup community, the answers are surprisingly small. I thought everyone was working 80 hrs a week.

Haha funny how evertime a poll is post on HN everyone tend not to fit in any categories ... You nerdy hackers ;)

13+ for me

45-55/week of actual work, excluding internet time and lunch, including reading time (e.g. becoming a better programmer) and time spent thinking on work. I'm at a startup, so I'm lucky in terms of being able to spend most of my time on real work.

College was 40-45/week including side projects. Grad school was 20-25/week (I wasn't a great student, and I didn't finish). First job out of school was 10-15/week (50+ office presence). Second-- trading at a hedge fund-- was about 35-45 (again, 50+ office presence).

One nice thing about programming is that it's not an unrealistic aspiration to spend 30+ hours per week on actual work.

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