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Ask HN: Why are many software engineers on a "later" schedule?
14 points by peter_l_downs on May 20, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments
Most of the programmers I know would rather wake up late and stay up until 4 AM programming then get up early and go to bed at 10 PM (myself included). Is there any reason for this? Am I living in a bubble?

If you start working at 8am, your whole day is going to be interrupted with impromptu meetings and emails. If you start at 6am, you only get 2-3 hours uninterrupted. If you've been writing software for a while you learn that the interruptions are intentional and are about control. When people see a software engineer working without their help, it is troubling for them. It means the problem can be solved without them, hence interruptions. Most non-developers actually have family lives and start getting calls from their spouses about 4:30PM. By five they're gone and work can proceed.

For me, rush hour traffic sucks. I like to get to the gym around 8:30 (most people have left or are leaving by 8:30). So I can get a nice 60 to 90 minute workout in w/o having to wait on the squat rack. Then have a nice leisurely drive into work at 10 or 10:30. Answer all my emails that I think I need to answer, make my Pomodoro list for the day, go to lunch, and get back around 12:30 or 1 and dive into coding till 8 or 9 o'clock. My girlfriend is the same way so our schedules are in sync, and we both generally eat late dinners. Soon when I'm living in NYC, my options for late dinner will be better :)

pg nailed it in a comment from a while ago:

For me this is the most critical part. It's not enough just not to be interrupted. I have to feel like I couldn't be interrupted.

That's the great thing about programming at night. If everyone else is asleep (except other people who don't want to be interrupted) they won't even think of interrupting you.


This is absolutely brilliant. It perfectly and precisely depicts how I feel.

Most of the time, I love to talk and interact with people. Everyone has a story to tell and networking rarely hurts. As a current freelancer, it's fascinating to hear people say, "I need X. How can we make this happen?" My mind instantly fills with a wide variety of solutions, which are then filtered down to the best possible few. Then we talk back and forth and determine what is best for the both of us.

Now we get to the point of actually coding. I appreciate solitude when it comes to this. I need some time to get in the 'zone.' I need time to fix errors to create a great product. I ultimately need uninterrupted time to enter the world of brackets (I'm an iOS guy - you guessed it!) to create something that people will enjoy.

After this entire process is over, something new has been conceived and I get to continue to do what I love. It is the best job I could have for myself right now.

My personal expirence matches: "Why Programmers Work at Night [1]".

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/why-programmers-work-at-night...

Thanks for posting this (as I sit here coding at 5am).

I've never really thought about why it's common, but I see it all the time. Maybe it's a culture thing? Developers like to go to bed late because other developers like to go to bed late? Although that's pretty dangerous circular logic.

But oftentimes programming evolves from staying up late while still in grade school, hacking or gaming or what have you into the wee hours of the morning. At least, that's the pattern that I and many fellow developers I know follow.

Most dev people I know, including myself tend to get more done when everyone else is asleep.

Rephrasing a bit:

  Most people I know get more done when they aren't interrupted
I'm a morning person, but unfortunately it is much easier to get an uninterrupted block later in the day (6pm and after) than it is early in the morning (6am onward).

If I could function better late at night, I'd switch my schedule in a heartbeat.

My favorite time of day is 4am. No one else is up, and it's early enough to stay that way for 2-4 hours.

I get foggy and uninspired after 11pm, but in the morning I can fix the world.

Uninterrupted time is definitely a factor.

The other factor is when you are supporting a deployed application, you will receive bug reports that require "urgent" attention so end up working late to identify it and either resolve it or detail a workaround until a permanent solution can be found.

Also there is an expectation that IT people will keep up with advances in technology, so many of us spend time at night researching and testing stuff out to keep abreast.

In addition to minimal interruptions, I find that there is a related benefit that fewer people are utilizing resources: my database server can much more quickly nswer my questions, the bandwidth to my neighborhood isn't being used by lots of people streaming movies, and if I need to make a change, in addition to affecting fewer people, I have more idle capacity to handle rollbacks or failovers.

HN user 'Swizec' actually wrote a small ebook on this, called 'Why programmers work at night":



Too much thought pollution during the day.

I tend to get into work at 10:30 AM which is later than all the other developers at my workplace, but they all have families so their schedules may revolve around other responsibilities. I've tried getting up earlier, but I always revert to the 10:30 schedule after a day or two. I always end up doing something or getting more sleep that undoes the early plan. While I understand the lack of interruptions is a benefit, I'm not even sure why I get up at 8-8:30 AM. Perhaps it's just a random habit.

My peak time for performing focused sedentary work starts at about 4pm and runs for four to twelve hours. Earlier in the day, like now, I am wound differently and more readily distracted.

People don't interrupt me at 3am.

Is it only about interruptions? I dont think so.

Nor do I. I think it's a combination of things, habits formed from playing games late as a kid is one, but I think that wanting to solve a problem enough to stay up late for it is another. As is a natural procrastinating spirit that many developers have. I get my best work done between 12pm-2am because I finally STOP INTERRUPTING MYSELF. When it's just me finishing that user story that's standing between myself and sleep, I tend to stop going on reddit.

I work from about 5:00 am to about 4pm.

In my opinion, you may be working too hard or I hope you take lots of breaks.

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